The Search for the Just Society

Edward J. Dodson


This final lesson introduces a comparison between the five theoretical socio-political systems either advocated or practiced, with discussion on:

Consistency with the principles of a just society; and

Actual conditions in societies whose people must live under these circumstances.

A second important objective of this lesson is to discuss Liberalism, not as a distinct socio-political philosophy but as a range of policy positions relating to key socio-political issues.


These terms have become labels that are generally thought to categorize the policies an individual supports:

A liberal generally approves of government intervention to achieve an equality of treatment in areas of civil liberties, and a range of equality of opportunity to equality of result in terms of property/income ownership.

A conservative generally favors a narrow definition of government's responsibilities in the area of civil liberties as well as equality issues where property/income owners are concerned.

In practical terms, there is a considerable cross-over by liberals and conservatives on many issues.

Over time, the conservative position over the very concept of a welfare state has softened in order to accommodate objectives of order and societal stability.

Both liberals and conservatives have championed the vested interests of various groups within society, effectively defending privilege (i.e., sanctioned inequality of opportunity) in socio-political arrangements.

The system of laws, government programs and administrative agencies that has evolved over the course of the 20th century has established the policy agenda of liberalism.

This policy agenda occupies the centrist position between two distinct socio-political systems: state-socialism and cooperative-individualism.

Understanding the differences between these systems requires that we abandon our preconceptions of left/right, liberal / conservative.

There are six main policy issues that make up the agenda of Liberalism.

State Socialism vs. Cooperative Individualism

Policy decisions will pull a society closer to state-socialism if there is greater emphasis on: (a) security (i.e., order) than on protecting individual liberty; and (b) redistribution of wealth instead of allowing producers to keep what they produce.

The terms distribution and redistribution are somewhat misleading, inasmuch as the natural order of things will eventually lead to a redistribution of wealth from those who actually produce to those who control access to land (i.e., nature). Because this is a natural flow and can actually be facilitated by voluntary agreement on the part of all citizens, what the titleholder or occupier of land receives can also be thought of as a distribution of wealth.

Centrally planned economic activity rather than allowing markets to function solely on the basis of voluntary win-win transactions.

Positive law as a constraint on individual actions, even those that meet the test of justice, rather than on moral/ethical constraints.

Centralized authority versus decentralized administration of governmental responsibilities.

Representative and delegated democracy at the expense of widespread participation in the political decision-making process.

Adoption of the above policies in the aggregate will pull a society into the realm of state-socialism. Conversely, full adoption of policies that achieve greater individual liberty (that is, are distributive where wealth is concerned), allow a fair field with no favors to operate in economics, rely heavily on moral and ethical constraints on behavior (i.e., nurturing), give very limited powers to a central authority and guarantee widespread direct participation for decision-making on societal issues, and will bring society close to cooperative individualism.


Movement too far to the left supplants liberalism with harsher forms of state-socialism and, potentially, totalitarianism.

Communitarianism and Anarchy

Policies directed beyond the bounds of cooperative individualism to the right pull societies into what are historically unchartered waters, where human behavior has run counter to the degree of cooperation and selflessness demanded.


Socio-political arrangements that allow natural law to freely operate may create an equality of condition but cannot secure or protect equality of opportunity.

Only cooperative individualism (by prohibiting sanctioned inequalities) establishes the conditions fo equality of opportunity.


Lesson 1 * Lesson 2 * Lesson 3 * Lesson 4
Lesson 5 * Lesson 6 * Lesson 7 * Lesson 8