The Fallacy of Social Justice–Hayek

“The very complexity that makes it impossible to possess all the information required to guide society, Hayek reasons, makes it equally impossible to judge the justice or worthiness of an individual’s total actions. As a result, the popular call for social, or distributive, justice is inapplicable in a free society. Social justice requires not merely that individual persons receive what is rightly theirs in general terms, but that individuals and groups also receive some stipulated distributional share of the society’s total output or wealth.

Hayek shows that in the market economy, however, distributions of income are not based on some standard of “deservedness,” but rather on the degree to which the individual has directly or indirectly satisfied consumer demand within the general rules of individual rights and property. To attempt to distribute income shares by deservedness would require the government to establish some overarching standard for disbursing social justice, and would necessitate an economic system in which that government had the authority and the power to investigate, measure, and judge each person’s right to a share of the society’s wealth.

Hayek suggests that such a system would involve a return to the mentality and the rules of a tribal society: Government would have to impose a single hierarchy of ends and would decide what each member should have and what should be expected from him in return. It would mean the end of the free and open society.”

Austrian Economics & Public Policy–Restoring Freedom and Prosperity, Richard Ebeling, p. 114.