Lost Language, Lost Liberalism

A review of the changes 1880-1940 to the central semantics of liberal civilization.

Justice  Confusions

Mulford, Elisha. 1877. The Nation. Hurd and Houghton: New York.

[16] [The nation] is a moral organism; that is, its members are persons who subsist in it, in relations in the realization of personality. It is the condition in which a person exists in the fulfillment of the relations of life with those who are persons. There is in it the assertion of a justice, which is the affirmation of a person in the recognition and institution of these relations between the moral whole and the moral parts of the whole. Its law is regulative of the moral whole, and of the parts, in these relations.


George, Henry. [1879] 1926. Progress and Poverty. Garden City Publishing: New York.

[326] To extirpate poverty, to make wages what justice commands they should be, the full earnings of the laborer, we must therefore substitute for the individual ownership of the land to common ownership.

[401] We should satisfy the law of justice, we should meet all economic requirements, by at one stroke abolishing all private titles, declaring all land public property, and letting it out to the highest bidders in lots to suit, under such conditions as would sacredly guard the private right to improvements.


George, Henry. [1881] 1930. The Land Question. Doubleday, Doran, & Co.: New York.

[52] In light of these principles we see that landowners have no rightful claim either to the land or to compensation for its resumption by the people, and, further than that, we can see that no rightful claim can ever be created.

[96] They show that our civilization is one-sided and cannot last as at present based; they show that our so-called Christian communities are not Christian at all. I believe civilization is possible in which all could be civilized—in which things would be impossible. But it must be a civilization based on justice and acknowledging the equal rights of all to natural opportunities. I believe that there is in true Christianity a power to regenerate the world.


Smith, John Brown. 1881. The Brotherhood of Man. J. B. and E. G. Smith: Massachusetts.

[7] Whereas, we believe industrial Justice requires that all transactions between different individuals and communities should be conducted on a basis of equitable mutual exchange which shall recognize cost as being the limit of price, and the time required in production the equitable measure of value of all the productions of labor. The governing rule of natural justice in determining the cost and time values of all productions should be to place all healthful occupations on an equal basis, but all occupations which are deleterious to health and in consequence tend to shorten the average longevity of man should be graded on the principle of shortening the day's labor in proportion to the average duration of the life of those who engage in such unhealthful business. The principle of adjusting the length of a day's labor in different occupations so that the average duration of human life shall be as near as possible the same in all forms of labor is the natural foundation of a just form of social organization.

[26] Justice is the intermediate balance which weighs and adjusts all relations of the atoms, bodies and souls of the universe; and is the natural center of chemical, psychological, magnetic, electrical and spiritual force, because all hinge-like radiations of force must swing on the pivot of natural law which is Justice incarnated. All the errors which ever has existed in the past or which shall ever have existence in the future is caused through ignorance of the basic foundations of justice as determined by the fixed laws of material and spiritual evolution.

[17] It is self-evident that the right to own a thing did not exist when mankind came on this planet, as my friend John Thomas, of Virginia, would say. The creation of individual ownership is then in defiance of the basic laws of natural justice. The principle of ownership is the cause of all desire in the human heart to become possessors of property…. Ownership of property is theft; and it creates the motive for all the stealing on this earth. Abolish ownership and you take away both the temptation and crime of theft, because where there is no desire for ownership there can be no desire to steal the products of the labor of others, as justice requires each to be sustained by his own thought and action, giving and receiving equally with all, according to ability. Ownership degenerates into actual possession for necessary use when weighed in the scales of justice.


Robert Ellis Thompson (1844 - 1924) was a professor of Mathematics, Social Science, History and English Literature. He was editor of  Penn Monthly  from 1870 to 1880, and of  The American  from 1881 to 1892. 

Robert Ellis Thompson (1844 - 1924) was a professor of Mathematics, Social Science, History and English Literature. He was editor of Penn Monthly from 1870 to 1880, and of The American from 1881 to 1892. 

Thompson, Robert Ellis. 1882. Political Economy. Porter and Coates: Philadelphia.

[36-37] Justice or Righteousness, Plato discovered, is of the essence of the state. It can therefore attain to the purpose of its vocation only by complying with the ideal of justice as apprehended by the national conscience, — an ideal ever advancing in clearness and completeness as the nation tries to realize it. … If justice be of the essence of the state, any wilful and conscious violation of it, i.e., any national unrighteousness that does not spring from and find its palliation in a low ideal of righteousness, must be a blow at the national life and existence. … Justice has two aspects. (1) It is the state’s function to do justice upon evil-doers within (and sometimes without) its own boundaries, by punishing them for past and deterring them from future invasions of the rights of others. (2) It is also called upon to do itself justice; that is, to secure the fullest and freest development of the national life in all worthy directions. As self-preservation is its first duty, there is involved in that duty this obligation—to progress in national life.


Mackenzie, Malcolm. 1883. “The Ethics of Political Economy,” The Celtic Magazine 8: 522-527.

[522-523] What gives a title to immortal fame to the author of the ‘Wealth of Nations,’ is the great discovery that labour is the foundation and measure of value, and that he combined with the elucidation of that important truth, and as a necessary corollary, the removal of all restraints so as to give it its full development, under conditions of freedom, justice, and equality. It should, therefore, appear that if labour, or human effort, in the service of society, is the foundation of value, it should also be the foundation of economic justice. … The second defect arises from his not having rigorously adhered to and carried to their ultimate logical consequence his own fundamental propositions. It ought to have appeared to Adam Smith, as it now appears to everyone, that landlordism, or a dual tenure, is a system of restraints and injustice. From this defect has arisen the vexed question of rent, which neither he nor his successors eliminated as a residuum to be appropriated by the State. … It must appear to everyone that the mere acquisition of wealth for its own sake is an ignoble pursuit if obtained at the expense of progress and order, and in violation of principles of freedom and justice. Yet writers on economies and polities have set themselves to construct a social edifice without laying its foundation in ethics, and it may well be said of their writings that—‘Such reasoning falls like an inverted cone, Wanting its proper base to stand upon.’


Peek, Francis. 1883. Social Wreckage. William Isbister: London

[ix] The object of this book is not to plead for charity, but simply for justice—justice from the strong in dealing with the weak, from the rich towards the poor, from the well-conducted prosperous Pharisee towards the children of shame, bred in an atmosphere where wrong is counted right, and right is scorned; justice from society even towards its criminals, many of whom might thus be won back to paths of virtue—justice, of which the essential principle is, ‘Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.’

[20-21] The virtues which England urgently needs at this hour are self-denying philanthropy—the seeking without hope of reward our neighbour’s welfare—that true benevolence which proves itself in earnest by promoting the cause of humanity and justice, even in the dull business routine of the vestry and the workhouse — that patriotism which constrains citizens to devote their talents to the public good, not only in the Senate, where the social position acquired may compensate for any self-denial, but in those lower offices, where, as Vestrymen, Guardians, and members of School-boards, the labour is all for love, and the only reward sought is the answer of a good conscience, or that recompense which may be laid up in the unseen future.


Bellamy, Charles Joseph. 1884. The Way Out, Suggestions for Social Reform. G. P. Putnams Sons: New York.

[62] One of the apparent causes of those errors now is the feverish, gambler-like search of capital for profitable investment regardless of the condition of the field, and when already invested and profitable, the temptation to expand the business, as it is termed, using a portion of the unrighteous profits in making more goods instead of distributing among workmen as justice would compel to be done.

[130] But we shall see, I think, that besides having no basis in nature or justice, the doctrine of individual ownership in land is inexpedient, tending to the injury of mankind and to the hindrance of progress.


Dudley Julius Medley (1861-1953) was Professor of Modern History at the University of Glasgow from 1899 until 1931. He was Chairman of the University Appointments Committee for many years and was awarded an LLD in 1931.

Dudley Julius Medley (1861-1953) was Professor of Modern History at the University of Glasgow from 1899 until 1931. He was Chairman of the University Appointments Committee for many years and was awarded an LLD in 1931.

Medley, Dudley Julius. 1884. Socialism as a Moral Movement. B. H. Blackwell: Oxford.

[7] For it is not only that the system of Laissez-faire has totally failed to bring about anything like a just distribution of this world’s goods (though even in this matter alone would it stand self-condemned) but it is giving way before considerations drawn from purely moral sources. … Since, therefore, it is under moral considerations that the old economic system is giving way, it is by moral tests that we must judge the new system which is bidding for its place, whether that new system claims to be economic alone, or whether it extends its principles into every sphere of activity in human life.


Starkweather, A. J. and S. Robert Wilson. 1884. Socialism. John W. Lovell Co.: New York.

[6] Socialism is defined by Webster as follows: ‘A better and more just system of government.’ A better definition is this: Socialism is the science of Justice applied to social conditions of mankind, its fundamental principle being that the right to labor and to receive the full value of that labor must secured to every individual.


Green, Thomas Hill. 1885. Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation. Longmans, Green, and Co.: London.

