Up in the air

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“Social justice is in the air!” says Gerry Hassan (Perspective, 23 February). Beloved of many leftist pressure groups, the unions, the Kirk and academia, the words are trotted out as a precursor to blocking out debate: for anyone challenging the latest version of the concept is denigrated as if in favour of some sinister opposite, “social injustice”.

But how does “social justice “ differ from “justice” – broadly speaking, equality before just laws? It differs by trending to equality of outcomes: interfering in the results of lawful activity by clobbering small and wealthy groups not attractive to the prejudices of the many. High-redistribution societies are marked by the stifling of commercial creativity and require an oppressive state mechanism. Nor do the living standards of the poorest benefit.

The idea that a further attack on the income, savings and property of higher-rate taxpayers will achieve anything positive is spurious: there are only 225,000 such taxpayers in a population of five million in Scotland. Would we benefit from Scandinavian levels of social security? .

Is Scotland that unequal? Some 85 per cent of the population has HD television, 70 per cent have access to a car and 68 per cent have broadband. It is the improved targeting of what we already spend to alleviate residual poverty that is needed. Hassan is right to argue for such a down-to-earth approach – but, please, leave the hackneyed phrase “social justice” in the air.

Peter Smaill