Why does justice matter?

The hunger for justice is an inextricable part of our self-preservation programming code.

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about this question. Why it is that justice matters so much to people?

I have a desire for Zen. I consider myself a budding buddhist. There is, though, no denying that Buddha himself would strenuously disagree.

But still. I want to master principles of acceptance.

And yet…


I hate it.

But what is it?

I remember reading, in my undergraduate days, the notion offered by Thrasymachus in Plato’s Republic, that perhaps what makes right, is might.  I always (stupidly) understood “might” as referring to primarily physical strength. Plainly it was a sound choice on my part not to study philosophy in graduate school.

Now I understand that might means power.

And I am convinced, now more than ever, that the only humans that have no use for justice are those that don’t need it.

Justice is fairness, with added kick of some consequence or correction. It’s fairness with a fix. But why do we care about fairness?

I don’t mean on an intellectual level. I mean on a visceral level.

What is it that makes my one year old, who is normally a calm and subdued, delicate specimen, scream and hit when something is taken that is rightfully hers? What is it that makes my four-old adamant that she is entitled to equal portions of whatever is distributed? What is it that resides deep within a person that makes widespread inequality lead to riots?

Who knows.

I spent three years studying law in a fully-accredited school, and justice is a concept that I never heard mentioned once.  They must have taught it on a day I was absent. (“Today is Justice day!!”)

My own theory, still under development, is that justice remains an inextricable part of our self-preservation programming code.

Because, consider the alternative. What happens to the runt of the litter that lacks an instinct to fight for a fair share of milk?

When we play modified Monopoly, I have a great time. As long as we’re playing it my way. And I think the rules that govern my household are completely inclusive and totally fair. My kids, my subjects, may disagree.

But does it matter?

As long as they remain powerless, some would say “no.”

My guess is the only people unconcerned with justice, are the ones who have decided what justice is for everyone.

 Thrasymachus, as any one might see, was in reality eager to speak; for he thought that he had an excellent answer, and would distinguish himself.

But at first he affected to insist on my answering; at length he consented to begin.

Behold, he said, the wisdom of Socrates; he refuses to teach himself, and goes about learning of others, to whom he never even says Thank you.

That I learn of others, I replied, is quite true; but that I am ungrateful I wholly deny. Money I have none, and therefore I pay in praise, which is all I have; and how ready I am to praise any one who appears to me to speak well you will very soon find out when you answer; for I expect that you will answer well.

Listen, then, he said;

I proclaim that justice is nothing else than the interest of the stronger.