[s186n] The just is that complex of social conditions which for each individual is necessary to enable him to realize his capacity of contributing to social good. ‘Justice’ is the habit of mind which leads us to respect those conditions in dealing with others, — not to interfere with them so far as they already exist, and to bring them into existence so far as they are not found in existence.


Ely, Richard T. 1886. The Labor Movement in America. Thomas Y. Crowell: New York.

[6] This is the position of socialism, which holds that justice in the distribution of the good things of life is to be attained in common and systematic production in a re-created state, where men shall receive the means if enjoyment in proportion to the service they have rendered to society.

[30] Reasonableness is justice — the recognition of the same right to life and its comforts in others which we have.

[123] Our public-school system is attacked by men whose political wisdom and sense of social justice I prefer not to characterize in terms which would seem to me fitting.


Graham, William. 1886. The Social Problem in Its Economical, Moral, and Political Aspects. Kegan Paul, Trench, and Co.: London

[32] Of course the question, What is a just and fair share, lies at the bottom; and to this, it is said, there can be no answer but a practical one. A just wage is what is determined by contract between the employer and those seeking employment, whether that contract is made on the part of the latter by individuals in competition with each other or not. A just wage is what a man has agreed to take, what the master has agreed to give; and this is so whether the labourer acts singly, or in a body, where no competition or underbidding of each other is by agreement allowed. According to this the just wage of labour is as much as it can contrive to get from the purchaser; and, on his side, it is what he finds it his interest to give. And to this I reply, that there is a standard of justice applicable to the case other than the result of this egoistic contest between employers and employed; and there is a conceivably just division of the produce between capitalists and their labourers which it is to be feared is considerably discrepant from that which now is in general the result. The present system results in unjust wages in the total, because wages are determined by the play of egoistic motives solely, and because in the bargaining the employer has an advantage which not even the action of Trades’ Unions, though it may lessen, can ever neutralise.

[50] Nevertheless, political enfranchisement is the indispensable first step on the way to social justice, and thence to a sounder and happier society.

[350] The defining lines of law must be drawn afresh with respect to the two grand topics of Property and Contract by legislators and jurists under higher and clearer conceptions of justice, and with more regard to the happiness and well-being of the great masses of the people, which the past laws on these subjects have done more than anything else to defeat. In a word, we must take certain steps in the direction of socialism or communism, the principles of which, as already stated, lie deep in our nature (as well as their opposites), are recommended by reason, have, in the shape of the communism of the family or of friendship, at certain crises probably saved most people in the chance individualistic scramble, and have already been to some extent adopted in our public policy from absolute necessity, as well as voluntarily by various associated groups of private individuals.


Griswold, Wolcott Noble. 1887. A Consideration of the Wealth and Poverty of Nations. The Bancroft Company: San Francisco.

[108] At this point is to be found the pith and marrow of the universal absence of justice, which attaches to the distribution of wealth.

 [173-174] The theory of compensation to labor as a distributive measure, is dimly outlined and scantily practicalized by industrial leaders and writers upon economic philosophy; but so much more regard is paid to payment of rent, profit and interest, or the so-called compensation of land, capital and enterprise, that the labor factor, which is the only real and just measure of distribution, is practically neglected. It is in the line of private enterprise to prolong the clamor of compensation for land, capital and wealth; it is the very essence of public enterprise conducted by government after having equally distributed or socialized the common heritage in land, raw material, provisions, machinery and money—so that compensation for their use cannot be enforced—to eliminate the elements of rent, profit and interest, and to leave labor as the sole and just measure of distribution.


Lacy, George. 1888. Liberty and Law. Swan Sonnenschein, Lowrey & Co.: London.

[131] Justice is only conceivable as between man and man, and can only be applied to an individual as a unit of society, or, in other words, as a citizen of a State.

[133] Man, therefore, as an individual, has a natural right to his life, his life including, in virtue of its nature, food, clothing, and shelter. Beyond this he has no natural rights, for the simple reason that here his possibilities cease. As there are no self-regarding actions, all his acts are social acts, and must be considered in his capacity as a citizen of a State, and not in his capacity as an individual.

As a citizen of a State he clearly has further natural rights. A State is not an accident, it is not a fortuitous concourse of atoms; it is an organism evolved by natural law, whose existence, like the existence of all other organisms, depends upon the harmonious interaction of its constituent atoms. The constituent atoms are individuals, and as the lives of these depend upon the life of the greater organism, they, as units of the State, have a primary right to demand that this harmonious interaction, by which alone the State can be preserved, should be enforced. In other words, they, as citizens of a State, have a natural right to demand that the interests of individuals should be so adjusted as to preserve perfect harmony in social communion, and to prevent any clashing of rival interests —in short, so that the interests of each should be in reality the interest of all, and the interests of all the interest of each. That is to say, that they, as citizens of a State, have a natural right to JUSTICE. This then is the word I propose to substitute for that much abused word Liberty.

[135-136] Considered as a citizen of a State, he has a natural right to justice, and a natural right to vote. What constitutes justice is also a matter for legislative decision, and one which will perhaps lead to wide differences of opinion. But, as has been seen, the scope of difference of opinion on the subject is much narrowed down by the general principle that justice consists in the absolutely harmonious interaction of individual units.

[146-147] For with the majority of people conceptions of Justice are of the crudest, and have no philosophical basis. Mr. Spencer has been shown to derive his ideas of Liberty directly from the primary principle of Justice, but I hope to show that Justice is the very antithesis of Liberty, and that it is an absolute impossibility for the two to exist side by side. …Mr. Spencer has no such scruples. Justice and Liberty mean with him the supreme authority of strength and private property. ‘The hard creditor is,’ he says, ‘in strict justice entitled to the uttermost farthing.There is no limitation here: if the debtor dies in consequence, so much the worse for him; he dies in the sacred cause of Justice and Liberty. In the extraordinary maze which Mr. Spencer has planted for himself, and which he calls ‘limited by the similar liberty of others,he has apparently lost sight of the liberty of the unfortunate debtor, unless it should be his liberty to pay the uttermost farthing, whether he dies in consequence or not.

[151] To return to the point; it is Justice that must rule democracies, not that abstraction so many fall down and worship under the name of Liberty. Justice is the harmonious interaction of the individual atoms of the social organism, the organic action of the organism. Each atom mutually assists the others, and in the harmonious interaction thus set up consists the healthy life and solidarity of the organism. Each atom, equal in its rights to all other atoms, if not equal in fact, falls naturally into its place, and performs that part of the work of the organism which belongs to it, and the totality of which forms the life of the organism. Liberty, in the sense of freedom from particular restraints, is not thereby denied to the individual units; on the contrary, by no other means can it be secured in an equal degree.

[166] The principles of justice, then, demand, not such meaningless restrictions as are enunciated by the individualists, but suitable legislation such as is prompted by the reason and by experience, and having for its object the promotion of social harmony. Without such legislation we should have nothing but anarchy, and the speedy dissolution of the social organism. And it should be of that character calculated to foster both the present and the future good, and should not serve the present by ignoring the future, nor serve the future by ignoring the present.

[257] The only remaining principle is Justice. But Justice is the very central principle of Socialism itself, the motive to all Socialistic legislation. It really then comes to this, that there is a difference of opinion as to what is just and what is not. This is a plain issue, and can easily be argued. In the first place, it has to be noted that there can be no criterion of Justice but Reason pure and simple; mere sentiment cannot decide what is just, or what is not, for sentiment is, to a larger extent, the result of conditions by which the individual has been surrounded, while reason is innate. Sentiment is sometimes innate also, but when it is it will not be found to conflict with reason, while sentiment that is acquired will be very apt to do so. We have, therefore, no safe alternative but to accept Reason as the criterion of Justice.


Ferguson, Jan. 1889. The Philosophy of Civilization. W. B. Whittingham and Co.: London.

[141-142] Unfortunately, social chances are not the same for all, even when equally morally and intellectually developed. As long as this is not the case, and this inequality of chances is due to unjust social arrangements, brought to light by a progressing civilization, it is simply justice to diminish the suffering of those unfortunate and inferior citizens who are neither idle nor vicious, and owe their misery to the abnormal arrangements of society. Where such unjust social conditions cannot be radically rectified, there state-action must help to produce organized arrangements which can tend to mitigate the mischiefs caused by the chronic abnormal form of society, developed from former unnatural ‘militant’ types. This is State-Benevolence, the indispensable requirement of social life in its corporate capacity, which gives vitalizing, expansive power to the iron doctrinaire cuirass of the negatively regulating State-Justice. Indispensable, indeed, especially in our present social conditions, in order to regain, as near as possible, by counterbalancing chronic injustice, the normal equilibrium, and thus avoiding the threatening catastrophe of a social revolution, which will then in reality establish ‘new injustices for the purpose of mitigating mischiefs produced by old injustices.

This is the state-benevolence, the state-interference, which is styled State or Scientific Socialism, an unwelcome sound to the doctrinaire ear, but surely the only corrective to recover the equilibrium in disturbed social conditions. Positive State-action, when based on genuine Benevolence with Justice combined, is the natural counteraction to those destructive agents of society called Communism and Anarchism, and other theories of social dissolution. These, fostered by the coercive logic of State-inaction, the negatively acting doctrine of State-justice without sympathy, are destructive indeed, as they work from within, threatening to burst through those iron-manacled boundaries, void of generous expansiveness, which are the desperate imitations of the dethroned ‘militanttype of ancient society, tending toward barbarism, after having drowned the last vestige of civilization in the flood of social dissolution.


