June 12, 2024

Who's Poor Richard?

Benjamin Franklin, writing under the pseudonym Richard Saunders (AKA "Poor Richard"), published Poor Richard's Almanack from 1732 to 1758. The almanack provided useful information, proverbial wisdom, and humor to the American colonies. 

In keeping with Franklin's legacy, Poor Richard's Blog tackles today’s complex issues and the foundations of the Franklin Party, while hopefully also dispensing some wisdom and good humor along the way.  

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Poor Richard's Blog

Benjamin Franklin, writing under the pseudonym Richard Saunders (AKA "Poor Richard"), published Poor Richard's Almanack from 1732 to 1758. The almanack provided useful information, proverbial wisdom, and humor to the American colonies. 

In keeping with Franklin's legacy, Poor Richard's Blog tackles today’s complex issues and the foundations of the Franklin Party, while hopefully also dispensing some wisdom and good humor along the way.  

Welcome to the Franklin Party Newsletter!

Justice


The second of the Benjamin Franklin Party’s three core values is justice. You might think justice is a Franklin Party value because Franklin famously said,

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

The problem is Franklin never said this. And it is unlikely Franklin said* or thought anything similar because, while it might be a memorable turn of phrase, it is simply not true. In Franklin’s time and today, justice is quite often served without equal outrage between the affected and unaffected.

So why is justice a value of the Benjamin Franklin Party? This goes back to our previous blog post, where we closed with the idea that if science is the brain of the Franklin Party, then justice is its heart.

But what exactly does this mean?

Science produces provable knowledge, but this information is descriptive of the world and not prescriptive about what we should do. In logic, this is known as the is-ought problem. Knowing how to split atoms does not help us decide whether we should build nuclear warheads, or nuclear power plants, or both, or neither. For guidance on how to act, we need additional values. Our brain needs a heart.

Fortunately, the human species has a long history of intentional and unintentional social experiments from which we’ve learned the values that produce the best societal outcomes for the largest number of people. Foremost among these successful values is the principle of justice.

Hundreds of books have deservedly been written on the topic of justice, so we won’t replicate that work here. For now, we’ll simply touch on two ideas: a prominent way justice produces societal good and the time dimension of justice.

Societal Good
Beyond basic ethics akin to the Golden Rule (reciprocity), justice properly applied produces order and stability in society because decisions about fair treatment are entrusted to neutral third parties. When justice is served, peace is a natural byproduct. And this peaceful stability provides fertile ground on which society can build and flourish.

Time Dimension
It’s very common to think of justice as a backward-looking exercise. Reparations in the present for past harm. That retrospective is a part of justice, but if correcting past harms is important, then preventing present or future harms is also a vital aspect of justice that should not be overlooked. A well-functioning society and government always consider justice past, present, and future.

So, we’ve covered the “brain” value of the Benjamin Franklin Party, science, and the “heart” value, justice. What’s next? The “eyes.” In our next post, we’ll discuss the final of the Franklin Party’s three values, foresight.

Yours in republic keeping,
James Carroll
BFPNC Chair

*Justice was the eighth of 13 personal virtues Franklin aspired to in his lifetime.

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