Hayek on “social justice”

From Hayek’s Law, Legislation, and Liberty

Nobody capable of useful work need today lack food and shelter in the advanced countries, and for those incapable of themselves earning enough these necessities are generally provided outside the market. Poverty in the relative sense must of course continue to exist outside of any completely egalitarian society: so long as there exists inequality, somebody must be at the bottom of the scale. But the abolition of absolute poverty is not helped by the endeavour to achieve ‘social justice’; in fact, in many of the countries in which absolute poverty is still an acute problem, the concern for ‘social justice’ has become one of the greatest obstacles in the elimination of poverty. In the West the rise of the great masses to tolerable comfort has been the effect of the general growth of wealth and has been merely slowed down by measures interfering with the market mechanism. It has been this market mechanism which has created the increase of aggregate income, which also has made it possible to provide outside the market for the support of those unable to earn enough. But the attempts to ‘correct’ the results of the market in the direction of ‘social justice’ have probably produced more injustice in the form of new privileges, obstacles to mobility and frustration of efforts than they have contributed to the alleviation of the lot of the poor.

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One Response to Hayek on “social justice”

  1. Paul Marks says:

    The left try and counter what Hayek wrote by saying “he also wrote nice things about John Rawls – the arch supporter of Social Justice”.

    However, if one reads Hayek’s “Law, Legislation and Liberty” Hayek admits that he has not read Rawls’ book “A Theory of Justice” – Hayek did not actually know that Rawls was a Social Justice supporter.

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