Thursday, February 17, 2011

Blog #43 - Justice and a Just Society

"Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought"
- John Rawls, 1971

Karl Marx looked at justice and equality through his philosophy that focused on workers and their relationship to their work, profit, and ownership.  He also felt that the free market did not show itself capable of solving dire social problems in England like poverty and income inequality. 

Justice appears to be concerned w/ two different types: retribution or punishment for wrongdoing, distributive (sometimes called social) justice that focuses on the distribution / arrangement of goods, benefits and responsibilities of society - this latter justice Marx concerned himself with.  He felt that industrial workers did not receive enough of benefits (salaries and bonuses for hard work and education and medical care for the public).  He had been quoted as saying, "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs," which seems to mean that despite how hard you work, you are only allowed to get what you need.

"Life is not fair, and it is a good thing, for most of us that it is not" - Oscar Wilde

Questions (please answer both):
1. What aspects of our society make it a just society?  Explain why.
2. What aspects of our society make it an unjust society? Explain why.

250 words total for your entire answer.  Due Friday February 18 by class.


  1. If you asked most Americans, they would tell you that American society is the fairest in the world. With regard to many aspects of American society they are right. American citizens have rights that are rare throughout the world. Right to a fair trial and right to attorney are just a couple that ensure that justice will be upheld throughout the legal process. These, along with numerous other rights, ensure that criminals are convicted and innocent people are acquitted, although mistakes do occur infrequently. So I would defiantly agree that our legal system upholds justice just as it is intended to. On the other hand, many people tend to overlook the lack of social justice in American. Capitalism is deeply rooted in America, a system that is the opposite of the one Marx envisioned. In fact, Marx was trying to overthrow capitalism because of its lack of social justice. That is that a very small percentage of the population holds a very high percentage of the wealth, while those who actually put in all the work making the products make very little. This may seem completely unjust and to some extent it is, but in America today there is also a middle class, though shrinking. The majority of Americans are part of the middle class. These people make very fair wages with reasonable hours. So while Marx hated capitalism, there are defiantly aspects of social justice even in American capitalism. The truth, however, is that capitalism, good or bad, has been around ever since America was founded and shows no signs of going anywhere anytime soon.

    Andrew Gordner
    3rd hour

  2. How it is just: Social justice is necessary for a society to flourish. It is based on the human right and equality. For example in America there is equal opportunity for education and employment. Regardless of culture, race or nationality this creates justice in a society. It gives everyone an equal opportunity to strive for what they want. Other ways society does fair distribution is freedom of speech. America gives equal opportunity for people to express themselves. Another thing is freedom of religion, America allows people to also express what their personal religious beliefs are without judgment. America guarantees freedom of life, meaning that America provides this security by law and order to protect individual rights and property and society in general. How it is unjust: Distribution of the benefit or wages should be according to profession. For example, people who are working hard in a community fireman, police, army officers who risk their lives for the safety of others should be paid more. In this society today they are under paid and so are many other professions. Society is unjust in a way because they do not pay their dues. Marx believes that wages should be equally distributed. People make society; they make rules so their rules should be based on moral values and sound reasoning, for example: fair distribution of wages this is morally right. For society to be just it is crucial to conform to the highest standard of morals. Overall society is unjust and just in multiple ways, there is always room for improvement.
    Mariam Sharaf
    Hour 3

  3. 1. Our society is just in that it allows for a significant amount of freedom for the people. Each person is allowed to own property, hold a job of their choice, and choose how to spend their money, among other things. The key words when discussing the justness of our society are freedom and fairness. Every single person, in America at least, has the freedom to choose how to spend the money that they have. Each person can live their life according to their wishes. Of course, many are born into situations that inhibit this in some way. This does not, however, limit a person’s ability to succeed. For example, a young boy born into poverty, living in big city where there is seemingly no way to escape, can put in the effort to do well in school. Many colleges these days offer full ride scholarships that are need-based. In the past a student born into poverty was stuck in poverty. But now, a kid who works hard can get into a good college and be able to make it further in life than those who lived in past times. In this way, society makes opportunities equal and fair for all people.
    2. Society is unjust in many ways. One such way is that people are forced to adhere to social norms dictated by what is accepted in society. People are frequently shunned for trying to believe or do something that is not generally encouraged by society. For example, many areas in America say that it is wrong to be a homosexual or to speak out for the homosexual community. In this way, society censors the beliefs and feelings of large groups of people. This is unjust because it makes it unfair to those who choose to think or act differently from the norm. Those who are gay rather than straight are often seen as outcasts in society which is unfair because it is putting one group above another simple for what they feel.

