Does Social Justice Come from Above or Below?

An Italian priest, Father Luigi Taparelli d’Azeglio, coined the term “social justice” in the mid-1800s. He wrote that “legal justice,” as implemented by the State, was different from “social justice” by which people resolve conflicts and injustices without State intrusion.

In the early 1900s, Herbert Croly, considered the father of modern liberalism, and other Progressive Era intellectuals promoted a new paradigm for social well-being in America. Their vision was rooted in what became known as “Christian socialism.” They argued that a strong, central government could be a “great equalizer” by enacting laws and policies that would end the “sinful and cruel” aspects of a free-market economy.

For some, the progressives’ emphasis on government control was a noble and necessary step for America to address various inequities. Others saw it as sanctioning government control and/or coercion over citizens with God-given freedoms.

Modern progressives still seek to achieve “social justice” through state and federal legislation and government agency. As before, they still face serious opposition from constitutionalists, libertarians and religious believers who strongly resist what they see as the overreach of government into matters of faith and family.

We are left with the following questions:

It seems that there are two basic options for addressing social injustice, racial strife, and economic inequality: state authority and private (family, NGO, religious) initiative.

Which is more effective and why?

Which has worked in the past?

What do see working for the future?

What do you see as the basic strategy of advancing the cause of social justice (racial, ethnic, economic, etc.) in our country?

Please share your thoughts below