Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Reflection on Justice, Democracy and the Individual

"The primary function of the state is to ensure justice for all," writes Donald Demarco in The Catholic Register. Hence, he notes, our governments have sought to broaden the justice of our society through the development of social programmes, all well-intentioned and universal. Minimum Wage Laws. Fair Employment Practices. Anti-Discrimination Laws. Universal Health Care. Free and Compulsory Schooling. Old Age Security Supplements. The list of government initiatives to promote greater justice in the lives of citizens is long.

However, as well-intentioned and often helpful as these programmes are, do they really get to the heart of what "justice" in a society is all about? "Justice," Demarco continues, "is a virtue."

Moreover, it is, in its essence, not bureaucratic, but personal. Politicians, nonetheless, who love to talk about justice, rarely understand this. In general, they assume that justice is imposed on people by a liberal government, forgetting, somehow, that a society is nothing without its constitutive people. If there are no virtuous people, there is no social justice.

Pope John Paul II understood this. In an address to the United Nations he told the countries of the world that “democracy needs wisdom. Democracy needs virtue, if it is not to turn against everything that it is meant to defend and encourage. Democracy stands or falls with the truths and values which it embodies and promotes.”


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