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What is “Justice”? What constitutes ‘Just’ laws?

September 21, 2010
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In lecture we discussed how Dr. King’s perspective of “just” laws were not necessarily born from morality or God’s will, but instead stemmed from whether or not all the people in the society were bound to follow the same rules and suffer the same punishments for breaking those rules. Looking at this idea at a glance, it seems to hold true for what “Justice” is or should be – rules and punishments that are equally applicable to everyone in the society, with no exceptions. However, what about laws that benefit the whole of society, but have some exceptions for who is bound to follow them – as is the case with speeding tickets for foreign diplomats. Or what about laws that everyone has to follow but are a detriment to society or cause members of the society to act in heinous ways. For example, the one child law in China.
What would Dr. King think of the fact that Foreign Diplomats are not bound by many of the laws of the United States when they are here living or on business? (For example, foreign diplomats cannot receive speeding tickets when they are caught speeding.) Are they not also a part of society, and yet they are exempt from many repercussions of the law. And because they are exempt from following some laws does that then nullify that these laws are just. Because I think it is hard to say that the law for breaking the speed limit is unjust, even though foreign diplomats are not bound to follow them.
And what about the One Child law in China? Although this law would fall under the “just” category of laws under Dr. King’s definition, I have a hard time viewing this as a just law. Personally, I do not believe that a law can be just, even if everyone is bound to the law and its punishments, if it leads people to do injustices. For example, there were many instances in China of people having more than one child and leaving the ‘unwanted’ child somewhere to die. In many cases, because males are seen by many in China to have a higher status than females, the ‘unwanted’ child was a baby girl. How can a law that leads to so much death and injustice be considered just?

Although I do agree that Dr. King’s definition for justice and just laws is good, I believe he is missing some key points to the definition of justice and just laws.

5 Comments
  1. Lorig Stepanian permalink
    September 21, 2010 2:26 PM

    I completely agree with this article. When I first learned Dr. King’s view on justice, I was quite surprised. I do not see how a law is considered just, simply because it applies to all equally. I do not think that a law stating that all American citizens are required to kill their first born child, is considered a just law. In this case, I personally do not think that Dr. Kings definition would be considered a valid way to describe the word justice. Although equality and fairness are an integral aspect of justice, morality plays a key role in defining this term. If morality and principle are not applied when establishing a laws, all of a country’s citizens could be facing lots of unjust rules and regulations.

  2. changmc permalink
    September 21, 2010 2:45 PM

    I feel that in this world, people tend to obey laws because of the convenience and enjoyable way of life that society provides. The people of China want to enjoy the benefits of society but the social, economic, and environmental problems that overpopulation have caused interferes with this. Overpopulation is detrimental to all aspects of life in society. Installing the one child policy has the intended effect of helping the citizens of China deal with this problem, so that they may enjoy a more fruitful life. The one child policy does not explicitly bring about harm to the thousands of children that are killed because they are deemed “unwanted.” I don’t think the problem lies within the law itself; instead, the problem lies in the culture of the Chinese system that associates a higher status to men over women. In the world we live in, pain and suffering are everywhere, and it is the job of the people to attempt to minimize this suffering. Without the one child policy, “unwanted” children are kept, but at what cost to society’s ability to function, for people to be able to enjoy the benefits they hope to reap from obeying laws and society? Would it be just for population to be left uncontrolled and for everyone to suffer, not just baby girls?

  3. aaronyan1123 permalink
    September 22, 2010 12:13 AM

    I disagree with this article. As a Chinese, I believe the overpopulation problem in China would be much more serious without the one child policy. The one child policy is a plan made by Chinese government to prevent the economy of China collapsing due to overpopulation. The problem that people in China would abandon their “unwanted” female babies does happen. Hong Kong is also the territory of China. However, there is no such problem in Hong Kong. I personally think the female babies abandonment in Mainland China happens because of the lack of education in Mainland China. The Chinese in Mainland China still believe in the concept of a higher family and social status to men over women. However, the Chinese in Hong Kong do not has this problem because Hong Kong has a well-developed modern education system to educate people not only to keep the Chinese culture, but also to be moral. Therefore, it is not about the culture nor the law itself. It is about education.

  4. Alexander Capobianco permalink
    September 23, 2010 1:54 PM

    I would also disagree with this article. In my opinion sometimes certain laws are necessary for the greater good of society, even if they seem unjust. For example, foreign diplomats not being able to receive speeding tickets may seem unfair but it is important that diplomats have the most positive feelings towards our country as possible. To give them speeding tickets could perhaps make them bitter, but we also must ask do others not receive this treatment? People who have family members in the police force often are able to get out of tickets because of it, same with athletes and celebrities.
    Additionally, as cruel as the one child policy seems it is a necessary evil in China. There is already a terrible overpopulation problem there and many are starving because food and resources can be scarce among the lower classes. Without this law their population would surely grow exponentially and only compound more problems for everyone in China, causing even more suffering than the one child law itself due to lack of resources. China is a leading consumer of oil as well as a leading polluter, without the one child law they would only consume more, causing problems world wide. Sometimes laws may seem cruel or unfair but they are necessary for the greater good of the society.

  5. Benjamin Di Pietro permalink
    December 7, 2010 6:49 PM

    Referring to the “unwanted” baby girl in China, I think that by leaving the baby out to die has nothing to do with the justice of the law, but more so with the selfishness and ignorance of the people that do this to their own children, boy or girl. Therefor in my opinion, the people that do this don’t counter the argument that it is a just law.

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