  4. 1. There are many aspects that make it a just society. If we didn’t have a just society, there might be a lot of chaos and revolutions involving the people and the government. We, as people of the United States, kind of take for grated how fortunate we are and the liberties we have compared to other countries. For example, women in the Unites States since the 1920’s have had the ability to vote, say their views on politics, ability to file for divorce, and run for presidency. Although, that is quite different in other countries, such as most Middle Eastern countries we are at war with. In those countries, women are not allowed to go out into the streets without having the strong possibility of getting brutally raped or killed. They are also not allowed to file for a divorce or have legal rights over the money that is clearing theirs. In addition, they are shunned upon to voice their opinions in politics.
    2. Due to we live in the United States there aren’t that many aspects that make it an unjust society. Although, for the corporations and issues that make society unjust, they are a pretty big deal. First off, you can consider the CEO’s of many large banks unjust. During the time when the United States was in the deepest part of our recession, the government tried to stimulate the economy by giving banks money. Instead of those banks distributing loans for small businesses, the CEO’s were pocketing the money and collecting enormous salaries. Another huge issue that makes our society unjust is the controversy over of who can marry who-pertaining to gay marriages. In almost all states gay marriages aren’t legal. Aren’t Americans’ supposed to have to freedom of expression? This isn’t affecting other people, so there is really no reason for the banning of this act. More over, these are only a couple examples of why our society is unjust. If we had a society that we just accepted issues (such as gay marriages) and not having people taking advantage of the government, then our society would be purely “just”.

    Dylan Reiners Hour:3rd

  5. 1. What makes society just? I believe what makes society just is equality in taxes, respectable level of pay for certain career levels (for example, CEO’s, managers, etc.), freedom of religion, expression, and speech. From those aspects I listed, I do believe my society is indeed just. When looking at the United States of America, I believe we are just from my requirements of what I believe just is. Depending on the company and economy, people who work usually get a respectable level of pay for their careers, we have a freedom of religion, expression, and speech, but the one thing that is slightly different is the equality in taxes. In 2011, we have a gradual rise for income tax. If a man makes $28,000 a year, that man would pay a lesser percent than compared to a man who makes $50,000 a year. That man who makes $50,000 grand a year would pay less in percent than a man who makes $256,000, and so on. From what I believe, I feel that all income levels should pay an identical percentage for income taxes. The reason I say this is that it makes everything more equal, and gives people more of an incentive to strive for perfection in their careers. If people know they are going to lose more money, do they all of the sudden have a desire to not work as hard, knowing that they’ll lose money? This is why I do not believe in a Marxist type society, which leads to a communist society. I do not like the fact people have to pay more to help out the poor, but the elite (certain group of people) end of prospering. Also, in a Marxist type society, you have no freedom of religion, expression, or speech. It usually is the government’s way of the high way. So, from my definition of what a just society is like, I do believe my society is indeed just.

    Jake Stein
    3rd Hour

  6. 1. I think that our society is just because we have a lot more rights than others and that we can control what we need to. There might be some things that shouldn’t be controlled or have not been properly controlled, but at least we learn from our mistakes. With the increase of Social Security and Health Insurance, workers have more benefits and receive raises when working hard. They are allowed to have the day off and still get paid and are also able to work without guns being pointed to their heads. Since there is an increase of population in our society, more food is being produced and/or imported from other countries. We are also giving everyone in the society to have equal education, but it is not just about the benefits for others that make our society just. It is also the stability of the social classes. The reason why there are the low, middle, and high class is because that what makes the money more stable to keep our society stable because if everyone chose to stop using money, then we could not purchase goods from outside sources. We would have to work with what we have which would not be enough for the amount of people we have. So another good thing is that we are buying goods from other countries which provides with renewable and nonrenewable sources that our society needs. Also we have laws that make things fair for everyone or at least try to be just. For example, everyone needs to have Social Security so that they can be counted and that they can have benefits when they retire.

