There never was such a thing as absolute justice, but only agreements made in mutual dealings among men in whatever places at various times providing against the infliction or suffering of harm (Epicurus, ancient Greek philosopher)
The ideal state is the one in which men live in harmony and peace, their basic needs having been met, including a government that protects them from harm. This concept should be a guideline for all politicians in all societies; alas, we know well that this is not the case, by a long shot. Epicurus acknowledges the weaknesses of human nature, though he recognizes that all men (and women) seek protection against harm and that means a ruling body, a government in other words, designed to oversee and protect such agreements among men.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Nowadays we would say the pursuit of sufficient resources to retire and live out the rest of our existence in peace and contentment. “Happiness” was not the original word in the Declaration of Independence, but rather Locke’s ”property”. Jefferson preferred “Happiness”, a vague term in many people’s opinion. But let’s not quibble: The real purpose of government is to make MY life as safe as possible which includes all basic necessities such as food and shelter. It should also make sure that I have the fair opportunity to reach my personal goals. What about individual responsibility you ask? What about effort, work, social contributions and obligations?
Well, of course, that is the social contract I implicitly sign with my government as soon as I turn 18; it is also known in the United States as the Pledge of Allegiance. All legal immigrants must swear to it when they get their green card. Every country has its own equivalent, thus marking the beginning of a “beautiful” (irony) relationship between the citizen and the government. The strange and unjust part is that the word “government” applies to so many people, elected or not, local, state and federal, that the ordinary citizen has a very difficult time getting compensated when he/she feels wronged by his/her governing body. Try suing the mayor, or the governor, or any bureaucrat and you will quickly discover that the task is almost impossible. Just ask those folks whose property was cut in half by the border fence with Mexico.
Such is the fate of all great ideas proffered by great men: They hit a wall call Human Frailty. We can pursue all right, Mr. Jefferson, but no government can guarantee that I will achieve my goals, and neither should it do so; at the very least, and Epicurus clearly says so, the ruling body should not cause me, the ordinary citizen, such harm as will prevent me from leading a satisfactory and peaceful life. But it does, every day, in every situation, and the worst part is that the governments, state and federal, usually rule in favor of the very rich and powerful. Hence the mighty popular protests known as Occupy Wall Street. The ordinary citizen has no recourse in a court of law; he or she cannot afford the best defense, the most expensive lawyers and so, Mr. Jefferson, we may be born equal in the eyes of the law, but we sure don’t stay that way.
Justice for sale?
I remember a distraught Mexican citizen who once said to me “Let them (politicians) steal, but at least, do your job properly.” The meaning was obvious: Take the graft, but give us justice, security, clean streets, parks for our kids, and a chance to get a decent paying job. That’s how bad politics are south of the border, and we are slowly but surely gravitating in that direction.
This great Republic was founded to fight tyranny and injustice and it has prospered as no other nation has been able to. We are still the greatest power on this Earth; shouldn’t we also be the best Democracy?