The clip above is from my favorite show, Arrested Development (full scene here, though it has a bit of unsavory language in it). Michael finds out that the seeing-eye dog he is watching for the day–named “Justice”–is actually blind. I was reminded of it while re-reading F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom (illustrated version here), where he offers this insight:
It is significant that one of the commonest objections to competition is that it is “blind.” It is not irrelevant to recall that to the ancients blindness was an attribute of their deity of justice (pg. 134 of this edition).
Hayek goes on to elaborate his argument for why “blind” competition–though it may create what you and I consider to be unfair outcomes at times–is significantly better than the alternative of a planned system of distributing jobs, resources, products, and wealth. In any system that attempts to create “fair” outcomes, a person with authority to use force is the arbitrator of who gets what. Or, as Hayek chose to phrase it, we quickly have a “who, whom” question. ”Who plans whom, who directs and dominates whom, who assigns to other people their station in life, and who is to have his due allotted by others?” (pg. 139). Someone must coordinate the system to the “fair” outcomes that are decided upon; and by “the system,” we mean the choices that individuals make about how they spend their lives.
Societies that choose to follow paths of ensuring end-state equality tend to end up in a state of arrested development, in terms of both economics and–more importantly–individual freedom.
It turns out that our modern conception of Lady Justice (as Chris wrote about in an earlier post) is a hodgepodge of Roman, Greek and other deities. In fact, she wasn’t even blind–contrary, it seems, to what Hayek supposed–until the 16th century. From Wikipedia,
Since the 15th century, Lady Justice has often been depicted wearing a blindfold. The blindfold represents objectivity, in that justice is or should be meted out objectively, without fear or favor, regardless of identity, money, power, or weakness; blind justice and impartiality. The earliest Roman coins depicted Justitia with the sword in one hand and the scale in the other, but with her eyes uncovered. Justitia was only commonly represented as “blind” since about the end of the 15th century. The first known representation of blind Justice is Hans Gieng’s 1543 statue on the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Fountain of Justice) in Berne.
The idea of the Rule of Law–one of the foundations upon which MBM is derived–is strongly related to the idea of impartial courts and laws.