  7. Whether or not our society is just depends on ones own opinion. To someone who hasn't been wronged by the government, they may say that our society is just because of our court systems, our freedom to express ourselves, our competitive instinct to rise to the top, and how society allows all these freedoms. One may say that the courts help bring justice to the table, locking away villains who pose a threat to our society. It's a just action because they broke the law and to be fair, they have to pay the consequences. Some may say that laws are sometimes unjust, but there are laws allowing us to be able to express ourselves and be safe expressing ourselves, unlike in other countries where one could be killed for voicing their opinion. Also, our society's lenient ways in how it allows us to choose a field of work that interests us most and lets us work our way up to the top position, instead of forcing us to have jobs in which we despise or have no interest in.

    One could take each of my examples and say the opposite about them. If one takes the courts as an example of something just, there could be the argument that courts are unjust. A man who had been jailed for 14 years, was just recently found not guilty. Slip-ups like these occur daily in the courts. The courts are not always just in their ways, although they try to be. On may also argue that in order for our society to be fair game, there should be no laws. Without laws our society would perish and although we would all get to speak our minds, we wouldn't have any law to protect us from those who oppose our opinions. Another point against jobs being "just", one might say that it's unfair that the wealthy business man keeps making more and more money while the people who work for them are barely past the minimum wage line. I can see why someone would find this to be unjust, but I feel like there are other ways to make it to the top instead of just waiting for a raise. For the most part America is just, but in a lot of aspects when it comes down to laws, can seem unjust in ones eyes. It all depends on whose point of view we’re looking at the situation from.

    Natalie Hords
    3rd hour

  8. 1. In my opinion we have a very just system in the United States. With the Constitution and the way that our government is set up, everything is supposed to be equal. We have certain elements in our society, such as checks and balances, that are supposed to not allow any one type of government become too powerful. We have a judicial system that is set up to allow anyone to try a case that they deem unfair. There is pretty easy access to the judicial system. In general, our society is pretty just. Workers are typically paid for their ability to perform tasks. We do not have anything like sweat shops or slave labor in our country.
    2. There are a couple of ways that our society is unjust. First is that people are almost forced to conform to social norms. If people do not act like everyone else, they might be neglected or something of the sort. Also, there is something in our society nowadays called “politically correct”. I like the idea of it, but it has become so overblown lately. People are almost not allowed to say anything controversial, or they will be punished. Some companies in America are unjust. Large corporations try to corner the market and push other companies out of business. In a way, this is unjust. Obviously, these companies are just doing what is in their own self interests, and fulfilling their “American Dream”. However, some of these things could be done while not hurting other companies.


    The world just isn’t fair. I’m not sure it ever will be, but I think lots has been done to try and make it fair.

    In America we have our rights. I would like to say we have the best government but I find that some countries in Europe have equally fair rights to us only slightly different, like they have less use of freedom of speech, but they have gay marriage, I don’t know I guess it depends on what you prefer. But, in America we do have the amendments. The first amendment, freedom of speech, religion, press and assembly, is very important. I would hate to live in a society where I couldn’t speech my mind and protest, nothing would get done that way I don’t think. Religion is a given, though we live in a predominantly Christian society that is keeping us from having things like gay marriage, I am glad to know that my parents won’t be put to death for being atheists. The fourth through seventh amendments are what give us fair trial, due process, protection from unreasonable search and seizure. Generally these are things I don’t think about but really, are very important. For a just society you need due process, if I were accused of stealing and I didn’t, I would want a lawyer and a trial with a jury. If I didn’t have those rights what would be keeping all of us from being put in jail.

