In TOC, I have a long discussion about “Lady Justice” and how the concept of social justice is at war with the idea that justice should be blind.
The notion that justice must be impartial and universal, showing neither favor nor animus to rich or poor, became one of the most revolutionary and liberating ideals in the history of humanity. As with any ideal, nobody has ever perfectly implemented it, but the conviction that one should try was the engine of human progress for millennia, toppling the divine right of kings and laying the groundwork for democracy and the rule of law. That’s why Lady Justice stands vigil outside our own Supreme Court and is given full expression in the Supreme Court justices’ oath of office. Each justice vows to “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon [me] . . . under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God.”
But, hey man, times change.
So argued the progressives. Drunk on a rich cocktail of Hegel, Darwin, and Dewey, they believed that they were smart enough to scavenge what they thought useful from the whole mule cart of Western civilization, and then throw the rest of it off the cliffside of history, clanging and banging its way down the memory hole. They would start over. Fresh. Blank sheet. They would rebuild Lady Justice, stronger, faster, better (cue bionic man sound effect). Here’s New Republic editor Herbert Croly writing of Lady Justice’s need for a total makeover.
In the past, common-law justice has been appropriately symbolized as a statuesque lady with a bandage over her eyes and a scale in her fair hands. The figurative representation of social justice would be a different kind of woman equipped with a different col- lection of instruments. Instead of having her eyes blindfolded, she would wear perched upon her nose a most searching and forbid- ding pair of spectacles, one which combined the vision of a microscope, a telescope, and a photographic camera. Instead of holding scales in her hand, she might perhaps be figured as possessing a much more homely and serviceable set of tools. She would have a hoe with which to cultivate the social garden, a watering-pot with which to refresh it, a barometer with which to measure the pressure of the social air, and the indispensable type- writer and filing cabinet with which to record the behavior of society. . . . [H]aving within her the heart of a mother and the passion for taking sides, she has disliked the inhuman and mechanical task of holding a balance between verbal weights and measures.
Alas, this book doesn’t come with illustrations, because I would rather enjoy commissioning an artist’s rendition of a woman outfitted to look like a cross-dressing hybrid of Mr. Gadget and Granny Clampett from The Beverly Hillbillies, as the great symbol of progressive jurisprudence.
Well, the folks over at RightNation have given a whirl at drawing Croly’s vision of Lady Justice.
If you’re artistically inclined, send me your version. Best submission gets a tote bag! (Sounds better if you say “Tote Bag!” like Oprah).