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Plea for economic justice.

What kind of economic order would best achieve the values of democracy, political equality, and liberty is a question with which the nation is now confronted. To answer this question, I invite you to imagine that we are not only strongly committed to these values in Pakistan but also, at an unusual historical juncture when democracy stands restored after 11 years of dictatorship, we are faced with challenging opportunity to create a new economic order for ourselves. What sort of economic order should we create.

The distribution of economic resources required for the sustenance of democracy in Pakistan is related to the distribution required to achieve economic fairness. We do not want to satisfy ourselves that our economic order in Pakistan is fair. For, believing as we do in fairness and justice, it would be an unhappy contradiction if our political order were fair but our economic order grossly unfair. We should also insist that our economic order in Pakistan be efficient, that it would tend to minimize the ratio of valued inputs to valued outputes.

Self-government and economic enterprise is often advocated as a way of creating participatory democracy and producing changes in human personality and behaviour. Thus the enterprise can become a site for fulfilling our vision of political society and for improving the criterion of excellence in our government. Economic democracy, if brought into being by the enforcement of fundamental economic rights, will foster human development, enhance the sense of political efficacy, reduce alienation, strengthen attachments to the general good of the community, produce a body of active and concerned public-spirited citizens within the society, and stimulate greater participation and better citizenship in the government of the state itself. The upholders of economic democracy maintain that self-managed work environments might serve to nurture feelings of cooperation, equality, generosity and self-confidence.

The question I want to raise, therefore, is whether it would be possible for Pakistan citizens to construct a society that would nearly achieve the values of economic democracy and at the same time preserve as much individual liberty as we now enjoy, and perhaps even more. Or is there an inescapable trade-off between liberty and economic equality, so that we can only enjoy the liberties we now possess by fore-going greater economic equality? Would therefore the price of greater economic equality necessarily be less liberty?

The provision for economic justice is surely one of the most crucial, not only as a means of self-protection, but also as a necessary condition for many other important values, including one of the most fundamental of all human freedoms, the freedom to help determine, in cooperation with others, the laws and rules that one must obey.

The existence of sizeable inequalities in economic resources among the citizens of a democratic country should be disturbing to anyone who places a high value on political equality. In order to express economic preference accurately, each citizen must have adequate and equal liberties for discovering and validating his/her preferences.

Fundamental human rights have to be respected on an assumption that everyone has a right to economic liberty. The right to economic liberty justified a right to private ownership of economic enterprises. A right to privately owned economic enterprise justifies privately owned corporation and a right to private ownership of corporate enterprise can properly be prompted by the democratic process. If a legal system violates the requirements of economic justice, then to that extent we ought to condemn the legal order as an improper violation of a fundamental moral right. The economic justice, and its relation to the democratic process, is surely one of the most fundamental of all moral rights.

Each person is to have an equal right to the most extensive system of political basic liberties compatible with a similar system of liberty for all. Keeping this observation in view, social and economic inequalities are to be arranged in such a manner that they are both (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged; and (b) higher positions are laid open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity. Equality of opportunity which in turn means that there should be no arbitrary barriers of birth, colour, religion, sect and sex standing in the path of talent. Whilst a free society should not prevent some people from achieving position of advantage, it should prevent such positions from becoming institutionalized. Freedom preserves the opportunity for today's disadvantaged to become tomorrow's privileged and, in the process, enables every citizen to enjoy a fuller and richer life.

Free markets emerge within the domain of economic justice. Wherever free markets have been permitted to operate, an ordinary man has been able to attain levels of living never dreamed of before. In free societies the poor have risen in both absolute and relative treatments.

Economic justice can also be socially useful because it encourages people to take into account social costs. Economic justice is now considered to be the outgrowth of public choice or the economic theory of policies which means that people should be treated as rational utility-maximizers in all of their behavioural capacities. The challenge to us is one of constructing a political order that guarantees economic rights and ultimately becomes the basis of a rational economic order.

In order to advance the cause of economic justice, government activity need be shifted into the market. The structure of government will have to be reformed to improve its efficiency. It is high time that government gives preference to privatization.

In a sound economic order, the internal working of bureaus is made to introduce personal reward systems, and to encourage competition between bureaus. Competition between bureaus helps to increase the information available to politicians. Competition also increases the range of technologies used to supply services.

The case for economic justice is also pleaded on three other closely related grounds: the moral rightness of individual freedom due to the inherent dignity of the individual; the practical virtues of free markets; and the importance of limiting through law the power to take away the private property of citizens. These grounds are philosophically labelled as constructive rationalism. If the ideal being sought is a nation of free and responsible people, this requires that the government will be fully immersed in the establishment of a sound economic order. The sound economic order will represent a catallaxy wherein the people and the organization go about the production, distribution and exchange of goods and services, and act within the laws of property by mutually adjusting their plans and activities to those of others.

In a sound economic order wherein human rights are guaranteed there is less inflation. Inflation is one of the greatest enemies of freedom, because it reduces the ability of the people to control their own lives. The Governments usually reduce inflation by controlling the money supply.

The free play of competitive force is vital for a balanced system of economic justice. The state is called upon, with such framework, to prevent citizens from falling below a certain decent minimum standard of living. A clear line should be drawn between the elimination of poverty and the pursuit of egalitarian levelling in the name of economic justice. The claim that privatization and the free market promote universal service has as strong an appeal as the modern aspiration of international brotherhood.
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Author:Haider, S.M.
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Feb 1, 1990
Words:1219
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