There are many differing definitions of justice – but at its most fundamental – justice is the concept of fairness, that all individuals receive what they are rightfully owed. However, there is a major debate between the political right and left on what is owed to each person. Stemming from this debate is the question of whether capitalism is just. Far from being an empty, meaningless debate, the question does indeed have an answer and that answer is a resounding... yes.
The reason for this being the case is that capitalism is a system that is, at its very core, a system that rewards the meritable and punishes those who lack it, rewards applied effort and hard work, allows all men to be free, and grants them the ability to achieve anything they wish, and unlike many other systems, limits intervention by the government into private dealings. The arguments against capitalism as described by the socialist left and the welfarist liberals are unconvincing and stem from an inaccurate and naïve outlook on life as well as a general misunderstanding of what the capitalist system offers to each and every individual. One of the main arguments that the left relies on to criticize capitalism is the charge that capitalism is somehow inherently an unequal system. Their argument is that capitalism is an unfair system is founded upon the allegation that it favors the rich and the advantaged. However, although it is certainly true that some people in the system end up with more than others, this does not mean, as the left charges, that this is unfair or unjust. Those who have more are those who have either individually proven, or are descendant from those who have proven their merit. Capitalism rewards those who are competent and meritable with wealth – and does not discriminate against any individual – provided that that individual offers something of value. If one does not, they have infinite opportunities to showcase their worth and produce something that is valued by others. Those who fail to do so are choosing failure. No matter where one comes from and no matter the obstacles and challenges that they encounter in their life, under capitalism, all people have the opportunity to succeed. As human potential is limitless, all people who desire success and are willing to put in the effort to do so, can and will achieve it. Although, admittedly, some people may have to work with more intense and concentrated effort than others, this is not unjust, as the potential to succeed remains limitless. It is not unfair that some may have to work harder than others to achieve the same goal. There is no shortage of varied examples of people overcoming their circumstances and becoming wealthy and successful despite their difficulties in early life as capitalism offers opportunity to anyone who is willing to take advantage of it.
On the contrary, the social justice left wants to “counteract the ‘injustice’ of nature by instituting the most obscenely unthinkable injustice among men: deprive ‘those favored by nature’ (i.e., the talented, the intelligent, the creative) of the right to the rewards they produce (i.e., the right to life) — and grant to the incompetent, the stupid, the slothful a right to the effortless enjoyment of the rewards they could not produce, could not imagine, and would not know what to do with.” [Ayn Rand, Philosophy: Who Needs It, 110] Instead of rewarding hard work, effort, merit, talent – the welfare liberals and the socialists would deny those things to those who truly deserve them and instead give them to those who did not earn them, have not shown a desire to earn them, and have refused to put in the effort to receive those rewards.
Necessarily, the left's concept of justice is one that rather than rewarding the meritable and the deserving, takes away from them to give to those that have yet to showcase their merit. “They consider it unfair that one person’s lucky break… innovation, or innate talent can allow them to accumulate millions and give their descendants a huge advantage in life.” [Craig Beam, PP247OC, 4.3.3] The perverse result is that those who do demonstrate excellence, who prove that they deserve wealth and success are systematically robbed, and those who have wholly failed to in any way prove that they have anything of value to offer the rest of society are rewarded for their lack of initiative, their laziness, and their inferiority. Indeed, as it is the case that any person can and will succeed if they so choose and if they put in the effort to do so, it is not only nonsensical to reward those who do not do so, but it is actually counterproductive and morally wrong. To reward the meritless is to incentivize people to not push to be successful, self-motivated, and self-actualized people, but rather to encourage them to do as little as possible. This is the case because the more one demonstrates merit, the more they are taken from, and vice versa. This is a twisted concept of fairness indeed.
The left’s concept of justice is thus based on extreme governmental intervention into the affairs of all individuals. Those who dare to demonstrate their superiority to others in any terms are pushed down and have the fruits of their labors stolen from them, whereas those who have never achieved anything are rewarded for their inaction. In contrast, the right does not need to redistribute wealth as those who are deserving, talented, and able make themselves rich independently. There is a natural state of equality of opportunity under capitalism as any person can attain success and wealth provided that they put in the effort to do so. There is not just one way to succeed – the individual in a capitalistic society can and does pursue success in the fields in which they are naturally talented. The painter, the actor, the model, the businessman, the author, and the socialite can all succeed under capitalism because capitalism functions under the basic principle of supply and demand. If there is a demand for whatever you supply, you will be made successful. This is in contrast to the bleak and rather dystopian alternative of socialism, where only the things that the government deems to be appropriate and needed are produced, and all luxuries and delightful flavors of life are deemed unnecessary bourgeois luxuries. Rather than allowing all individuals to be free, to choose success or to choose failure, to allow people to either succeed or fail on the basis of their own merit, socialism makes all individuals equally miserable. In the words of Winston Churchill, “socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”
Justice is a concept that means that individuals receive what they are owed. There are fundamental disagreements between the political right and left on what the individual is owed and a disagreement on whether capitalism is just. The answer to that question is a firm affirmative as capitalism is a system that allows a person to succeed and fail based on their own individual merit. It rewards exceptionality and ability, and recognizes the hard-working and the capable, allows freedom for every individual to succeed as much as they wish, and does not necessitate extensive government involvement thus upholding liberty. Capitalism is a system that gives each person what they deserve, and punishes sloth, laziness, lack of perseverance. On the contrary, socialists and welfare liberals give extensively to the undeserving by taking from those who have earned it. It does not allow for the deserving to succeed, and it redistributes wealth from those who deign to be remarkable. [Craig Beam, PP247OC, 4.3.3] If capitalism is a system that rewards only those that are meritable, socialism is a system that guarantees identical misery for all.