    There are unfair things in our government, however. I personally think it’s about time for a public health bill, Canada has one, so do the well developed European countries. If we get the sick people out of the gutter they will better be able to contribute to the economy and make money, which in our capitalist government is necessary for survival. So I guess that doesn’t count as unjust anymore now that we have it, but, it needs to be improved upon and grow. Like, those with mental diseases should be covered just as well as those with physical handicaps, mental disturbance can be even more hindering than being in a wheel chair for some things. We do not have gay marriage in most states in America, or even civil unions. If we all have freedom of happiness, we all should have the right to marry, no matter what. You can’t help who you love and grow with and all people should have the same benefits. They are living together already, give homosexuals the tax benefits of marriage.

    Natalie Douma
    Hour 3

  10. 1. I think the court system is a huge factor in giving us a just society. Everyone is guarunteed a fair trial and a lawyer, even if you can't afford one. Also just the firts ammendment right in general gives each individual a guaruntee they can say and do what they like, unless it harm sor affects society in a negative way. Also, with Obama's new health care plan,, evryone can be gaurunteed some type of health care. Along wit this comes Medicaid and Medicare. All of these are important programs that help out those in need. It helps to at least get necesities to those who are having trouble meeting the basic requirements needed to live a healthy life.
    2. I think things that contribute to the unjust part of our society again goes back to the court system. Jusges are supposed to leave bias and party beliefs out of the courtrooms but that doesn't always happen. In reality, if you're fighting a libearl case and have a conservative judeg, it'd be harder to get. Also with our two party - system, I think it's harder for some people to get the things they need to live. For example, republicans are trying to shott down the halth care bill, yet there are people who really need it. THey should be given basic necesities for life.

    Alice Turner

  11. There are many clear aspects of life that are considered just or unjust. But many times there is a fine line between the two and is only based upon opionons and convictions. It's not alwys easy to determine what's actually just or unjust. But we can easily identify many aspects of life that are considered just or unjust. In our society we find many just moments. My ability to speak out against our government in newspapers in magaezines without fear of oppression helps make this a just society. My freedoms of life. The facts I can go to the store without being shot, or own a house, have a family, make money make this a just society. A wise man once said, "If you want to be happy just go snort some cocaine, it's about being fruitful". Which I held true and sure to my heart. Anyone can be happy through drugs and such, but that's short lasting and very empty. Being fruitful gives you a full feeling of life. Catch me on the flip side and there's many aspects of society that make it unjust. After many years of racial discrimination towards african americans we find our hypocritical society hell-bent on preventing gay's from getting marriage. I watched this movie called the opposite of sex last night. And although this aspect was unrelated to the movie it showed that gay people are no different than straight people. And if a male partner were to die they're partner would be left with nothing because of legal matters and the fact that they are not married would prevent him/her from recieving any compensation in a homosexual relationship. Same thing occurred in death at a funeral. Where the midget was having an affair with chris rock's dad. He was denied any compensation because he was never married to his father. It's the beurocratic hypocrisy.

    For the rights of Jake Stein

    Evan Fried

  12. 1. I think that America has some very just attributes that we often take for granted. We have many freedoms in America that not every other country has. We are able to make decisions for ourselves, we can own property, make a living, and live life how we want to as long as it doesn’t break any laws. We are fairly good at trying people for their actions if they do break a law. If someone does something wrong and are caught they aren’t just sentenced to life in prison or killed. They are able to go on trial to defend themselves and show that they are innocent. We also have the freedom to vote for our political leaders. This is a just system in that we aren’t forced to obey a dictator and that every person has the right to voice their political opinion.

    2. Even though America is a very just society there are a few things that are unjust. I think that the government, banks, larger companies, and even everyday citizens can be unjust. There are lots of banks that seem to treat their customers unfairly regarding loans and other bank deposits. They are only concerned in making money so they will do anything to get it, even if it means running someone into the ground with huge interest rates. I also think that some people treat each other very unjustly. Not everyone can voice their beliefs without being shut down and ignored. Since there are some main beliefs, if you stray from them you are often considered and outsider or unusual when you are just stating your side of a matter.

