Mark Pulliam writes for the Martin Center about the negative impact of the pursuit of “social justice” at one major public university.

The latest racket in higher education, evident at my alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin, is the disturbing proliferation of “social justice” as a degree program, a course topic, an academic emphasis, and even as a prerequisite in campus job descriptions.

“Social justice” is a seemingly innocuous term with no established definition. Many members of the general public construe it as a harmless synonym for “fairness.” But to progressives—who dominate the academy these days—“social justice” is a colloquial expression with a specific meaning: economic equity (the redistribution of wealth), “sustainability” (a pre-industrial environmental ethos), and the elimination of racial disparities throughout society (all statistical imbalances among racial groups representing, in their view, systemic discrimination and institutional racism).

In a society such as ours, committed to the principles of private property, free-market economics, individual liberty, and equality before the law, the social-justice agenda is highly controversial and ought to be the subject of an extended debate.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Friedrich Hayek believed that the concept of “social justice” is a pernicious threat to individual freedom and he devoted an entire volume of his Law, Legislation and Liberty trilogy to debunking it as a “mirage.” Because the goal of “social justice” is often asserted as an excuse for government intervention to overturn the spontaneous and uncoerced ordering of the free market, Hayek declared the term to be a “hollow incantation” that people should be “ashamed” to use.