Should We Hate the Rich Because of Their Wealth?


In The Mirage of Social Justice, Friedrich A. Hayek takes on the highly political term “social justice.” In one section, he suggests material inequality is not unjust, only unfortunate, because markets are inanimate and lack a personal will. Only individual actions can be just or unjust; the market plays no favorites and does not ill.

mirage-social-justiceOne of the main reasons “social justice” in the form of “redistributive justice” is so popular is the idea that the rich do not deserve to have so much money. They are often classified as rich, greedy, oppressive, and political snakes. By even possessing so much wealth, the rich are harming the poor. Therefore, their wealth should be taken by the government and redistributed to the poor.

According to Hayek, the idea that the wealthy harm the poor by means of having wealth is generally false. “At least all those who wish to despoil the rich, not because they expect that some more deserving might enjoy that wealth, but because they regard the very existence of the rich as an outrage, not only cannot claim any moral justification for their demands, but indulge in a wholly irrational passion and in fact harm those to whose rapacious instincts they appeal.”

Wealth exists because individuals risked their own resources to create it and steered their resources to the most productive means by which wealth is chiefly created. “And there can be no doubt that most of those who have built up great fortunes in the form of new industrial plants and the like have thereby benefited more people through creating opportunities for more rewarding employment than if they had given their superfluity away to the poor.”

So what do you think? Is the possession of great riches inherently unjust, or should we rather appreciate our society’s rich because of the opportunities they are able to open up for the poor?

About Todd Scacewater

Todd is a Teaching Fellow in New Testament and PhD candidate at Westminster Seminary in Hermeneutics. He holds a Th.M. in New Testament and a B.A. in Political Science, and has served the church in music, college, youth, children, and discipleship ministries.