Anthony, Elliot. 1891. Proceedings of the Illinois State Bar Association. H. W. Rokkers Publishing House: Springfield, Illinois.

[143] There are many and various conceptions of justice. The most reasonable distinction is between universal and particular justice. The first is when every duty is discharged and all right done to others, even that which could not have been exacted by force or by the vigor of the law. Particular justice is when we do that and no more, which may be strictly demanded of us. And this is again divided into distributive and commutative. Distributive justice pertains to the public, and is sometimes known as public justice while commutative is founded upon reciprocal bargains and contracts, but partakes largely of public justice. It is the duty of a court in the administration of the law, to see that public justice has an equal chance with any other justice, either public or private. The tendency of modern ideas seems to be to regard the public interests as of but very little consequence.


Bax, Ernest Belfort. 1891. The Religion of Socialism. Swann Sonnenschein and Co.: London.

[120-121] A few words on one more ‘idol,to wit on ‘justice,as embodied in the ‘rights of property.It is unjust, the bourgeois will tell you, to nationalise or communise property now in the hands of private persons, since they as individuals have received it in the natural course of things as guaranteed by social conditions present and past. This notion of the right of every man to the exclusive possession of wealth he has acquired without breach of the criminal law, and of the injustice of depriving him of it, is part and pared, of the system of vampire-dogmas and nostrums of which Liberalism and Radicalism are composed. It has been, like the rest, the ideal principle of the middle-class world in its conflict with Feudalism. … Security of personal property has ever been the middle-class watchword. Hence this new notion of justice.


Pierce, Edwin C. 1891. “The True Politics for Prohibition and Labor,” The Arena 4(24): 723-729.

[723] The labor question is the question of social justice, and no question can be higher than that. Stated in other terms, the labor question is the question of how to approximate more nearly to an equal distribution of wealth, not so much of the wealth already amassed by society as of the wealth that is to be produced by labor in the future. Now, while there are very few people who think that entire equality of fortune in this world is either possible or desirable; every free democracy will wish to work towards equality of social condition, looking forward to a glorious time when uninvited poverty shall be outgrown, when manhood shall be of more social weight than wealth.


Sir Leslie Stephen (1832 – 1904) was an English author, critic and mountaineer, and the father of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell.

Sir Leslie Stephen (1832 – 1904) was an English author, critic and mountaineer, and the father of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell.

Stephen, Leslie. 1891. “Social Equality,” International Journal of Ethics 1(3): 261-287.

[262-264] But equality may be demanded as facilitating this process by removing the artificial advantages of wealth. It may be taken as a demand for a fair start, not as a demand that the prizes shall be distributed irrespectively of individual worth. …. And, whether the demand is rightly or wrongly expressed, we must, I think, admit that the real force with which we have to reckon is the demand for justice and for equality as somehow implied by justice. … But surely it may be urged that this is as much a reason for declining to believe that equal conditions of life will produce mere monotony as for insisting that equality in any state is impossible. The present system is a plan for keeping the scum at the surface. … Admitting the appeal to justice, it is again often urged that justice is opposed to the demand for equality. Property is sacred, it is said, because a man has (or ought to have) a right to what he has made, either by labor or by a course of fair dealings with other men. … If we justify property on the ground that it is fair that a man should keep what he has earned by his own labor, it seems to follow that it is unjust that he should have anything not earned by his labor. In other words, the answer teaches the ordinary first principle from which socialism starts, and which, in some socialist theories, it definitely tries to embody.


Sorley, W. R. 1891. “The Morality of Nations,” International Journal of Ethics 1(4): 427-446.

[434] What the measure and criterion are of national justice, I do not pretend to determine now. In the duty of justice, we may think—and shall not be far wrong—national and individual morality meet. It is a law for both the state and for the individual. Justice is, in fact, more a national or social, than a merely individual virtue.

[442] Justice…enters the sphere of private morals only when the individual is regarded as acting in a social capacity,—when he represents in some way a community or corporation. There are not two entirely different sorts of justice, therefore,—private and public,—but justice has various degrees and modes of application according to the kind of social whole within which it is applied.


Sprague, Franklin Monroe. 1893. Socialism from Genesis to Revelation. Lee and Shepard: Boston.

[169-170] In the popular mind there is a sort of equivalence in these phrases, yet a little scrutiny will disclose two diametrically opposite conceptions of the proper functions of the State. The one conception makes the object of the State to be individual liberty; the other, social justice. Liberty and justice are precious words, but they are far from being equivalent. Liberty means freedom from restraint. Justice often means restraint. Individual liberty is not endangered in a free State; on the contrary, it is the wolf in sheep's clothing which to-day threatens the stability of free States.

[171] Social justice is legal justice plus equity. It is neither commutative nor distributive justice. It demands the public good, which is the good of each member of the State. It means that of any two citizens one should not have, simply because he is the smarter, two houses, two loaves, or two beds, and the other none. True, a country may be, in a sense, as rich when the bulk of property is owned by a few as when it is owned by many; but the conception of the State, composed of all seeking the good of each, is utterly opposed to the idea of the wealth of the few and the poverty of the many.

[180] Private monopoly, the industrial monstrosity now preying upon society, is the legitimate but ill-omened offspring of laissez-faire. The social body has become so compacted and complicated; the conditions of life are so changed; moral, political, and educational forces have so entered into the life of the people that discontent becomes dangerous, individualism becomes treason. Social justice requires that the State shall assume more of a fraternal character. It needs to be continually emphasized that the highest possible degree of personal liberty consistent with the public good is alone obtainable under a fraternal popular government.


Ely, Richard T. 1894. Socialism. Thomas Y. Crowell and Co.: New York.

[14] We are now brought face to face with what we may, perhaps, call the chief purpose of socialism; namely, distributive justice.

[16] The fourth idea of distributive justice, and that which seems now to prevail generally among the more active socialists, is equality of income; not a mechanical equality, but an equality in value.


Francis Ellingwood Abbot (1836 – 1903) was an American philosopher and theologian who sought to reconstruct theology in accord with scientific method.

Francis Ellingwood Abbot (1836 – 1903) was an American philosopher and theologian who sought to reconstruct theology in accord with scientific method.

Abbot, Francis Ellingwood. 1895. The Advancement of Ethics. Open Court Publishing Co.: Chicago.

[27] In this large meaning or conception of the word, reciprocal justice is itself the social ideal, covering alike reciprocity between man and man and reciprocity between the individual and society. … This treats all men as partly alike and partly different, respects the likeness no more than the unlikeness, and seeks to cultivate in every man his individual difference in perfect conformity to his universal nature, whereby his personal ideal itself is subordinated to the universal social ideal of reciprocal justice as his ‘higher law.The moral ‘worthof a man is proportioned to the degree of his free self-subordination to the social organism as his true universal.


Ritchie, David George. 1895. Natural Rights. Swann Sonnenschein and Co.: London.

[142] According to Mr. Spencer’s view of Justice, this principle of equal liberty is an absolute principle which no convention or law can rightly abolish or destroy, and which can always be appealed to for the criticism of positive institutions.

[145] The principle of justice should be a principle that holds a society together; but any absolute claim of equal freedom on the part of every individual could only mean the break up of the society, and cannot therefore be the principle of justice.


South, Austin. 1897. “Rent, Interest, and Profit,” The Westminster Review 147(2): 192-199.

[199] The point, then, that we have reached is that the ownership of land by individuals is directly opposed to the first principles of social justice, a violation of those rights to which all men are universally admitted to be entitled, whether by virtue of their humanity, or by the general consent of their fellows, duly expressed; and that rent, payment for the use of land, is simply a toll levied by a certain class upon mankind at large for the use of natural gifts, the rightful possession of all men, which are improperly withheld. Here then is a social evil, a national wrong, against which, to use the words of Michael Davitt, the people should be taught to hurl all their strength.


Wallace, Alfred. 1900. Studies Scientific and Social. Macmillan and Co.: London.

[513] In our present society the bulk of the people have no opportunity for the full development of all their powers and capacities, while others who have the opportunity have no sufficient inducement to do so. The accumulation of wealth is now mainly effected by the misdirected energy of competing individuals; and the power that wealth so obtained gives them is often used for purposes which are hurtful to the nation. There can be no true individualism, no fair competition, without equality of opportunity for all. This alone is social justice, and by this alone can the best that is in each nation be developed and utilized for the benefit of all its citizens. I propose, therefore, to state briefly what is the ethical foundation for this principle, and what its practical application implies.

