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Is Dr.King’s version of civil disobedience too vague?

September 20, 2010

While I certainly agree with Dr. King’s stances against segregation and his fight for civil rights, and I respect his social activism, I find his definitions of civil disobedience a little too vague. King contends that any law that is just should be obeyed, but any that is unjust should be disobeyed. To be fair, he does continue to clarify and specify. For King, a law is unjust when it makes a minority subject to a law that a majority is not subject to as well.

But of course, like any definition, this can be interpreted differently. Dr. King of course uses this definition in a sociopolitical way, but could it also be applied to an economics as well? Could someone say that a progressive income tax is unjust because it gives subjects the wealthy to a higher tax rate than others are subjected to? Could someone also state that being in poverty is a state that a minority is being oppressed to while others are not in this same state? Of course being relegated to poverty is not a legal statute, one could argue that there is a class system that prevents certain mobility. My main point is that the definition is sound in reference to civil rights, but how far does it go and can a stable political system be run if anyone just disobeys rules they find unjust?

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