  13. Jaimmie Koss

    1. I think that thwe first amendment definitely makes for a fair and equal society. We all have a right to life, libery, freedom of religion etc etc and in the sense of the first amendment no one has more rights than others. Another thing that is just is our court systems and voting systems as well. Every person has the right to a fair trial and a lawyer and if you can't afford a lawyer the courts can provide one for you. Voting is also very fair, once you are over 18 and unless you do something to have the right taken away, everyone has the right to vote. We have the right to chose our own leaders and to (in a small way) pick the rules.
    2. The most undfair thing in this country, in my opinion, is the marraige laws. I believe that everyone has the right to be happy (first amendment much?) and as long as your way of happiness isn't hurting anyone else than you have a right to pursue it....weird, it makes it sound fair but it isn't. Gays don't have a right to marry in this country which doesn't make sense to me. If marraige will make them happy and they aren't hurting anyone than whats the big deal? When I find a husband and we want to get married to share benefits and such if someone told me I wasn't aloud to I'd be furious. I have the right so why don't they? They're no different than you or I.

  14. The main aspect of our society that makes it a just society is our legal system. Compared to most nations especially third world countries, we have the most just legal system in the world. We have rights that we take for granted that other people dream of having. In Haiti for example the UN mandated rights don’t exist. The right to education, the right to be free from torture, and the right to be free from slavery are not followed. Every day women and children are abused and harassed and the government does nothing to try and step in. Here in America we have access to so many opportunities every day. We have a voice in our community because of our right to vote and the right to petition. And if something does go wrong we have the right to fair trial and the concept of innocent until proven guilty. In Haiti these right are unheard of, and the government just abuses its power. But that isn’t to say our legal system is perfect, it does have its cases of an abuse of power. But it is a lot more orderly than most, making it one of the main aspects of our just society,

    One of the main aspects our unjust society is that wealth=power. Today people with money can shape the legal system to their liking. CEOs of companies can get want they want through lobbying and bribery of certain government agencies. These acts of corruption can end up harming the public severely while only making the rich richer.

    Austin Slawinski
    3rd Hour

  15. Our society is just because everyone shares the same opportunities to succeed as others, the citizens have a say in the government, and that all citizens have civil rights. Americans tend to take these aspects of everyday life for granted, but in most other countries these rights are not offered. For example, in Saudi Arabia, women are second-class citizens; they must wear complete body coverings, it is legal for a man to beat his wife, and women aren’t allowed to speak in public. This culture is in stark contrast with that of America: here women are completely independent, successful, and protected equally under the law. For example, women can hold high positions in government and business (i.e. Nancy Pelosi).
    Conversely, there are aspects of American society that are unjust. For example, going along with the gender point from before, women are often paid less than men working the same jobs. We are given equal opportunity to succeed, but apparently the success doesn’t yield the same reward as it does when you’re a man. Another aspect of American culture that is unjust is the legal murder of thousands of people every day: abortion. Simply because of one court ruling, it becomes acceptable to kill unborn children. I find this infuriatingly unjust. However, the question of what is just and unjust is the same as the question what is right / wrong: there must be a universal standard to answer that question. In that answer we find what is just and unjust.
    Gretchen Geist 3rd hour

  16. A just society is a moral society, plain and simple. Based on these standards, our society is in a poor poor state. How can we have justice when, if you have enough money, you can get away with murder (OJ Simpson)? The average joe works and sweats for hours a day, but the Nike executive is a millionaire because he underpays his staff and overprices his goods. If this weren't wrong enough, we Americans are endorsing their sweatshop slave labor by buying their products! How can our society be just if the amount of cash the rich have is directly proportional to how much they exploit the middle and lower classes? Until major companies act ethically, until they don't have to break moral code to get money, we Americans will either have to be limited by buying products only made in America, or deal with knowing that the very shoes we wear are made out of the exploited work of a young child in a foreign country.
    Although our great country has its shortcomings, it does have a lot of room for good, honest people. Anyone CAN give money to the poor, anyone CAN volunteer at a soup kitchen, but many people are greedy with their money. Don't get me wrong, there are many good Americans, but as a whole we Americans hoard money. Our rich have some of the lowest tax rates in the world, so why do they complain about taxes? Our gasoline costs half of what it does in europe, but apparently that isn't cheap enough. It is the few who are wholehearted enough to willingly give their money away that make this country great.

    -Ben Robinson


Thanks for commenting. Your message will appear as soon as Mr. W. approves it. Thanks.