[520] I submit, therefore, that the adoption of the principle of Equality of Opportunity as our guide in all future legislation, should be acceptable to every social reformer who believes in the supremacy of Justice. To the individualist it would mean the fullest application of his principle of individual freedom limited only by the like freedom of others, since this principle is a mere mockery under the present negation of fair and equal conditions to the bulk of the citizens of all civilized states. And it should be equally acceptable to the socialist, because the greatest obstacle to his teachings would be removed by the abolition of ignorance and of that grinding poverty and want which leaves no time or energy for any struggle but that for bare existence. Equality of Opportunity, founded as it is upon simple Justice between man and man, is therefore well fitted to become the watchword of the social reformers of the Twentieth Century.


Macdonald, James Ramsay. 1900. “The People in Power” in Ethical Democracy edited by Stanton Coit. Grant Richards: London.

[77] In a family quarrel it is rare for either man or woman to be regulated in their conduct by the social obligations of their contract; the employee whose economic position has forbidden him all his life to make a free contract, rarely urges his demands with an eye upon social well-being, and his employer rarely moves for good or evil without giving a first consideration to profits. If it were true that public opinion on such matters ranged itself on one side or the other in accordance with what aristocratic and ultra-socialist critics call its ‘interests,’ class or otherwise, a resort to political methods would not carry the least guarantee that a social view was being impressed upon both the parties to the dispute. … But that is not an explanation of majorities, of the formation and expression of public opinion. The public have to be convinced by either side not upon personal grounds, because to the majority the personal interest is remote, but upon grounds of social justice, or by a presentation of right and wrong in a wider application than an unhappy husband or a harassed employer can see.


Hobson, John Atkinson. 1900. “The Ethics of Industrialism” in Ethical Democracy edited by Stanton Coit. Grant Richards: London.

[90] A deeper understanding of economic disorder and the true needs of reform demands that the instinctive feelings of pity and fairness shall be quickened by an intelligent demand for social justice… Most people still believe that…upon the whole the distribution of work and wealth conforms substantially to the demands of justice.

[91] The pure theory of laissez faire seems just and reasonable, granted equal access to nature, equal opportunities to all to know what work each can best do, and to do it, and freely dispose of the results. Such ‘simple system of natural liberty’ would establish a true co-operation of the members of an industrial society, prompted indeed by his own self-interest, but working towards a common rational end.

From the moral standpoint such a system would doubtless be radically defective, in that no conscious desire for the welfare of others would be a motive; but the result would, at any rate, satisfy a general sense of distributive justice. But, in point and fact, no such system of industry exists or has existed. The slightest probing beneath the smooth skin of laissez faire platitudes shows the normal workings of industrialism riddled with plain and palpable injustice.

[98] Ethical democracy demands the subordination of class feelings and class movements to a broader conception of social progress. The gravest wrong and danger of advanced economic movements of to-day is the masquerading of class enmity under the cloak of social justice.

[101] This establishment of distributive justice by removing the roots of unearned incomes can only be attained, some hold, by a complete assumption of all control of industry by the State. But it is probable that a more discriminative policy would be found equally consonant with social justice and far more feasible. Those elements of unearned income derived from ownership of land and natural opportunities will yield to a growing demand for public ownership of and direct public control over land. …[S]ocial justice involves the recognition of some right proportion between effort and reward.

[107] …[I]t seems possible to work towards an ethical democracy governed in accordance with economic principles of justice and humanity, which, by the subversion of oppressive monopolies, the repression of needless and injurious hazard and speculation in trade, security of regular, good, moderate, well-remunerated labour for all, and idleness for none, shall impose rational order upon the industrial life, and make it a chief feeder of the moral life of a nation.


Maximilian (Max) Hirsch (1852? – 1909) was a German-born businessman and economist who settled in Melbourne, Australia, where he became the recognized intellectual leader of the Australian Georgist movement and, briefly, a member of the Victorian Parliament.

Maximilian (Max) Hirsch (1852? – 1909) was a German-born businessman and economist who settled in Melbourne, Australia, where he became the recognized intellectual leader of the Australian Georgist movement and, briefly, a member of the Victorian Parliament.

Hirsch, Max. 1901. Democracy verses Socialism. Macmillan and Co.: London.

[372] All men have equal rights to the use of land, and each of them is entitled to the exclusive possession of all the wealth which his labour produces or his services procure, provided he infringes not the equal rights of all others. Disregard of the equal right to land necessarily involves violations of the unequal right to wealth. Social injustice in the production and distribution of wealth thus arises from the disregard of the equal rights of all men to the use of the earth. Hence social justice cannot be achieved till, through the recognition of the equal rights of all to the use of land, each of them is made free to produce as much wealth as his capacity and industry enable him; and till, through the abolition of all private monopolies and of the taxation of justly acquired wealth, each is secured in the exclusive possession of all the wealth which his labour produces or his services procure through free contract with its producers.


Bax, Ernest Belfort. 1902. The Ethics of Socialism. Swan Sonnenschein and Co.: London.

[75-76] It is therefore on this notion of justice that the crucial question turns in debates between the advocates of modern Socialism and of modern Individualism respectively. The bourgeois idea of justice is crystallised in the notion of the absolute right of the individual to the possession and full control of such property as he has acquired without overt breach of the bourgeois law. To interfere with this right of his, to abolish his possession, is in bourgeois eyes the quintessence of injustice. The Socialist idea of justice is crystallised in the notion of the absolute right of the community to the possession or control (at least) of all wealth not intended for direct individual use. Hence the abolition of the individual possession and control of such property, or in other words, its confiscation, is the first expression of Socialist justice. Between possession and confiscation is a great gulf fixed, the gulf between the Bourgeois and the Socialist worlds. … To the one, individual possession is right and justice, and social confiscation is wrong and injustice; to the other, individual possession is wrong and injustice, and confiscation is right and justice.

[81-82] The contradiction between the assumption contained in this formula and the facts of modern life which it stupidly or designedly ignores, is proclaimed by the Socialist, who shows that the maintenance of private property in the means of production is in flagrant opposition to the concept of ‘Justice’ with which he set out, since the former necessarily involves the workman's deprivation of the greater part of the product of his labour, as otherwise such property would be of no value. The concept ‘Justice,therefore, as meaning the right to the possession and control by the individual of the product of his labour has lost all meaning in modern times. But in the maintenance of the sham, of the assumption, that is, that the meaning remains what it was, lies the whole theoretical strength of the bourgeois position.

The means of production are no longer in the hands of the producers, but in those of men or of syndicates who are usually entirely divorced from the process of production. … The only possible use of these means of production is, therefore, to violate the original bourgeois definition of ‘Justice.This being so, that definition of ‘Justicecannot be invoked as an excuse for gentle dealings with monopolists, whose retention of these instruments is a cause of injustice. For the removal of what is necessarily cause of injustice cannot itself be unjust. But if it is not unjust it must be just. It is just therefore, to confiscate all private property in the means of production, i.e., in land or capital.

Now, Justice being henceforth identified with confiscation and injustice with the rights of property, there remains only the question of ‘ways and means.Our bourgeois apologist admitting as he must that the present possessors of land and capital hold possession of them simply by right of superior force, can hardly refuse to admit the right of the proletariat organised to that end to take possession of them by right of superior force.


Woodworth, Arthur Vernon. 1903. Christian Socialism in England. Swan Sonnenschein and Co.: London.

[157] Justice means not equality of position but equality of opportunity for all. Translated into modern economic conditions, it means a fair living wage and improved social conditions for the working classes.


Hobhouse, Leonard T. 1905. Democracy and Reaction. G.P. Putnams Sons: New York.

[117-118] The tendency was to accept existing social conditions and show the individual how, taking them as he found them, he could so pick his way among the shoals as to reach his own salvation. But in the modern world this attitude has gradually been abandoned. The pressure of events and its own development impelled the spirit of progress to turn upon social institutions as the immediate and most important object of attack. Collective rather than individual humanity became the supreme object, and accordingly the conditions of social life were found to be the prime means of accelerating or retarding development. Hence the endeavour which came to a head in the eighteenth century to form distinct conceptions of social justice by which the actual constitution of society might be tested. Hence the doctrine that the government should be the servant rather than the lord of the people, which meant that political interests must yield to the common good; that all classes were entitled to equal treatment, which subordinated political privilege to moral justice; that restraints on liberty should be limited by the demonstrable needs of social welfare, which recognised the moral claim of the human personality to make the utmost of its powers. Amid all differences and conflicts one idea is common to the modern democratic movement, whether it takes the shape of revolution or reform, of Liberalism or Socialism. The political order must conform to the ethical ideal of what is just. The State must be founded on Right—a conception which in the ancient world could only give rise to Utopias, but in the modern period has been the practical cause and canon of many a change. The biological view of evolution opposes this ideal as unscientific and in the end self-defeating. It is for this reason that the biological teaching is so profoundly reactionary and lends itself so handily to the popular cynicism of the day. A truer view of evolution, on the other hand, exhibits the attempt to remodel society by a reasoned conception of social justice as precisely the movement required at the present stage of the growth of mind.

[226] The Liberal and the Socialist have attacked the problem of progress, or what is the same thing, of social justice, at different sides. The Liberal stands for emancipation and is the inheritor of a long tradition of men who have fought for liberty…[and the] Socialist…is for the solidarity of society… The two ideals as ideals are not conflicting, but complimentary.


