Social Justice as a Mirage word
After its initial conception of 1840, and its immergence as a secular concept at international level in the 20th C, social justice created confusion in its adoption as a political tool. Despite its holy word coined in it, the practice got non linear application as it is supposed to do so. As a result many scholars started to doubt in its core values and started to question the unquestionable of its inner spheres.
One of the prominent scholars who coined an anticipated meaning of social justice is Friedrich A. von Hayek, in his book 1976 titled by “Law, Legislation, and Liberty: A New Statement of the Liberal Principles of Justice and Political Economy.” Hayek came with a new words coined to the idea of social justice and he called it a “mirage.” a “will-o-the-wisp“, an “empty formula,” “strictly,” “necessarily,” and “entirely” “empty and meaningless” ; a phrase that “meant nothing at all” , that “has no meaning whatsoever,” a vacuous concept; “a quasi-religious belief with no content whatsoever” , a “primitive anthropomorphism” , or “atavism,” a “superstition”, like believing in witches or the philosopher’s stone, or a “hollow incantation”, like “open sesame”.
What Hayek clearly stated was the tendency of social justice as a dream word just kept in sub-conscious level and expecting something good to happen. There, the fault is quite clear and the probability of attaining what it was said so matters on how much the dream can be memorized during the conscious way of life. This is quite clear as we see regarding Eritrean case. PDFJ dreamt, in fact, a good and holly dream; as it could have upgraded the life of every individual across the Eritrean society with all necessities installed and exercised by every born Eritrean.
Measuring Social Justice
If Social Justice is such a big opportunity for positive and negative sides, how then PFDJ is living by painting the hollow word (as Hayke said it)? This is quite simple advantage that PFDJ got a chance to hide within. First; the masses societal structure and basic needs and second, at international level, especially like the United Nations, where they put justice as their core mission and visions in the whole world.
In this article, I will give you the major components of Social Justice Index parameters and based on this, I will put my analysis by comparing of the realities that exist and what it is reported. Fortunately, PFDJ got a safe haven to hide his dirty works under the umbrella of millennium goals and got an appreciation of achievements for most of the goals proposed by the end of 2015. Though, the reality is different, what at least PFDJ tried to fool the people and world community worked till recently. And this is what it makes the Eritrean case more secret and unexplored.
OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and development) has six criteria for measuring social Justice Index. These indexes are grouped as; poverty, education, labor, social cohesion and non descrimination, health and inter-generation. These parameters are the mothers for the millenium development goals (8 goals and to be achieved in 2015). But here, the list is for general indicator not a specific project and what the country under test is indexed based on certain criterias given. As we can see in the table, each one is also having its won parameter.
Table 1: Social Justice Index
Social Justice Index Parameters in the eyes of PFDJ
Then to start the analysis, let’s start the macro-economic policy of PFDJ, The Macro-Policy (1994) underscores the overall importance of human capital development to national development by making broad provisions for the development of lifelong and life wide educational strategies which will bring about widespread learning in the Eritrean society at large. In respect of education, the following objectives are set out in this national document: To produce a population equipped with the necessary skills, knowledge and culture for self-reliance and a modern economy; To develop in the population: self-consciousness and self-motivation, to fight poverty, disease and all the attendant causes of backwardness and ignorance; To make basic education available to all.
Even though human resource development was put as the major priority, its educational policy was only drafted for the first time in 2003. The national policy which was drafted 10 years after independence contains two fundamental guiding principles for the provision of education in Eritrea. Firstly, the policy shows a clear commitment to lifelong learning as stipulated in the following points: Education is a fundamental human right and a lifelong process by which all individuals are given opportunities to attain their potential as all rounded citizens. Secondly, the policy shows full commitment to the development of human capital thus: Eritrea’s greatest asset is its people: revitalizing citizens with relevant education and training is the only means by which the overall socio-economic development of the country can be achieved.
And in the contrary, the land which was owned by 80% of the entire population was declared as state property. According to the proclamation no. 58/1994, its main objective was to reform the system of land tenure in Eritrea, to determine the manner of expropriating land for purposes of development and national reconstruction, and to determine the powers and duties of land commission. Does it look great idea to have such people’s property, but not having a policy on how to develop the human capital? Is it really a justice, a justice of taking the means of survival and not allowing them to open their eyes?
Anyway, let’s come with analysis of land proclamation 58/1994 and its implication under the PFDJ era. According to PFDJ, social justice is material possession and just not allowing one to die without reaching any near-bye clinic. The first thing, regarding material prosperity, it is as if every person has the right to have a piece of land. And to fulfill this plan, they proclaimed a land policy in 1994 which states, “All land belongs to the state.” Under this property snatch, the land became under the state. The society became officially under the mercy of the big land lords. And the new land lords got an entire powerful tool to manipulate and use as their way of exercising as big missionaries in distributing the property to the people. Hence, people changed from owners of land to receivers of land.
Imagine now, according to FAO 2014 statistics, 77.77 % of the entire population lives in the rural areas (out of 6.33 million total populations). Then for the sake of social justice, about 78% of the entire population became direct victims of redistribution of property policy. And according to FAO country profile, the arable land and land under permanent crops availability per person is 0.4 ha. This area is only meant for those people who are actively engaged in agriculture for their daily life. Having this as a background and assuming normal climatic conditions, the total food produced during good rainy season is only 60% of the total country demand. From then we can easily leant that the land distribution system or the material share of country exposes the people to famine unless importation is done to balance the shortage.
Parallel to this, PFDJ has self-reliance in its economical philosophy. And this concept blocks any trade that tries to minimize the gap of the food shortages. This is what the country experienced for the last 14 years. I am counting 13 years, to be more lenient and to count from 2001, as a year of official birth of totalitarian system. I did not forget the poor and traditional system of agriculture practiced by the farmers in their small agricultural land, nor did I mention the shortage of agri-inputs. If we count all these, then what Hayek said is even less harsh. Farmers were not able to get primary materials and equipments. In the PFDJ hardware structure, there is Ministry of Agriculture, which is supposed to assistant farmers in all aspects. But, instead of assisting the farmers, at least in the extension service, the office was changed into tax-collector and fuel distribution center, fuel for those who produce vegetables and fruits. Not only this, the office also served as a spy in collecting information on the amount of products harvested by each farmer during the harvesting time. You may wonder why this spying is needed. It is quite clear; those farmers who produce more than what the regime decided as personal consumption per year, the rest will be taken at a lower price, usually at half price; the rest will be collected and redistributed to the people. In fact, it never reached to the people; rather, it was given to the military.
To make it short, first land was taken by the state, the state distributes to the people in small plots of land, and the farmers composing of 78% of the entire population try to produce food [usually a luck], and then again a quota is dictated for the annual demand by each person and the excess is collected. This system which mainly focuses on material distribution created dependency and LORD of the LAND, called Men’Gsti, all capable, that can give and take what it wants. For this then, as Hayek called it, a dangerous superstition.