The Instigator
Con (against)
The Contender
Pro (for)

Civil Disobedience in a Democracy is Morally Justified

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/2/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 2 weeks ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 151 times Debate No: 95824
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
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I am a novice in Lincoln Douglas debate, and want some practice. Experienced and Novice debaters are free to accept this challenge.

I negate. Resolved: Civil Disobedience in a Democracy is Morally Justified.
I offer the following definitions for today's round.
Civil Disobedience is defined by Merriam Webster as refusal to obey laws as a way of forcing the government to do or change something

The value is MORALITY. The resolution fundamentally asks us to weigh the moral reasons in favor of civil disobedience against the moral reasons counseling against it. Therefore morality is the end-goal of the resolution. It is important to note here that given the definition of morally justified, the resolution is comparative. In other words, simply providing one example or set of examples where civil disobedience would be justified is not sufficient to affirm the resolution. Rather, both sides have a burden to prove their position as a general rule.

The standard is RIGHTS PROTECTION. People come together to form democracies in order to ensure that their rights are protected. Democracies are only acting morally, then, when rights are protected. All impacts must link back to citizens" rights.

Contention one: civil disobedience undermines the democratic process. As members of a democracy, citizens have say in the creation of the laws, thus they consent to them. For civil disobedience to destroy those laws is unjust,
Carl Cohen explains
"Every citizen of a lawful government, then, has a most important duty to obey its laws. That is true whatever the form of government " Where each citizen has a proportionate voice in the making and the framing of laws (either directly or through representatives), his acceptance of this role as partial legislator commits him yet more strongly to abide the laws of that body."

Cohen explains clearly how citizens" voices are what shape a just government. To allow minorities to un-proportionately voice their ideas by side stepping laws destroys the democratic system.

This articulates the key problem with civil disobedience. Every law may look just or unjust to different perspectives however civil disobedience would allow any person to act against any law they didn"t like, regardless of majority consent or legal means. This opens the society as a whole up for anarchy as laws become devoid of meaning and laws are broken meaninglessly.

Contention two: civil disobedience can support legitimate and illegitimate causes. The action "civil disobedience" has no inherent moral quality because it can yield both good and bad results. Similarly "driving" can be both just and unjust, on one hand you can drive someone to the hospital and on the other hand you can hit the person with your car so they have to go to the hospital. Thus, while there may be legitimate outcomes of civil disobedience we must also look at what else it would justify. It would justify any citizen acting out against any law they felt needed change. The inherent repercussions could involve murder, riots, terrorism and more. Because civil disobedience always violates the rights of citizens who have come together to agree upon laws, it always harms rights. However, civil disobedience does not necessarily guarantee rights as it is often just a tool for people to circumvent the democratic process. Indeed, civil disobedience hinders rather than helps the fight for justice. Leon Jaworski in the Morality and the Law, 1988, p. 87 elaborates

One of the most appalling and frightening of the trends in recent years is the self-serving practice of choosing which laws or court orders to obey and which to defy. The preachments that generate this attitude are cancerously dangerous to our system of government under law. To rest upon or hide behind the claim that if one"s conscience speaks to the contrary, justification exists for ignoring laws or decrees are but to say that the rule of law is not to be the governing yardstick of our society"s conduct. It is dangerous to allow people to choose the laws they obey and there is no way to judge whether or not that law is unjust.

Contention three: there are more legitimate avenues than civil disobedience. Susan Tiefenbrun explains

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees us the right to dissent, to protest, to assemble peaceably, to criticize a law or government, and to oppose a law. The more difficult question is how one may permissibly dissent if a person's first legal and moral imperative is to obey the law. Using means of opposition and dissent that are permissible under the U.S. system of law will not subject a dissenter to punishment by the state. The right to dissent may be exercised by the use of written and spoken words, by acts or conduct such as picketing, "peaceable" mass assembly, sit-ins and demonstrations, which are referred to as "symbolic speech." The basic means of permissible protest under the U.S. system is the right to vote, "the right to organize and to elect new officials to enact and administer the law."

Thus, because Civil disobedience can support clearly unjust things, because there are alternatives that legally and legitimately achieve the desired ends, and because Civil disobedience twists and destroys the democratic process, I urge a negative ballot.


The people have the right to replace or revise any government which to preserve their liberties. Thomas Jefferson said in the Declaration of independence:
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants."-Thomas Jefferson
Debate Round No. 1


Look at my contention three, Susan TIefenburn explains how there are other legal ways in which we can turn to when the government goes out of hand. I think my opponent has misinterpreted what Thomas Jefferson is saying, and that is that people have the right to dissent, to picket, to mass assembly, to use social media, etc., and considering how my opponent ignores this, you can refute my opponent's argument, and if anything this is just a turn of the affirmative argument.


I think it is less that I have misinterpreted Thomas Jeffersons quote so much as my opponent has misinterpreted my quote, Civil Disobedience is defined as:
"the refusal to comply with certain laws or to pay taxes and fines, as a peaceful form of political protest."
So clearly I am not defending a violent revolt, though in some extreme cases this becomes necessary, I am saying that if the goveronment ceases preserving our liberties we should be able to refuse obedience to them.
Debate Round No. 2


My opponent ignores my legal alternative argument, meaning that my opponent concedes that Civil Disobedience is not always needed, so we will use this argument to weigh the round. It is also illegal for my opponent to bring up new arguments against old arguments, so you as the judge will have to drop any arguments my opponent brings up about Civil Disobedience being the only means for people's protest or any arguments on my legal alternatives counterplan.
Now, onto my opponent's only piece of offense in the round, where he says Civil Disobedience is non-violent. Sure, Civil Disobedience might be non-violent, but it's the fact that Civil Disobedience leads to anarchy and violence. There will always be opposing views, so with Civil Disobedience you will always have opposing views. We should go with the legal system because Civil Disobedience undermines the democratic process. By voting negative, you are still providing alternate alternatives that do not break the law to help the minorities, while still meeting the majority's needs, while in the pro world, you allow for people to deliberately break the law. Thus, I negate.
This round has not been posted yet.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by BackCommander 2 weeks ago
"The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees us the right to dissent, to protest, to assemble peaceably, to criticize a law or government, and to oppose a law."

You use the word guarantee like it's magic. If the government decides to send armed police forces to disassemble a peaceful protest with force, the constitution doesn't prevent them from doing so. Your argument only stands if peaceful protests are effective, which is kind of statistically wrong.
Posted by RonPaulConservative 2 weeks ago
just a starting argument
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