Ely, Richard T. 1905. The Labor Movement in America, new edition. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[6] Pessimists as to the present, the adherents of these views are optimists as to the future, for it is assumed that it is possible for men to introduce new foundation principles into society which will remedy this unhappy condition of things; which will indeed banish it forever from the earth. This is the position of socialism, which holds that justice in the distribution of the good things of life is to be attained in common and systematic production in a re-created state, where men shall receive the means of enjoyment in proportion to the service they have rendered to society.


Addams, Jane. 1907. Newer Ideals of Peace. The Macmillan Co.: New York.

[24] The speculative writers among our contemporaries are naturally the only ones who formulate this new development, or rather bid us heed its presence among us. An American philosopher [William James] has lately reminded us of the need to ‘discover in the social realm the moral equivalent for war — something heroic that will speak to men as universally as war has done, and yet will be as compatible with their spiritual natures as war has proved itself to be incompatible.’ It may be true that we are even now discovering these moral substitutes, although we find it so difficult to formulate them. Perhaps our very hope that these substitutes may be discovered has become the custodian of a secret change that is going on all about us.

[120] [A judge] expressed his belief in the capacity of the common law to meet all legitimate labor difficulties as they arise. He trusted its remarkable adaptability to changing conditions under the decisions of wise and progressive judges. He contended, however, that, in order to adjust it to our industrial affairs, it must be interpreted, not so much in relation to precedents established under a judicial order which belongs to the past, but in reference to that newer sense of justice which this generation is seeking to embody in industrial relations.


Groat, George G. 1909. “Precedent versus Condition in Court Interpretation of Labor Legislation,” American Association for Labor Legislation, Third Annual Meeting: Proceedings, Reports, Addresses (Dec. 28-30): 88-107.

[104-105] The importance of the word ‘social’ as a qualifying adjective is constantly increasing. Social legislation is clearly the order of the day, because the problems to be dealt with by legislation are social problems. Justice is ever the thing sought, and social justice is the thing now sought. But social justice is being defined more clearly. Modern students of society have done much to modify our practical conception of justice, and to give expression to the new. Social justice lays down for us a new rule. That new rule must become a part of our constitution. No amendment is necessary; all that is needed is to have the new meaning read into the present phrases.


Jones, Henry. 1909-1910. “The Ethical Demand of the Present Situation,” Hibbert Journal 8.

[537] It is this socialism which, amongst its hundreds of undertakings, is carrying out letters, proving for our national defence, and distributing justice. It is educating our children; …it is maintaining our highways and bridges and public parks, and keeping our streets lit and clean. In the process it is employing the labour and the intellect and the capital of the nation pretty much in the old way; and it is new only in that it distributes the responsibilities and the profits more widely.


Earp, Edwin Lee. 1911. The Social Engineer. Eaton and Mains: New York.

[54] One of the chief causes of social conflict is the fact that we develop class consciousness faster than we do social sympathy, or what I term the true social consciousness, that takes account of moral obligations and responsibilities for the other group whether strong or weak. A second cause of social conflict is the passion in the human heart for social justice. Now, the two go together; so long as you have class consciousness you will have social injustice; and social conflict is the result. But, on the other hand, the passion for social justice develops the social consciousness by seeking to help the weak and defend the good, and hence the tendency is for groups to develop a wider reaching social consciousness until cooperation has displaced conflict and peaceful relations result.


Wilson, Jackson Stitt. 1912. How I Became a Socialist and Other Papers. J. Stitt Wilson: Berkeley, CA.

[17] The first general fundamental righteousness is social justice. Concerning this I must make myself unmistakably plain. The tragedy of our present-day Christianity is its moral and intellectual ignorance of social justice. The moment you attempt to uncover the social injustices of Capitalism, the Christian, the philanthropist, the pietist begins to justify his own personal relations to buyers, or sellers, or employes or tenants. His conscience is individualistic. It has never been baptised into the social fact, and the social sorrow, and social wrong.


Roosevelt, Theodore. 1912. “Who is a Progressive?” The Outlook 100(15): 809-813.

[810] Every man is to that extent a Progressive if he stands for any form of social justice, whether it be securing proper protection for factory girls against dangerous machinery, for securing a proper limitation of hours of labor for women and children in industry, for securing proper living conditions for those who dwell in the thickly crowded regions of our great cities, for helping, so far as legislators can help, all the conditions of work and life for wage-workers in great centers of industry, or for helping by the action both of the National and State governments, so far as conditions will permit, the men and women who dwell in the open country to increase their efficiency both in production on their farms and in business arrangements for the marketing of their produce, and also to increase the opportunities to give the best possible expression to their social life. The man is a reactionary, whatever may be his professions and no matter how excellent his intentions, who opposes these movements, or who, if in high place, takes no interest in them and does not earnestly lead them forward.


Jandus, William. 1913. Social Wrongs and State Responsibilities. Horace Carr: Cleveland.

[94] The social question is not a question of compensatory meliorism, as our political controls imagine, but a question of fundamental justice. It is not a question of legislative expedients, but a question of applied economics, which in the new interpretation is coincident with applied justice. No reformer, whether Individualist, Socialist, Single-Taxer or Trade-Unionist, demands for his system more than simple economic justice—the justice of equal industrial opportunity. In the socialization of land values and natural monopolies by self-liquidation, all the demands of social justice are fully met and all the aims of social reformers are realized. No one has a patent on nature and hence no proprietary rights in economic fundamentals. Nothing but equalized opportunities and socialized urgencies will remove the beak of capitalism from the breast of Labor, and the stigma of shame and reproach from our economic teachings.


Paul Elmer More (1864 – 1937) was an American journalist, critic, essayist and Christian apologist.

Paul Elmer More (1864 – 1937) was an American journalist, critic, essayist and Christian apologist.

More, Paul Elmer. 1915. “Justice,” The Unpopular Review 4(7): 81-95.

[90] But man is a political animal. His life is closely knit with that of his fellows, and it is not enough to trace the meaning of justice to a state of the isolated soul; we must consider how this virtue bears on the conduct of a man among men, in society. Now, we might be content to say that a man is just in his conduct when, having attained to equilibrium of his own faculties, he acts in such a way as ought to produce in others the same condition; and this indeed is the sum of the law in the unrestrained dealing of a man with his neighbor. But society is something more than the spontaneous association of free units; it is an organization with traditions and government, necessary to it for the reason that it is made up of individuals who, not being infallibly just and wise, must be guided and constrained by a conventional code of relations. Hence there is a social justice of the community which complements, or even supplants, the conscience of the individual, as there is in the same sense a social injustice.


Ellwood, Charles Abram. 1915. The Social Problem. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[183-184] Hence, the reply to those who say that a programme of full social justice to the workers would ‘hurt business’ is that if business were conducted upon the proper ethical basis— upon the basis of the service of society—it would hurt no legitimate business. This means practically, however, that the wealthy classes must content themselves with a smaller income return on the capital which society permits them to hold and manage in trust, as it were, for the benefit of humanity. They must, in other words, be willing to give up a considerable part of their unearned income to the State and to private philanthropy; and if the rest is to be used for the development of legitimate business, they must also give up their luxury and self-indulgence. If it be said that this is expecting too much of the economically fortunate classes, the reply is that such sacrifice for the common good is only in accordance with the ethical principles which many of them have long professed—the Christian doctrine of the stewardship of wealth. It is also in accord with the doctrine of social obligation which scientific social ethics reveals as springing from the facts of social science.


Thomas Nixon Carver (1865 – 1961) was an American economics professor. He was Secretary-Treasurer of the American Economic Association (1909–13) and was elected its President in 1916.

Thomas Nixon Carver (1865 – 1961) was an American economics professor. He was Secretary-Treasurer of the American Economic Association (1909–13) and was elected its President in 1916.

Carver, Thomas Nixon. 1915. Essays in Social Justice. Harvard University Press: Cambridge.

[9] On what principle or principles, according to what rules, shall the state control and discipline its members, and adjust their conflicting interests, protecting some and restraining others? That is the problem of social justice. … Since the first duty of the state is to be strong in order that it may live, and since it must adjust the conflicting interests of its citizens, it follows that its duty is so to adjust these conflicting interests as to make itself strong. It must repress and discourage those interests of its individuals which conflict with its own, and it must support and encourage those which harmonize with its own. That is justice.

[32] What ought the state to do? What ought the people to approve in the way of social control? What schemes of social control, what social institutions, what systems of economic organization, production, distribution ought to meet the approval of the masses of the people? This is the real question of social justice, not what do the people actually approve, or what would the reader or the writer or any one else like to see in the way of a social system. Self-preservation has become the first law of nature for the state rather than for the individual. Justice is an essential part of the program of self-preservation.


