While Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen of Éire makes a convenient target to take the blame for his failure to reform the Irish public service, the "litany of waste and incompetence," as the Irish Independent termed it ("Pressure on Cowen as millions go to waste," Fionnan Sheahan and Aine Kerr, 09/23/08), is probably not his fault. We have to realize that, whatever his failings as a leader, the greatest one is shared by virtually every politician on the face of the earth today: he doesn't understand social justice.
This is both worse and better than it really is. "Social justice" is the particular virtue whose object is the common good of all human society, not (as with individual justice), the individual good of any member or group. The "common good" is the network of institutions (law, customs, traditions, etc.) within which human beings as "political animals" acquire and develop virtue and thus develop more fully as human beings. Social justice therefore guides us as social beings in creating and perfecting organized human interactions, or institutions. Social justice is the principle for restoring moral balance and harmony in the social order.
Can we blame Mr. Cowen for not knowing this and acting in accordance with it? If so, we have to blame ourselves just as much. Social justice imposes on each member of society a personal responsibility to work with others to design and continually perfect our institutions as tools for personal and social development. To the extent an institution violates the human dignity of any person or group, organized acts of social justice are required to correct the defects in that institution.
True, members of the government seem intent right now on passing the buck and trying to place the blame elsewhere, but that is only to be expected when no one really has an idea what to do. If we were to give Mr. Cowen advice, we'd say his first step should be to read Introduction to Social Justice by CESJ co-founder Father William J. Ferree, S.M., Ph.D., available as a free download from the CESJ web site, www.cesj.org. The Taoiseach's second step should be to investigate Capital Homesteading for Every Citizen, also fortunately available for free from CESJ as a download. Reviewing the web site, there is doubtless a great deal more material there that Mr. Cowen and his government will find of great interest. Finishing with that, he can always give us a call. We're actually quite friendly and willing to answer any questions.
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