Blog Archive


Thursday, November 05, 2009
Dr. Dalrymple has a superb (I'm running out of superlatives to describe his columns) piece in this month's New English Review. He hits on something that few non-Christians ever realize: that if there was complete justice in this world, "we should all be in a pretty pickle." Dalrymple isn't referring to justice from God, but the general concept of justice in this life. Thankfully, we are rarely held fully accountable for our actions. Yet everyone clamors for it from others while hoping never to be demanded of it themselves.
One of the Fabian’s suggestions, to bring about a more equal society and thereby lessen poverty was to increase and extend inheritance tax. The money raised would be distributed in one way or another to the poor (minus deductions, of course, for the pay, perquisites and pensions of those who had to administer it, a proportion not likely to be small). For, as he said, it was unfair that some people, by accident of birth, should inherit wealth while others should inherit nothing.

It seemed to me obvious that, underlying and if you like impelling the proposal was our old and trusted psychological friend, the one who never lets you down, namely resentment. Why should some people, no better than I and sometimes much worse than I, be better off than I, merely by chance, that is to say by accident of birth? Why should some people be handed on a plate what I have to work all my life for, or indeed in some cases more than I can ever hope to earn and accumulate?

Nothing could be less fair.

It is unfair, but is it unjust?
There are many unfairnesses in life that we must learn to put up with, if we are to have any chance of happiness or even of tolerable contentment. For example, I should like to be taller, better-looking and more intelligent and gifted than I am. Every time I meet someone better-looking than I, taller than I, or more talented than I, which I do very regularly, I experience a brief spark of envy. What did they do to be as they are, my superiors? Why did providence, or chance, endow them with characteristics so much more attractive than my own? Needless to say, I never stop to think that, just possibly, some people might ask the same of me when they meet me.

But the differential endowments of nature are unfair, not unjust, because (at least as yet) no human intervention can prevent them. The inheritance of wealth is not like this: it is a human arrangement that could be abrogated if not easily, for political reasons, at least with some effort. And if injustice is unfairness brought about by human means, then inheritance of wealth is unjust. Ergo, inheritance of wealth ought to be forbidden because it is unjust, and we must always seek justice.

The question, then, is whether we should always seek justice to the exclusion of other desiderata. Is it true that justice always and everywhere trumps other considerations? I think the answer is no.
Read the rest here...


Recent Comments


Darius' book montage

The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel The Main Thing
Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible
Disciplines of a Godly Man
Money, Greed, and God: Why Capitalism Is the Solution and Not the Problem
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith
Respectable Sins
The Kite Runner
Life Laid Bare: The Survivors in Rwanda Speak
Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak
A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/protestant, liberal/conservative, mystical/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, fundamentalist/calvinist, ... anabaptist/anglican, metho
Show Them No Mercy
The Lord of the Rings
Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass
The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception
Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming
The Chronicles of Narnia
Les Misérables

Darius Teichroew's favorite books »