Holcombe, Arthur Norman. 1916. State Government in the United States. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[378-379] The truth is that a profound change has been taking place in the dominant conceptions of liberty and justice. In the latter part of the nineteenth century the courts came much more completely than at any previous time under the influence of the individualistic social philosophy of the English utilitarians. They seem to have been especially impressed with the later form of that philosophy, formulated by Herbert Spencer. …This is a negative conception of liberty and justice, which was probably never consciously accepted by the American people as a whole, certainly not without important qualifications. … Such a conception made it possible for intelligent men sincerely to denounce plans ‘to equalize the inequalities which the rights of free contract and private property have brought about,’ that is, for example, laws levying a progressive income tax or regulating the hours of labor, as involving ‘confiscation or the destruction of the principle of private property.

The twentieth century has brought a more positive conception of liberty. It is coming to mean more than the mere absence of physical restraints upon the physical person, or of statutory restraints upon the legal person. Real liberty is not the antithesis of social control. Rather, rightly directed and effective social control is the condition of such liberty. Thus the modern conception of liberty is bound up with the modern conception of social justice, and social justice is understood to be an end in itself, not merely another name for justice to individuals. It involves the idea of the state itself as a person, as a subject of rights, the only idea of the state consistent with the origin of the American states and the nature of their political institutions. Thus it becomes possible for intelligent men sincerely to advocate plans to equalize at least some of the inequalities which the rights of free contract and private property have brought about, without doing violence to their faith in the fundamental principles of American government.


Gillette, John Morris. 1916. Sociology. A. C. McClurg and Co.: Chicago.

[123-124] To whatever degree equality among men is possible, its desirability must rest upon social justice. It is theoretically conceivable that equality might be possible and yet be undesirable. However, if social justice demands it there is no justification for preventing its realization. For, in part, justice is the habitual principles of human relationships men have worked out empirically and that have come to regulate those actions which have an effect on others. But the conception of social justice also involves our idea of what human relationships should be, and, as is the case with all well-founded ideals, the accompanying imperative which demands that the ideal shall be realized is strong.

[125-127] Further, if the strong and the able were always well-disposed, such an arrangement would present a social order based on a large measure of so-called natural justice. … Unfortunately our social system was not established on any such principle, and human beings are not regimented according to their capacities and their developed abilities. … As a consequence, the natural method of establishing the social relationships would be broken down and a system of inequalities would be established. It is quite obvious that a ‘natural order’ would soon be wrecked on the rock of privilege. Since men are born unequal, and since the social system tends to perpetuate such inequalities as obtain, what then does social justice require? Evidently it does not require the impossible, and proclaim that the genius and the imbecile should be considered equal. It does demand, however, that every human being should be given opportunity to develop his powers to their limits, and that no restrictions should be allowed to prevent that development.


William James Durant (1885 – 1981) was an American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for  The Story of Civilization , 11 volumes written in collaboration with his wife Ariel Durant and published between 1935 and 1975.

William James Durant (1885 – 1981) was an American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for The Story of Civilization, 11 volumes written in collaboration with his wife Ariel Durant and published between 1935 and 1975.

Durant, Will. 1917. Philosophy and the Social Problem. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[62-63] The confusion of justice with some absolute eternal law comes of a separation of ethics from politics, and an attempt to arrive at a definition of justice from the study of individuals. But morals grow out of politics; justice is essentially a political relation. … Justice, then, is social coordination and harmony.


Nathan Roscoe Pound (1870 – 1964) was a distinguished American legal scholar and educator. He was Dean of Harvard Law School from 1916 to 1936.  The Journal of Legal Studies  has identified Pound as one of the most cited legal scholars of the 20th century.

Nathan Roscoe Pound (1870 – 1964) was a distinguished American legal scholar and educator. He was Dean of Harvard Law School from 1916 to 1936. The Journal of Legal Studies has identified Pound as one of the most cited legal scholars of the 20th century.

Pound, Roscoe. 1919. “Social Rights in the Legal System” in Current Economic Problems edited by Walton Hale Hamilton. University of Chicago Press: Chicago.

[757] Study of fundamental problems of jurisprudence, not petty changes of the judicial establishment, is the road to socialization of the law. First of all, there must be a definition of social justice to replace the individualistic or so-called legal justice which we have; there must be a definition of social interests and a study of how far these are subserved by securing the several individual interests which the law has worked out so thoroughly in the past; there must be a study of the means of securing these social interests otherwise than by the methods which the past had worked out for purely individual interests.


Rickaby, Joseph. 1919. Moral Philosophy: Ethics, Deontology and Natural Law. Longmans, Green and Co.: London.

[102-103] The fundamental notion of Justice is some sort of equality. Equality supposes two terms, physically distinct, or capable of existing separately, one from the other. Between such terms alone can equality be properly predicated. Any less distinction than this leaves room only for equality improperly so called, and therefore no room for what is properly termed Justice. … Going upon the principle that all Justice is of the nature of equality, and is therefore relative to another, we arrive at the definition of general justice, which is all virtue whatsoever, inasmuch as it bears upon another person than him who practises it. This Justice is perfect social virtue, the crown and perfection of all virtue from a statesman's point of view.


Ward, Harry Fredrick. 1920. The New Social Order. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[129] Economic efficiency is thus defined as the union of social economy in consumption with maximum production by the least expenditure of effort. This involves the question of efficiency in distribution as well as in production. The larger part of recent efforts for social justice has been directed toward securing more equality in the distribution of the results of the common toil. But this great effort for social justice has been somewhat under an illusion regarding the social effects of justice in distribution. It has failed to recognize that unless efficiency in production is increased along with justice in distribution, standards of living cannot be raised.


Mecklin, John Moffatt. 1920. An Introduction to Social Ethics: The Social Conscience in a Democracy. Harcourt, Brace and Howe: New York.

[288-289] As the school becomes more efficient and expresses in conscious fashion the enlightened moral sentiment of the community it will become the concrete embodiment of the principle of social justice. For the school not only subjects the social heritage to a critical examination before it hands it on to the next generation; it is coming to select and test the human material. This means that the school is becoming society's chosen instrument for the distribution of individuals and classes. It seeks to prevent social adjustments from being made in arbitrary, accidental, and wasteful fashion. … The school thus comes to embody in a measure the very spirit of social justice itself. It educates through the concrete contributions it makes to the solution of the social problem. We are discovering that justice is not a matter of bestowing indiscriminately the largest possible amount of educational goods. To ignore vocational training and to insist upon providing a liberal education for all on the ground that this is democracy will result in the end in violating the fundamental principle of democracy, namely, justice. For the same reason it is unjust to thrust upon the immature boy or girl the claims of the vocational and the utilitarian in education without giving him an opportunity to discover whether he may not have some better contribution to make to society than merely to earn his bread.

[109] For all intellectual and voluntary processes are elicited by the system of some impulse, emotion or sentiment, and subordinated to its end. The facts seem to indicate, therefore, that, while the norms or general principles give direction to a sentiment, they are at the same time the expression of the system of sentiment as a whole. The relation is an organic one. Scientific truth, social justice, freedom, democracy, and the like have meaning and driving power for us only as they are thoroughly embedded in some powerful system of sentiment…. This explains why our interpretations of such abstractions as truth or justice vary according to the character of the system of sentiment of which they are parts.

[111] The moral sentiments are organized around norms that deal with the character of the individual as a whole or with the welfare of the community as a whole. For this reason the moral sentiments furnish the cement that holds the structure of human society together.


Watkins, Gordon S. 1922. An Introduction to the Study of Labor Problems. Thomas Y. Crowell: New York.

[3-4] A proper understanding of the problems of labor is impossible without first securing an accurate conception of industrial and social life. Social relations are the product of evolution, and change is their dominant characteristic. Resistance to change is a fundamental factor underlying the maladjustments in industrial society. Two distinctly different conceptions of industrial and social life obtain; namely, the absolute and the relative concepts. According to the former, social justice and the common welfare consist in maintaining the status quo in social, economic, political, and legal institutions and relations. Consequently there must be no limitations of private property, contract, bargaining, competition, inheritance, freedom of the individual, or any vested right and interest. The latter, or relative and evolutionary concept, assumes that social justice and progress consist in the adaptation of all institutions to the imperative needs and circumstances of the present. This will involve necessarily a denial of a fixed natural order and a limitation of so-called inalienable rights of private property, liberty, freedom of contract, and free competition. The philosophy of ‘Whatever is, is rightconstitutes a fundamental denial of social and economic evolution.


Hoover, Herbert. 1922. American Individualism. Doubleday Page: New York.

[10] Individualism cannot be maintained as the foundation of a society if it looks to only legalistic justice based upon contracts, property, and political equality…. In our individualism we have long since abandoned the laissez faire of the eighteenth century—that notion that it is ‘every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.We abandoned that when we adopted the ideal of equality of opportunity…. We have confirmed its abandonment in terms of legislation, of social and economic justice—in part because we have learned that social injustice is the destruction of justice itself.


Hobhouse, Leonard T. 1922. Elements of Social Justice. George Allen and Unwin: London.

[106] So far justice appears as something purely dependent on, or derivative from, the Common Good.

[111] We may then define Distributive Justice as equal satisfaction of equal needs, subject to the adequate maintenance of useful functions.

