In Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail, he famously wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
I most certainly agree.
Curiously, though, the inverse of that statement is also true: Justice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere.
For proof, one need look no further than the example of the Berlin Wall. West Berlin, surrounded by the injustice of the Communists in East Germany, was not so threatened by that injustice that they had to build the wall.
Instead, the justice that existed in West Berlin was such a threat to the injustice that existed everywhere in the Soviet bloc that the Communists had to wall it out.
The same is true today.
In a just society, all citizens are free to buy goods from anyone else, anywhere in the world, free of restriction. In an unjust society, the majority dictates to the majority what they may buy and from whom.
The free citizen in a just society does not care if his fellow citizen chooses to pay more for inferior goods, based solely on where they are manufactured.
But the unjust society feels threatened if a free citizen buys quality goods for low prices. So the unjust society imposes tariffs on imported goods to restrict the citizen’s freedom of choice.
In a just society, all citizens are free to sell their labor to the highest bidder, free of restrictions. In an unjust society, the terms and conditions of employment are dictated by the state.
The free citizen in a just society is only concerned with his own employment, and does not inquire about his neighbor’s salary. But the unjust society is threatened by the unrestricted exchange of labor for dollars, and thus imposes wage and hour laws, such as the infamous New York statute justly struck down in Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905).
In a just society, citizens are free to buy goods and services subject to contracts that limit their remedies, in exchange for a lower price. But the unjust society is threatened by free citizens negotiating the terms of their contracts. So, the unjust society artificially inflates the cost of goods and services through so-called consumer protection laws that limit citizens’ liberty of contract.
In a just society, those who work hard and produce wealth are not taxed to support those who refuse to work. A free citizen is not concerned with whether another free citizen chooses to support a third citizen who will not work.
But the unjust society is threatened by free citizens deciding for themselves whom they wish to support. So, the unjust society encourages sloth and discourages work by taxing the citizens who produce wealth in order to subsidize those who only consume it.
In a just society, free citizens vote for and support political candidates of their own choosing. The just citizen is not threatened by the campaigns of his opponents; the just citizen has faith that his opinions are righteous and that other citizens will agree with him if exposed to those opinions.
But the unjust society is threatened by citizens who seek to limit the power of the state. So, the unjust society uses taxes to finance political campaigns and places limits on citizens’ ability to financially support candidates who seek to limit state power.
Dr. King was correct. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. But the historical record is clear that injustice is far more threatened by the mere existence of justice.