August von Hayek and the Critique of Social Justice

August von Hayek and the Critique of Social Justice

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

It took more than a decade for Hayek to discover the meaning of what is called ‘social justice’. However, although the ardent socialism that Hayek criticizes is probably a thing of the past, certain concepts belonging to it are deeply embedded in the minds of people in the West.

First of all, justice is a moral concept, Hayek says for ‘social justice’. For example, someone who works hard can lose a lot, or someone who is seen as having an unpleasant character can take the biggest share of the market. We can rebel against such an unjust situation.(1)

The idea of ​​social justice stems from a misconception of society. Society is a complex but unplanned system of values ​​and actions, a web of agreed rather than shared goals.

Just because everyone believes in witches and ghosts doesn’t mean they exist. The concept of social justice is also a “witch” in this sense.

When asked what the relative wages should be for a nurse and a butcher, a coal miner and a supreme court judge, a diver and a sewer cleaner, a founder of a new industry and a jockey, a tax inspector and a life-saving drug inventor, a jet pilot and a math professor. Appealing to “social justice” will not help us in the slightest in making decisions on these issues.

In the market, the personal efforts of the person for the reward / reward and the troubles and tortures he endured to produce the service; nor is it a function of one’s moral virtues. Generally, people find value in others because of some natural abilities they have rather than the great effort and effort they can show.

What a man’s service is worth in the eyes of others has nothing to do with how hard he is willing to put in. Indeed, some people love their job so much that they can even do it for free. There really is probably no way to calculate how much of a producer’s work is due to his skill and how much to luck.

Hayek questions the origin of the concept of social justice and provides some worrying reasons. One of the main complaints against the general market order is that the changing conditions of the market put some people in a worse situation than they used to be. The second source of the notion of social justice is, of course, pure jealousy.


(1) Hayek, Friedrich A. Von; Law, Legislative Activities and Freedom, Social Justice Mirage, Trans. Mustafa Erdogan, Türkiye İş Bankası Cultural Publications, Ankara, 1993. p. 115-119