[117] This is as much to say that the rational good is one in which all persons share in proportion to the capacity of their social personality. This is the fundamental principle of proportionate equality in the Common Good, the governing conception of social justice.

[125] We have already laid down that justice required the adequate maintenance of functions. So much appeared from bare consideration of the needs of the community. … To be adequate to the requirements of justice there must be such reciprocity between the community and its servant as harmonizes the private and common interest, and this function of reward.

[129] As implying both equality of sharing and unity of collective interest the term ‘communal’ is sufficiently suited to designate the principles of justice so arrived at.

[132] From what has been said it will be apparent that in the economic field justice will be achieved by exchange at equal values provided that the standard of value is fixed by justice in general. Now the general principles of justice…are that there shall be equal provision of equal needs subject to the adequate maintenance of the functions by which such needs are supplied, and this latter clause was further defined as covering the harmonization of the private interests of the performer of the function with those of the community. These are the principles of just economic organization to which the standard of value must be accommodated.

[144n.1] When Exchange is conceived as a purely external relation—that is, a taking place between two persons who have no common interest beyond the transaction—the justice which regulates it is called commutative justice, and in this event it is clear that its rule must be of equal values alone.


Hobhouse, Leonard T. 1922. “The Regulation of Wages” in Essays in Liberalism. W. Collins Sons and Co.: London.

[167-168] It is a cardinal point of economic justice that a well-organized society will enable a man to earn the means of living as a healthy, developed, civilized being by honest and useful service to the community…. There is nothing in these principles to close the avenues to personal initiative or to deny a career to ability and enterprise. On the contrary, it is a point of justice that such qualities should have their scope, but not to the injury of others. For this, I suggest with confidence to a Liberal audience, is the condition by which all liberty must be defined.


Holden, Arthur Cort. 1922. The Settlement Idea: A Vision of Social Justice. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[90] The social settlement can discover to him the existence of individuals who, though they come from another social group and have enjoyed privileges which have been denied to him, yet are one with him in spirit and who long for social justice. An understanding of this situation opens to the common man a concept of society and the social struggle as a fight, not between those who have and those who have not, but as a struggle for social justice between those who realize that the good of the social whole is the end sought, as opposed to those who are absolutely blind to all social interpretations. This is the ultimate battle of understanding with unreasoning personal greed. It is a spiritual battle, not a class war. In a sense it is the same battle which has been fought ever since the apostles went out preaching Christianity. We are only just beginning, however, to awake to the existence of social forces and to realize the importance of social as opposed to individual perfectibility.


McClenahan, Bessie Averne. 1922. Organizing the Community. The Century Co.: New York.

[218-219] The ideal of social work has sometimes been defined as social justice, which is only another way of expressing true democracy. It means economic and social opportunity for all men. Since social justice is still only a dream, the social worker is seeking by various plans of social service to help the individual attain a better social position by removing the obstacles that society has not removed and that the individual can not remove. In order to make social service democratic the people must organize, control, and finance it. The form of organization should have a legal status and constitute a part of the governmental machinery that the people themselves have set up for the use of every one. It should be supported by tax money.


Watson, Frank D. 1923. “The Contributions of American Social Agencies to Social Progress and Democracy,” Journal of Social Forces 1(2): 87-90.

[88-89] Although some of this educational seed falls on stony places and others in shallow soil, it would be belittling this second contribution of American social agencies not to appreciate the tremendous influence that the leaders of these voluntary social movements have exerted on public opinion in America. As the late Doctor [Simon] Patten has well pointed out, ‘We could not have political conventions to advance the cause of social justice if social workers had not coined words and reshaped sentiments which these conventions evoke.’


Boettiger, L. A. 1924. “Organic Theory of Social Reform Movements,” Journal of Social Forces 3(1): 60-64.

[62] These distinguishing characteristics of the modern revolutionary movements may be considered as secondary in relation to the more primary characteristics in which all are agreed. These include an ideal of social justice, the socialization of the means of production and effective controls over the various conditions of community life.


Monroe, Alan H. 1924. “The Supreme Court and the Constitution,” The American Political Science Review 18(4): 737-759.

[745-746] Since 1900 the power of the Supreme Court to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional has been steadily, consistently, and thoroughly questioned than any other period in our history. The main cause of these recent criticisms is a series of decisions on questions of social justice which has aroused the ire of those who are seeking social reform. The criticisms do not seem to arise, as they have previously, over single decisions, but attack instead the entire system.


Pound, Roscoe. 1925. “The Socialization of the Law” in The Worker in Modern Economic Society edited by Paul H. Douglas, Curtice N. Hitchcock, and Willard E. Atkins. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago.

[814] There are many signs that fundamental changes are taking place in our legal system and that a shifting is in progress from the individualistic justice of the nineteenth century, which has passed so significantly by the name of legal justice, to the social justice of today.


Clark, John Maurice. 1925. “Law and Economic Life: I. The Legal Framework of Economic Life,” The University Journal of Business 3(4): 350-377.

[350-351] Ultimately [law] becomes an instrument for furthering the general purposes and ideals of the community, but always it faces the necessity of defeating certain interests. Dean Roscoe Pound notes four stages in the evolution of the juristic ideal of justice: first, the mere keeping the peace; second, the maintenance of the status quo; third, a maximum of individual self-assertion; and fourth, social justice. … The fourth stage, that of social justice, implies a justice based on a real study of social relations and the social consequences of its rulers, rather than on a too sweeping dogma of the supreme worth of absolute liberty.


John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes, (1883 – 1946) was a British economist whose ideas have fundamentally affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, and informed the economic policies of governments.

John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes, (1883 – 1946) was a British economist whose ideas have fundamentally affected the theory and practice of modern macroeconomics, and informed the economic policies of governments.

Keynes, John Maynard. [1925] 1963 “The Economic Consequences of Mr. Churchill” in Essays in Persuasion. W. W. Norton and Company: New York.

[261] On grounds of social justice, no case can be made out for reducing the wages of the miners. They are the victims of the economic Juggernaut.


Keynes, John Maynard. [1925] 1963. “Am I a Liberal?” in Essays in Persuasion. W. W. Norton and Company: New York.

[337] Half the copybook wisdom of our statesmen is based on assumptions which were at one time true, or partly true, but are now less and less true day by day. We have to invent new wisdom for a new age. … In the economic field this means, first of all, that we must find new policies and new instruments to adapt and control the working of economic forces, so that they do not intolerably interfere with contemporary ideas and to what is fit and proper in the interests of social stability and social justice.


Keynes, John Maynard. [1926] 1963. “Liberalism and Labour” in Essays in Persuasion. W. W. Norton and Company: New York.

[344] The political problem of mankind is to combine three things: Economic Efficiency, Social Justice, and Individual Liberty. The first needs criticism, precaution, and technical knowledge; the second, an unselfish and enthusiastic spirit which loves the ordinary man; the third, tolerance, breadth, appreciation of the excellencies of variety and independence, which prefers, above everything, to give unhindered opportunity to the exceptional and to the aspiring.


Willis, Hugh Evander. 1926. “A Definition of Law,” Virginia Law Review 12(3): 203-214.

[213] The result of law is legal justice, which when perfect may be defined as such an adjustment of the relation of human beings as to make all discharge all of their duties and liabilities, and all obtain all of their rights, privileges, powers and immunities. … Legal justice is not as broad as social justice. Social justice recognized more rights and duties. Social justice also recognized no favored classes, and it protects groups within nations or as nations as well as individuals. Legal justice does not go as far as this, but it is tending in the direction of social justice and it may sometime be synonymous with social justice.


Laski, Harold Joseph. 1930. The Grammar of Politics. Yale University Press: New Haven.

[160] Equality, therefore, involves up to the margin of sufficiency identity of response to primary needs. And that is what is meant by justice. We are rendering to each man his own by giving him what enables him to be a man. We are, or course, therein protecting the weak and limiting the power of the strong.


Salmond, John. 1930. Jurisprudence, eighth ed. Sweet and Maxwell: London.

[40] The Administration of justice may be defined as the maintenance of right or justice within a political community by means of the physical force of the state, and through the instrumentality of the state’s judicial tribunals. Law is secondary and unessential.


Norman Mattoon Thomas (1884 – 1968) was an American Presbyterian minister who achieved fame as a socialist, pacifist, and six-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America.

Norman Mattoon Thomas (1884 – 1968) was an American Presbyterian minister who achieved fame as a socialist, pacifist, and six-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America.

Thomas, Norman. 1931. Americas Way Out: A Program for Democracy. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[211] It is by that failure in common justice that our American capitalism stands most condemned; and to give that justice with ever-increasing understanding of what that great word implies is the great service of socialism to the individual.


Faulkner, Harold Underwood. 1931. The Quest for Social Justice. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[26] Yet at a time when the successful business man represented the American ideal and the people seemed lost in a scramble for wealth, the nation was grinding itself for a mighty drive against special privilege and for an attempt to achieve some degree of social justice.


Callcott, Mary S. 1932. Principles of Social Legislation. The Macmillan Company: New York.

