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Several years ago I wrote a short piece on this topic which appeared in Comment, the publication of the Canadian think tank Cardus. Here is an excerpt:

Must the pursuit of social justice be tethered to statist solutions? Not necessarily. This is where I believe neocalvinism has much to offer as an alternative. To be sure, recognizing that there are systemic causes to the social question undoubtedly entails a strong government willing and able to intervene on behalf of the poor. Provided they are fine-tuned so as not inadvertently to subsidize personal irresponsibility, the programs of the welfare state have a legitimate role to play as a social safety net shielding citizens from the worst of the market’s deficiencies. Returning to the era of unfettered markets, the night-watchman state, and no labour unions would be a historically regressive move to say the least.

At the same time, the notion that government can solve the social question outright is misguided. There is a certain persuasiveness to the libertarian argument that social responsibility is a misnomer because society as such is not a responsible agent. Indeed, policies aimed at ameliorating poverty should recognize the pluriformity of society, including the multiplicity of responsible agents therein. The full complexity of society cannot be reduced to state and market, as if these were the only two factors to be accounted for. Much of the current debate pits political parties that would strengthen the state at the expense of the market in opposition to parties that would enhance the market at the state’s expense. What is missing on both sides is an acknowledgment that a healthy society consists of much more than these two constituent elements.

Read the entire article here.

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