Law is Not Enough

First, let me say that as far as I’m concerned, this blog has already done a post or two or three   on the VMA incident. I will, however, say that anyone who was surprised by the occurrence, except perhaps in a “I didn’t expect it this soon” sort of way, has not been paying attention to standards of public conduct recently. Also, everyone on that stage is culpable. And I do mean everyone. Also, on Saturday, I’ll be talking a bit about the blithering idiocy of getting involved in Syria at this juncture.

Now, moving on, there are more important matters to discuss.

For today, let’s talk about social justice, and why oftentimes the people who talk about it really don’t understand what’s actually going to get it.

Here’s what I mean.

Consider the following. There are businesses that provide short-term loans to poor people–payday lenders, title loaners, etc. Said loans are usually brutally usurious. There is some reason for this–most people who need this sort of loan aren’t exactly in a good position to pay it back. That being said, however, these are usually on fairly exploitative terms.

Proposals have therefore been floated, in the name of social justice, to  either abolish such places, or to restrict their interest rates so that they’re not as usurious.

Here’s the problem with this. Poor folk take out these loans because they need money quickly and in small amounts, neither of which banks really do, and with good reason–when banks do risky stuff, bad things happen (see 2008). So, if these payday lenders–who are attempting to make a profit–decide the game isn’t worth the candle, where will the poor go? The black market, of course, where the penalties for non-repayment of debt tend to be slightly stiffer than getting your car repossessed.

I am confused about how this plan aids the furthering of social justice.

However, here’s a notion. Start up a not for profit short-term lending company. Give those who need the loans an avenue that isn’t usurious and leaves them in a debt spiral. No, this may not fix the underlying problem of generational poverty and its attending cultural problems, nor will it end the exploitation of the poor–and may, in some cases, end up being an avenue to exploit poor folk.

That being said, it would at least ameliorate the problem by giving an alternative to the usurers, who might be pushed into bringing their prices down–and, if it forced them out of business, would do so gradually, allowing time to adjust, and to set up more of these things just proposed. Given that we live in a world where sweeping changes rarely end up actually benefiting those people who the policies are supposed to benefit, this is probably the best that can be hoped for.

The problem is that most people who talk about reforming the system think in terms of law–pass a law, repeal a law! And the problem shall be fixed.

It doesn’t work that way. The problem is that law is insufficient to deal with the problems caused by the nature of humanity. At best, law can create preconditions that allow people to do what must be done to ameliorate the problems sin has created–that is to say, do justice. But remember that you will not create perfect justice, because the world is not yet remade.

Yes, it’s not just the government’s job. It’s yours and mine.

Seek justice. And walk humbly with Yahweh.

‘Til next time,

Lowell Van Ness


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