[13] Statues have been enacted covering relief in many forms but there is now no stigma attached. ‘Respectable provision unattended with degradation,’ first put forward in 1837, has been realized in pension laws for mothers without a means of support or for the aged poor which give aid as a matter of right to the recipient, in social insurance legislation that provides as a matter of justice for compensation to injured or industrially diseased workmen.


Welk, William G. 1933. “Fascist Economic Policy and the N.R.A.,” Foreign Affairs 12(1): 98-109.

[109] In our attempts to solve the problem of national economic control the Fascist experiment seems able to furnish us with several interesting examples and suggestions. … Under such a coordinated and unitarily organized national syndical system, the recommendations, plans and rulings of a central economic authority could promptly and effective be put into operation in the various branches of the nation’s economy. Italy shows us that this central authority can itself be a direct emanation of the existing national syndical structure — a freely chosen nation economic elite which, inspired by new ideals of social right and social justice, is ready and able to limit, through its dependent organization, the freedom of one in the interest of the many.



Charles Edward Coughlin, commonly known as Father Coughlin, (1891 – 1979) was a controversial Roman Catholic priest at Royal Oak, Michigan's National Shrine of the Little Flower church. He was one of the first political leaders to use radio to reach a mass audience, as possibly thirty million listeners tuned to his weekly broadcasts during the 1930s.

Charles Edward Coughlin, commonly known as Father Coughlin, (1891 – 1979) was a controversial Roman Catholic priest at Royal Oak, Michigan's National Shrine of the Little Flower church. He was one of the first political leaders to use radio to reach a mass audience, as possibly thirty million listeners tuned to his weekly broadcasts during the 1930s.

Coughlin, Charles E. 1935. Lectures on Social Justice. The Radio League of the Little Flower: Michigan.

[21] The words ‘social justice’ point out that [the National Union for Social Justice] is, first of all, opposed to the absolute injustices which are rampant in our midst, and signify that it stands for a fair and equitable distribution of wealth, of profits and the establishments of those principles which will guarantee us a right to life, to liberty and to the pursuits of happiness.


Young, Pauline V. 1935. “Recent Changes in Popular Opinion and Attitude of Interest to Social Work,” Social Forces 13(4): 538-544.

[542] It is generally recognized that the problem [of unemployment] is no longer a matter of satisfying the mere physical needs, that a ‘hunger-marchis no longer a march of hungry people, but a group who demand also the satisfaction of their social wishes, the protection of the democratic principles of government, the creation of broader principles of industrial and social justice and the sharing of an ever increasing fund of common cultural values.


McCormack, John W. 1936. “Personal Liberty,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 185(May): 154-161.

[155] The recognition and the preservation of man’s natural rights, prohibiting the abuse and regulating the exercise of them in accordance with truth and social justice, are the fundamental duties of a good government.


Green, William. 1936. “The Rights of Labor under the Constitution,” Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science 16(4): 78-86.

[82] These decisions by the Supreme Court have brought working people and all of their friends face to face with the question—how far will the Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, permit Congress to go in the enactment of legislation to protect their social and economic welfare. It is difficult for the layman to follow the line of judicial decisions relating to social justice and social security legislation.


Macmillan, Lord. 1937. Law and Other Things. The University Press: Cambridge.

[15] I am trying to think out how law may best serve the cause of social justice in the world as we find it; and I suggest that a good working test is that such measures as tend to remove unfair and man-made handicaps and to promote equality of opportunity for all may be deemed to be just measures; while those which tend to deprive of adequate reward those who have displayed merit in the opportunities afforded to them are unjust measures


Warren, W. Preston. 1937. “Philosophy, Politics, and Education Our Basic Dilemma,” International Journal of Ethics 47(3): 336-345.

[343] The politics required by every major group or state is that of clear-cut social justice, with solid maximizing of group interests.


Coughlin, Charles E. 1938. “Where Will We Stand?” Social Justice 1A(12): 5.

[5] There is the possibility…that Mr. Roosevelt or his successor at the Democratic convention will adopt the principles of social justice. There is a possibility that the Republicans will divorce themselves from the policy of rugged individualism and nominate an outstanding, social justice minded candidate whose platform will include the major principles of social justice. Consequently we must wait.


Randall, W. J. 1938. “The Right and Wrong of Wages,” Social Justice 2A(2): 14-15.

[14] Wages, therefore, are in themselves right and just. … The question of injustice comes in when we consider the amount of the wage.

[15] As everybody in the community owes his existence to work of some sort, then everybody in justice must contribute something — otherwise he would be doing nothing in order to live; which is against justice.


League for Social Reconstruction. 1938. Democracy needs Socialism. Thomas Nelson and Sons: Toronto.

[137] Not that we have too much democracy, but that we have too little. Our only failure has been the failure to set about eradicating social injustice and social insecurity.


Merriam, Charles E. 1939. The New Democracy and the New Despotism. McGraw-Hill Book Company: New York.

[36] In the broadest terms, liberalism and prosperity should be happy companions. Democracy is committed to their union. … Prosperity looks to the highest possible distribution of the resulting gains, awarded in accordance with the nearest possible approximation to the principles of social justice and the realization of the common good.


Spiegelberg, Herbert. 1939. “Justice Presupposes Natural Law,” Ethics 49(3): 343-348.

[344] Justice, at the present moment, has rather fallen on evil days. Not only in social and political life…but even in theoretical treatment it is comparatively neglected.

[346] Legal justice is only possible on the basis of a special blank for discretionary regulation offered by prelegal justice. It is, therefore, not genuine, independent kind of justice; it is derivative, condition by prelegal or natural justice. … Thus, a law preventing anybody from the development of his best faculties seems to be unjust as depriving him of his due.


Epstein, Abraham. 1939. “Governments Responsibility for Economic Security,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 206(Nov.): 81-85.

[82] We can perpetuate our democracy only by avoiding the pitfalls of insecurity, for American wage earners, like those in other lands, cannot be expected to tolerate forever the lurking threats of insecurity. They demand some practical application of the political rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and characterize political freedom without accompanying economic security as a pretense and a sham. Indeed, it is now universally agreed that unless economic and social injustices are eliminated, our present social order will give way to a somewhat different structure. Social Justice has become a necessity as well as a privilege.


McGowan, Raymond A. 1940. “Social Justice and Sociology,” The American Catholic Sociological Review 1(2): 68-73.

[68] The object of social justice is the good of every one, and social justice demands that our rights must be used not for ourselves only but for all other people. … In sociology, which deals largely with group life and action for group welfare, we get from social justice a vivifying idea. While holding close to personal rights and not deifying the mere mass or a State of the Great Society to the contempt of the individual, we can safely move to the front individual and group action for the common good.

[68-69] In economic life social justice requires full output of goods and services for a good living for everybody and demands that our individual economic rights in ownership, work, and income shall be positively guided to obtain the general welfare.


Evan Frank Mottram Durbin (1906 – 1948) was a British economist and left-wing politician, whose writings combined a belief in central economic planning with a conviction that the price mechanism of markets was indispensable.

Evan Frank Mottram Durbin (1906 – 1948) was a British economist and left-wing politician, whose writings combined a belief in central economic planning with a conviction that the price mechanism of markets was indispensable.

Durbin, E. M. F. 1940. The Politics of Democratic Socialism. George Routledge and Sons: London.

[32] By socialism in a broader sense I shall mean the more complex conception of social justice.

[215] The minimum content of the idea of social justice is the combination in one society of political liberty…with economic equality.


Rottschaefer, Henry. 1940. “The Constitution and a ‘Planned Economy,” Michigan Law Review 38(8): 1133-1164.

[1162] The powers that authorize the federal government to create privately owned and operated banking systems permit it to subject them to extensive regulation for the public good. … That government may also itself enter the field of furnishing credit to the public, and create governmentally owned corporation for that purpose. … This may well prove to be its most effective instrument for carrying out a proposed economic plan, and it affords unsurpassed opportunities for redistributing income to accord with the planners’ notions of economic and social justice.


Divine, Thomas F. 1940. “The Nature of Economic Science and Its Relation to Social Philosophy,” The American Catholic Sociological Review 1(3): 129-140.

[137] The common objection brought against the ‘ethical neutrality’ of economics as a positive science, viz., that it prohibits economists (who are particularly well qualified to do so) from going on and discussing questions of public policy of an economic nature, is bases upon a misapprehension. On the one hand, it is not only highly desirable but necessary that those interested in the solution of the problems of social justice should have an adequate knowledge of the scientific principles of economics. And on the other, it is a matter of historical fact that all great economists have been keenly interested in the practical application of the conclusions of their science to problems of social reform and of social amelioration.


Barker, Ernest. 1942. Reflections on Government. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

[100] Democracy in its nature has always carried economic implications. … [Men] did not merely desire the vote: they desired a key to unlock a new world on which the sinister interests of privilege would be corrected, and equal justice, directed to a more equal distribution of happiness would be established.

4L is authored by Daniel B. Klein, Professor of Economics, JIN Chair at the Mercatus Center, George Mason University, Associate Fellow of the Ratio Institute; email: dklein@gmu.edu

Quotations compiled by Ryan Daza & Daniel B. Klein