”Sociar’ Justice Is Not JusticernThe Mirage of John Rawlsrnby Antony FlewrnIn The Mirage of Social justice, the second volume of his trilogyrnon Law, Legislation, and Liberty, Friedrich von Hayekrnconfessed that, “as a result of long endeavors to trace the destructiverneffect which the invocation of ‘social jushce’ has hadrnon our moral sensitivit)’,” he had “come to feel strongly that therngreatest service” he could “still render” to his fellows would bernto “make . .. speakers and writers .. . thoroughly ashamed . . . tornemploy the term ‘social justice.”‘rnCertainly, as Hayek proceeded so painstakingly to show, thisrncant expression was, and indeed still is, usually employed quiternthoughtlessly. Few, if any, of those who habitually use it haverneven attempted to produce a systematic and consistent rationalernfor its application. Nevertheless, the expression “the achievementrnof social justice” can be illuminatingly defined as beingrnthe achievement by statist means of whatever would, for socialists,rnconstitute an ideal distribution of goods of all kinds. Thernword “socialism” here, following Hayek’s suggestion in his Prefacernto the second edition oiThe Road to Serfdom, is understoodrnto mean “not the nationalization of the means of productionrnand the central economic planning which this made possiblernand necessary” but “the extensive redistribution of incomesrnthrough taxation and the institutions of the welfare state.”rnHayek’s chances of fulfilling his ambition to make peoplernashamed to talk of social justice would have been much greaterrnif only he had been able and willing to direct his fire at JohnrnRawls. For although Rawls’ 607-page book is misleadingly entitledrnA Theory of justice, he reveals within its first ten pages thatrnhis true subject is “the principles of social justice”: principlesrnwhich, he tells us, “provide a way of assigning rights and dutiesrnAntony Flew, the winner of the 1998 Richard M. Weaver Awardrnfor Scholarly Letters, is professor emeritus at the University ofrnReading, England. This article is drawn from his WeaverrnAward acceptance speech.rnin the basic institution of societ)- and . . . define the appropriaterndistribution of the benefits and burdens of social co-operation.”rnBecause Rawls attempted to satisfy the need for some clear formulationrnand persuasive rationalization of the putative principlesrnof social justice, this book received a wide and overwhelminglyrnenthusiastic welcome. It remains the standard startingrnpoint for all subsequent theoretical discussion.rnRawls, however, makes absolutely no attempt to show how, ifrnat all, these principles of “social” justice are related to justice asrntraditionally understood. He pays no attention to the warningrnabout the need for definition which Plato’s Socrates is scriptedrnto give in the final sentence of the first book of Plato’s Republic:rn”For if I do not know what justice is I am scarcely likely to findrnout whether its possessor is happy or unhappy.” fiideed, it is onlyrnon his 579th page that Rawls explains, without anv suggestionrnof apology, that he was eager “to leave questions of meaning andrndefinition aside and get on with the task of developing a substantiverntheory [not of’social’ justice but] of justice.”rnThis extraordinary—and extraordinarily unphilosophical —rnrefusal to define or otherwise elucidate the key term of the entirernargimient must surely make the book the only substantialrntreatise purporting to be about justice not to have quoted the traditionalrndefinition. (That is, by the way, the definition proposedrnby Polemarchus, but rejected by Plato’s Socrates, in Book I ofrnthe Republic. I will not resist the temptafion to point out that,rnin the remaining nine books, Plato scripted his Socrates to developrnprinciples of what Rawls calls social justice radically differentrnfrom those proposed by Rawls himself) The versionrnfoimd in the Institutes of Justinian is inscribed on a wall of thernlibrary of the Harvard Law School. It is there helpfully translatedrnas: “To live honourably, not to injure another, to render torneach his due.” The expression “his due” is presumably to bernconstrued as referring to the several just deserts and entitiementsrnof different individuals, the deserts primarily under thernJULY 1999/19rnrnrn