The New York Times has an article on the reaction to broadcaster Glenn Beck telling listeners, "I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words...If you have a priest that is pushing social justice, go find another parish. Go alert your bishop."
It made me think of Brown University professor John Tomasi's 2007 Hayek Lecture to the Manhattan Institute:
Hayek certainly indicates that he is opposed to social justice. Indeed, he wrote an entire book on this subject, The Mirage of Social Justice. He writes, "Only situations that have been created by human will can be called just or unjust." Justice, Hayek tells us, is a property of the actions of individual persons. The complex pattern of holdings that we find across a free society, Hayek says, is the product of many human actions. But that pattern is not the product of any single human will. To apply notions of justice to the relative holdings of people across an entire society, Hayek says, is simply confusion. The term "social justice," Hayek tells us, "does not belong to the category of error but to that of nonsense, like the term 'a moral stone.'" On this orthodox reading, Hayek is opposed to social justice. Indeed, in one place Hayek compares a belief in social justice to a belief in witches...
There is a problem with this simple reading of Hayek, however, and it has much vexed Hayek scholars. For while claiming to reject social justice, Hayek often invokes a standard of social justice in arguing for his Ron Paul–like policies of limited government. Thus, Hayek says repeatedly that a society of free markets and limited government will be beneficial to all citizens, providing each his best chance of using his own information for his own purposes. On occasions where he fears that the market system may not have this hoped-for result, infamously, Hayek advocates governmental correctives: a guaranteed minimum income, public funding for schools, and an array of social services for needy families—all to be funded by increased taxation. Perhaps we would merely call this Obama-Lite. But whatever we call it, it looks a lot like a concern for the pattern of material holdings across the whole society—a concern, that is, for social justice.
I'd be happy with simple "justice," never mind the social part. But it's a long-running argument.