Good People Disobey Bad Laws
Round one: acceptance/brief opening statement.
Remaining rounds are debate.
Good people have the right to disobey bad laws. A bad law is any manmade legislation that infringes upon an individual's natural rights.
As the position of Con I will aim to refute my opponent's arguments and put forward the idea that good people do not have the right to disobey bad laws.
I assume there is a burden of proof on Pro but I am not certain as I am quite new. I also leave definitions of "good", "right", "bad" and "natural rights" to Pro and hopefully this will not turn into a battle of semantics.
The ball is in your court.
I'd like to thank my opponent for accepting the debate. I hope we can both learn from each other through the process of intellectual ping-pong that is "debate."
Man made legislation that infringes upon natural rights is very common in the world today. We see non violent individuals fined and/or locked up for owning bits of vegetation, for owning a pistol magazine with one-too-many rounds, for selling raw milk to a neighbor, and for feeding the homeless in Florida's parks. In the past, we have seen individuals fined and/or locked up for helping Southern U.S. slaves reach relative freedom in the North, German citizens exterminated for smuggling victims of the Nazi regime away from certain death, we've seen Socrates executed for enlightening the youth about philosophy. None of these things are justifiable. Those that disobeyed such horrid laws certainly had the right to do so. Even now, we're watching government whistle-blowers rightfully expose wrongs within government activities and be wrongly attacked for doing so.
In essence, one has the natural right to engage in any activity of their choosing, so long as it does not infringe upon another individual's natural rights in the process. To deny this is to say that it is acceptable to use force to make others comply with one's personal beliefs, even if the individual has never threatened or harmed another.
I would first like to thank my opponent for bringing up an intriguing topic to debate.
I will now proceed to point out flaws in my opponent's argument before presenting my point of view on the issue as Con.
"We see non-violent individuals fined and/or locked up for owning bits of vegetation"
Firstly, Pro has not sourced any of his arguments but simply makes generalised remarks which have no evidence. Furthermore, how would one know whether an individual was inherently "violent" or not? Just because they are locked up "for owning bits of vegetation" does not necessarily mean they aren't violent."
"for owning a pistol magazine with one-too-many- rounds. for selling raw milk to a neighbor, and for feeding the homeless in Florida's parks" etc. etc.
I continue to strongly urge my opponent to correctly source his arguments in order to substantiate his claims and so that I may argue in regards to the actual legislation my opponent is criticising rather than generalised claims.
However, the context is simply a small issue and for the rest of the debate I will aim to challenge my opponent's "Basic Philosophy" and try to convince both you and my opponent that it is not justifiable or right to disobey "bad laws".
"In essence, one has the natural right to engage in any activity of their choosing, so long as it does not infringe upon another individual's natural rights in the process."
As "natural rights" have not been defined up to this point, I will use the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the basis for this debate. This may be challenged/discussed by my opponent if they so wish. However, many actions do not necessarily infringe on another's natural rights directly, but rather, indirectly. For example, in the raw milk case that my opponent has pointed out, the prohibition of distribution of raw milk is to ensure the security of person. Every person not only has the right to liberty, but also the right to security, and allowing raw milk to be sold clearly threatens such security. I will draw on this example later on.
"Even if the individual has never threatened or harmed another."
Threats and harms, again, may not necessarily be direct but could in fact be indirect. Furthermore, just because a person hasn't harmed a person yet by breaking a law, does not mean there will not be consequences later on. By prohibiting certain activities, the government seeks to significantly reduce the risk of this happening.
My argument will be structured into four different sections in order to clearly show why "Good people should not have the right to disobey bad laws."
1. Why have laws?
2. Laws are a reflection of society
3. Different perceptions of "good" and "bad"
4. Alternate solutions
Why have laws?
Laws, and indeed, the legal system as a whole, acts as a measuring stick for the rest of society. They are in place to ensure stability and peace within a society. In order to answer the question, "Why have laws?" one simply needs to consider a place without laws at all. People would be able to do anything they want, most likely resulting in widespread chaos, anarchy and disorder. Laws let people know what they should and shouldn't do, for the greater good of society. This is an important point.
Laws are a reflection of society
Laws were made in order to reflect the values and attitudes of society. As society is continually changing, so too is the legal system. If one were to look back a few centuries, the practice of witchburning was actually recognised by the legal system. Luckily, attitudes and values in society have greatly changed since then. Therefore, the laws that are in place today are also constantly changing, trying to keep up with the pace of society. It is irrelevant to examine past examples of unjust laws as values were a lot different back then than they are now. While those laws may seem horrid now, they may have been seen as perfectly acceptable by society at the time. It would be like me saying rape should be legalised and going on to going against the law because I deem it to be a restriction of my personal freedom, as well as believing that sex itself is not something sacred but simply an act of pleasure.
