No Lasting Social Justice Without Economic Justice

Ben Franklin warned us long ago:

“They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”

Here’s the warning we should be hearing from the Hobby Lobby fiasco:

Those who accept economic injustice to temporarily advance social justice will achieve neither economic justice nor social justice.

The BlueMeanie posted on an absolutely chilling article that appeared in Salon a few days back: Hobby Lobby’s secret agenda: How it’s quietly funding a vast right-wing movement.

The lesson we should be learning from the activities of Hobby Lobby’s owners is that economic injustice and the extreme inequality associated with it ultimately is inimical to social justice.

One paragraph says it all, and it should awaken from their slumber those who vote for self-absorbed Democrats who wear their positions on LGBT rights and abortion rights on their sleeves while selling their base out on issues of economic justice:

But a document published here for the first time reveals Hobby Lobby appears to be going much further than protecting freedom, providing funding for a group that backs a political network of activist groups deeply engaged in pushing a Christian agenda into American law. The document shows entities related to the company to be two of the largest donors to the organization funding a right-wing Christian agenda, investing tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars into a vast network of organizations working in concert to advance an agenda that would allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians and deny their employees contraceptives under a maximalist interpretation of the Free Exercise Clause of the United States Constitution.

The danger associated with extreme inequality, where we allow individuals to amass fortunes into the billions, is not the concentration of wealth per se, but the concentration of power. Here’s Paul Krugman, quoting Teddy Roosevelt:

The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power.

This should be intuitively obvious. A net worth of just ten million dollars allows one to live an insanely comfortable life. If one person controls one hundred or one thousand times that much wealth, the value of the additional wealth is power, not material comfort. The acquisition of massive wealth may not be driven by a quest for power, but that hardly is relevant. Once one acquires an enormous fortune, he has enormous power, whether or not he originally sought that power.

And power corrupts.

Hobby Lobby is just one manifestation of the danger that the power associated with massive wealth presents. We saw another when Sheldon Adelson single-handedly propped up a presidential candidate. We see the Koch brothers use their enormous financial resources to pursue an energy policy that is exposing humankind itself to possible extinction, and almost certain misery.

But Hobby Lobby shows us that social justice is up for grabs in a society that tolerates economic injustice and the extreme inequality that goes with it. When power is concentrated in the wrong hands, bad things happen. By allowing our system of taxation and regulation to devolve to the point where individuals amass multi-billion dollar fortunes, we set the stage for crazed religious fanatics to achieve real power.

The reality here is that David and Barbara Green, the co-founders of Hobby Lobby, and those associated with their cause are similar to the Taliban, differing only in degree. Both groups seek to impose a radical, unjust worldview on an entire country. The Taliban achieved power through military strength, whereas the Greens have achieved their power through financial might, but the use to which the two groups direct their power is essentially the same.

Therein lies the potential hollowness of the benefit from electing candidates who pledge to fight for abortion rights and LGBT rights, but not for economic justice. The longer elected officials refrain from taking meaningful action to reverse the concentration of wealth, the less likely it is they will do so. If Congress won’t rein the Koch brothers in when their wealth sits at $100 billion, will it do so when they’re sitting on $500 billion? And as wealth concentrates at the top, our billionaires will consolidate their power. Real power will shift ever further from those elected officials to those with massive wealth. Increasingly, elected officials will serve only at the pleasure of, and to do the bidding for, their wealthy masters. 

At that point, all it will take will be a few fanatic billionaires using their power to implement a radical religious agenda, and an absence of “good billionaires” willing who care enough to stand in their way.

And do you see any “good billionaires” standing in the way of David and Barbara Green?

One response to “No Lasting Social Justice Without Economic Justice

  1. “The reality here is that David and Barbara Green, the co-founders of Hobby Lobby, and those associated with their cause are similar to the Taliban, differing only in degree. Both groups seek to impose a radical, unjust worldview on an entire country. The Taliban achieved power through military strength, whereas the Greens have achieved their power through financial might, but the use to which the two groups direct their power is essentially the same.”

    It is hard to believe Bob, that someone as intelligent as yourself could be swallowed up by the myths that the Green’s case before SCOTUS, should they prevail, will unleash Armageddon on homosexuals and women’s access to contraceptives.
    Regardless of how the Justices rule, women will have the same rights to acquire and use contraception they had before the mandate was penned to paper. In fact, they would most likely still have free access to 16 of the 20 contraceptives named in the ACA which have been covered by Hobby Lobby’s insurance plan for years prior to the law.
    Secondly, the argumentum ad absurdum that businesses will lock their doors to gays flies in the face of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. RFRA is not one size fits all. Each challenge is weighed on the merits of the specific grievance and the government’s interest. Surely Bob , as an attorney, you knew this. Additionally, the fact that it is currently legal for businesses to turn away gay customers in more states than it is not and yet this mass rampage of discrimination has failed to manifest shows that this is simply an attempt by some to create a false hysteria.
    What is perhaps most disappointing to me about your post has nothing to do with your specific views on inequality or the Hobby Lobby case. It is your arrogant belief that it is you who is the one to judge the Green’s worldview as unjust. What is the Green’s worldview Bob? Furthermore, who or what entity determines the “good billionaires” v the “bad billionaires”? Would that be you, me, a republican congress, a democrat president? What kind of slippery slope does that create?
    In a free, open, and pluralistic society, there are all sorts of behaviors that we may have to tolerate, even though we don’t approve of those activities. Demonizing the Green’s for a commonly held religious belief would seem to me to be an extremely intolerant way to behave.