To the Editor:
Justice is an amorphous concept. There are as many visions of justice as there are people.
Every single one of us has a sense of justice that serves our own particular purpose.
What happens to us that pleases us, is justice. What happens to us that is contrary to our self-interest, or that displeases us, is injustice.
We tend to think that justice is served when the other guy gets what we think he deserves.
Yet, if we happened to be that other guy, we would cry against the gross injustice of it. Therefore, since no two individuals are exactly alike, justice cannot exist beyond a single individual. It cannot be shared.
It is fiercely individual, and so, pure justice in the collective sense, is purely unattainable.
Each of us, constantly, by virtue of the things we do, say, or believe, makes an infinitely small contribution to the greater pool of knowledge.
We must continually organize that knowledge for it to become useful to us.
It is a given that all individuals have an inviolable
right, a natural right, to defend, by force if necessary, their life, their freedom, and their possessions.
If this is true, then it is also true that individuals have the right to organize and support a common force, the Law, to protect these rights. Thus the principle of collective right is based on individual right.
Since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the natural right of others, then the common force, the Law, for the same reason, cannot lawfully be used to destroy the natural right of individuals or groups.
If this is true, then the Law is the natural right of lawful defense. It is the common force in place of the individual force.
This common force, the law, can do no more than the individual force, that is, to protect life, freedom, and property, and to cause Justice to reign. Law is organized justice.
The Law, while not benefiting all of its subjects, and therefore not representing justice to all, is, nevertheless, the imperfect gravity that holds us together.
In the absence of universal justice, the Law is an ugly second cousin which lives in the constant hope of new and improved cosmetics.
Justice, by definition, has to do with merited reward and punishment; with rectitude as we, collectively, have defined it.
The Law, imperfect as it is, is as close to collective justice as we can come.
Ugly or not, the Law, under the influence of liberty safety, stability, and responsibility, things that work for us, provides us with the possibility, albeit slow and torturous, of human progress.
But the Law does not confine itself to its proper function. Imagine the regulation of labor, imposed by the force of law (compulsory unionism, the draft), that is not a violation of freedom.
Imagine the transfer of wealth, imposed by the force of law (taxation), that is not a violation of property. The law, therefore, cannot organize labor and industry without organizing injustice.
The Law, in the hands of a trial attorney has little to do with justice. Law is organized justice.
“For truly, how can we imagine force being used against the freedom of citizens without it also being used against justice, and thus acting against its proper purpose?”
These two uses of the law are in direct contradiction with each other, but, as I said, justice is an amorphous concept that lives more in our hopeful imagination, than in fact.
Erol A. Stone