Social Justice: Adam Swift tries to answer your questions in his book Political Philosophy - a beginners guide for students and politicians
The idea only came about relatively recently, creeping into use from about 1850 on…. It developed only as philosophers came to see society’s key social and economic institutions, which crucially determine the distribution of benefits and burdens, as a proper object for moral and political investigation. (pp 9)
Justice is tied to duty – to what it is morally required that we, perhaps collectively though our political and social institutions, do to and for one another. Not just what it would be morally good to do, but what we have a duty to do, what morality compels us to do. (pp 11-12)
The state is justified in making sure that people carry out their duties to one another. It is justified in using its coercive power to force people to do what they might not do voluntarily…. So justice is central to political morality, because of the widely held claim that once we know what our duties are to one another then we also know when we can justify using the machinery of the state to get people to do things they might not otherwise do, and might even regard as wrong. (pp 13-14)
So now the question is have Lebanese as citizens decided what exactly their duties are to one-another, and consequently when state-intervention in personal freedom justified?
One of the most influential philosophers about Social Justice in the
Rawls suggests that if you were put behind a veil of ignorance (i.e. you did not know whether you were going to become a Maronite, Shi’a, Orthodox, Druze, or Sunni; gifted with talented or dumb, ambitious or laid back, etc…) you would choose the following principles upon which to base your social and political institutions:
- Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive total system of basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all.
Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under condition of fair equality of opportunity.
The first principle is quite simple and straight forward. The second principle is a little more complex. Therefore, I will elaborate. In Part (a) of that principle, Rawls basically assumes that you are risk averse, and that behind the “veil of ignorance,” you would want the worst off in your future society to be “in the best situation possible.” In other words, you would justify disparities in wealth and income as long as you were sure that if you ended up poor, your situation would be as good as possible given the circumstances.
Part (b) basically is another way of promoting meritocracy as opposed to getting positions based on social connections.
Can Lebanese adopt these principles? I don’t know. In fact, I’m too tired to contemplate such an unlikely scenario at the time. But, there is one idea of Rawls that I would definitely like to see applied to