I’ll start by admitting that yes I am a journalism major, but I am ashamed at how unconnected I am from the political world.
It has always sort of bothered me that as a 20-year-old, I have never voted, don’t listen to debates, appear ignorant and have to keep my mouth shut during political discussions.
I’m currently taking a social problems course this semester, and during the third week of classes, I had an “ah-ha!” moment about my stance in the world of social problems.
While I am honestly am not sure whether I am a Democrat or a Republican yet, that’s not the point of what I am going to say in this piece.
Social problems are part of what makes this world go round. Though they aren’t positive, they are the bulk of current conversations being had across our nation and beyond.
At the root of social problems is the question: What is justice?
In my class, we read a passage from ‘Justice’ by Michael Sandel, where he defined justice as doing the right thing. More deeply, he described three pillars of justice: welfare, freedom and virtue.
Marvin Goodman of the Republican Liberty Caucus defines liberty rights as protecting the right to act freely. He defines welfare rights as a claim of need to the goods and services produced by others.
When we think of welfare, what immediately comes to mind is social assistance- social security, food stamps, work study or Medicare. However, when looking at welfare as a pillar of justice, my class focused on welfare as being the overall well-bein g of a person or society- a person or a group of people’s happiness. A law is just if the majority of a population is happy because of it.
Justice equals the well-being of everyone. The idea is that because we are all human, we all deserve good relationships, solid education, safety and security, good health, etc…
What I have come to learn is that Democrats mainly focus on the good of everyone- welfare. Democrats fight for societal welfare and doing what is best for the greater population, rather than focusing on the individual.
But what if some people don’t want to contribute to the well-being of others? Should they have to?
The other pillar of justice is freedom- the core of the Republican viewpoint. Freedom is the idea that individuals have the right to do what they choose. Some Republicans believe that ensuring welfare restricts freedom.
But what if actions committed due to freedom harm others?
Fighting for justice is a constant clash between welfare and freedom, which is why republicans and democrats normally don’t see eye to eye.
Regardless of political stance, all humans have virtues, which is the third pillar of justice that I learned in class.
Virtues are values and behaviors that humans believe are good to cultivate. We may or may not be born with our virtues and virtues are shared.
Our virtues equal our morality and are commendable characteristics within us. Virtues come into play when we don’t want to pick a side, but subconsciously we do because we have our own set of morals.
The example we talked about in class is the train conductor driving the train and realizing there are five railroad workers in the middle of the track and he is headed straight for them. The conductor knows he doesn’t have time to stop, but could turn onto a deviated track, however that track has one worker on it. Does he stay straight ahead and kill the five workers or does he deviate and take the side track and kill the one worker?
No matter what political viewpoint you own, that situation questions morality and virtues.
Reaching justice comes from conflict between the good of the individual versus the good of many-republicans versus democrats with a sprinkle of morality.
I always looked at justice as finding equality for all, but this lesson showed me a deeper way of looking at it. And although I still feel rather ignorant towards politics, at least now I understand the foundation of both sides and can approach issues of justice with an open mind knowing how both parties may feel.