It's an age-old question: What is justice? So integral a question is it, as a foundation for human existence, influential political philosophers like Plato and John Rawls wrote philosophical works seeking the answer. And as the question of justice is fundamental to America's political divide, it deserves to be asked.
Almost all Americans, regardless of political party, believe in human dignity -- that all people should be treated equally regardless of race, age, gender, or income level. The conflict begins when there are opposing views in how one defines equal treatment or justice. At the heart of the conflict are two starkly different conceptions of justice.
The liberal conception of justice maintains, on some level, that justice is achieved when wealth is equalized. This idea is taken to varying degrees. At the most extreme level, we have communism and socialism. At a more moderate level, we have liberalism. But do not be fooled-they are indeed bedfellows.
The conservative conception of justice is that individuals should be given equal opportunity to succeed; but, when it's all said and done, the fruits of one's labor, by and large, belong to the laborer. How is it just to confiscate half of one farmer's hard-earned
crops and give them to another farmer who chose to sit this season out, knowing full well he could just get his neighbor's crops? For conservatives, distributing the wealth is the antithesis of justice; it is a grave injustice.
Critics may say, isn't the liberal idea of justice more compassionate than the conservative one? They would be wrong because what they miss is that the conservative view of justice is compassionate while also being realistic. It is compassionate in that it levels the playing field, but realistic and just in that it does not alter the score of the game.
Take the National Football League, for instance. Both teams are given an equal opportunity to win and referees ensure the rules are followed. The league makes certain that teams abide by all regulations. But what the NFL does not do is alter the score of the game. There is a definite winner and a definite loser. The team with that has fought the toughest fight, put in the extra hours, and has the most talent wins. Any revision of a well- deserved win would be met with rage from fans and players alike. It simply would not be fair. It would not be just.
In the same way, the conservative concept of justice levels the playing field before the game is played and ensures equal opportunity. What conservatives are not for is rewarding sloth and laziness by letting people take advantage of the system.
Karl Marx wrote this infamous line in 1875: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs. But Marx, along with many liberals, fail to acknowledge hard work. Hard work and its fruits should be rewarded not confiscated and given to those
who did not work themselves.
There are two versions of justice in this country -- the liberal and the conservative one. I cannot help but think the latter is justice in its truest form.
Kayleigh McEnany is a writer and political activist who graduated from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and studied at Oxford University. She is the founder of www.RealReaganConservative.com. She writes every Tuesday for the International Business Times.