Father Robert Sirico, a leader in “morality of capitalism” public arguments, recently spoke at my alma mater, Hillsdale College, on how to think about social justice.
Social justice is another of those squishy phrases that no sane person is against until they find out what it means. At this event, Sirico asked a crucial question: Should the government be the typical arbitrator of social interaction? In other words, when people get together to do things—start a business, hold a juggling club, drink milk—should the government referee essentially private activity? If a farmer freely chooses to sell his raw milk to people who freely choose and consciously decide to buy and drink it, should the government stop him?
The rest of his argument rests on one of his first statements: that conservatives believe in the stability of meaning. We are the original upholders of social justice, and we want our concept back.
“We’re the new progressives. We’re liberals,” Sirico said, all the way at the end of the speech (at the 44:22 mark). “We believe in freedom and we believe in social justice. We believe in real equality and what that word has always meant, which is not outcome, but common dignity. We believe in the common good. We just need to keep using these words until they decide they’re going to abandon them because they’re going to get a bad reputation if they keep using them.”
This is something I have thought before. As a conservative, I’m the new progressive. I’m someone who speaks truth to power, since power (government, media, education) is now overwhelmingly liberal, and liberal policies are often damaging to human souls. I don’t favor conserving or preserving our welfare state. I favor rolling it back, to promote social justice and equality. I favor progress, human enlightenment and freedom.
You can hear the rest of Sirico’s speech below.