Different perceptions of "good" and "bad"
As my opponent sufficiently demonstrated in his Context section, not everyone can discern what is right and wrong. In fact, the ideas of right and wrong are themselves social constructs, reflections of attitudes and values as previously discussed. Pro did not recognise the dangers of raw milk, so if he "Disobeyed this Bad Law", he could have seriously threatened someone's health and wellbeing, all the while thinking that he has the "right" to sell the milk. That is what laws are for. They are not made out of a whim but rather go through a complex procedure in order to be formed. There are also agencies for law reform which push for reformation of bad, or outdated laws. Thus the law acts as the definition of what should and should not be done, as individuals may not have the ability to discern the consequences of certain activities, as already demonstrated by Pro. If one were to disobey laws based simply on their logic and morality, then this may lead to innocent people's security and wellbeing being threatened. Good people do not necessarily have to disobey bad laws in order to put forward their perspective on existing legislation, which leads me to my next point;
People do not have to necessarily disobey or break bad laws, but rather participate in discussion with the various mediums that necessitate change in law. Further actions they could take include peaceful protesting and writing letters to council, rather than breaking the law itself. Over time these laws will change to reflect the different attitudes in society, and by simply breaking said laws, individuals actually slow down the process, as well as the fact that simply breaking bad laws may put you behind bars or face other consequences. Why not participate in protests that actually abide with the law? Furthermore, protests and active discussion may actually put law reform into action a lot faster and efficiently than simply breaking the law.
Examples from the U.S.
Couple fined for holding bible studies in their own home. (1)
Kid's lemonades stands shut down across the country. (2)
Louisiana church given Cease and Desist order for handing out free waters. (3)
Incarceration for collecting rainwater on one's own property. (4 + 5)
Police raid raw-milk-selling shops with guns drawn. (6 + 7)
In the United States it is illegal to sell natural cures for cancer – even if they work. (8-11)
Feeding the homeless made illegal across the U.S. (12)
"In Philadelphia, local religious groups are feeding the homeless even though the city has banned this practice except in confined locations. Homeless advocates say the city wants the homeless run out of tourist areas. While a judge tries to figure it all out, poverty experts say it’s just part of a trend to crack down on panhandling, sleeping in public places and other facets of homelessness.
"The tension in Philadelphia began when the mayor announced a ban on the outdoor feeding of the homeless. According to press reports, Michael Nutter has numerous reasons for the ban: he wanted to prevent food-borne illness; he wanted to protect city parklands from damage; and he said he wanted to help charitable agencies reach the homeless more easily. He argued that if religious and other groups could only provide food indoors, homeless folks could also get physical and mental health treatment in the same place they got food.
"But four charities sued to city to block implementation of the ban. They accuse the mayor of wanting to clear homeless people out of Benjamin Franklin Parkway, home to tourist attractions like the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rodin Museum and the newly relocated Barnes Museum with its crowd-pleasing works of art. The leader of Chosen 300 Ministries, Pastor Brian Jenkins, told NBC10 News in Philadelphia that he has a calling to feed the homeless. A judge blocked enforcement of the ban for 120 days, but when that block was lifted on July 14, Pastor Jenkins was back ladling out the soup on public streets, threatening to defy the law if it is enacted."http://www.nonprofitquarterly.org..., Mary Jo Draper, Feeding Homeless People Illegal? We’ll Break the Law or Change It, Advocates Say
"Last year the city council of Houston, Texas, passed a law making it illegal to feed the homeless within the city without the permission of property owners.
"Yes, in the land of six-guns, cattle rustling and Enron, handing a sandwich to a homeless person in a city park or serving a bowl of soup in a rented storefront can earn you a $500 fine. Some charitable organizations, financially unable to risk the fines, have relocated outside the city.
"Last week, Houston police ticketed a homeless man for trying to feed himself by fishing a donut from a trash bin in a public park.
"James Kelly, a nine-year Navy veteran, was issued a citation for violating a peculiar law on the books since 1942, and amended as recently as 2002, that makes it illegal to “remove any contents of any bin, bag or other container that has been placed for collection of garbage, trash or recyclable materials.”http://www.dailykos.com... Richard Riss, In Houston It's Illegal to Feed the Homeless and for the Homeless to Feed Themselves
I respectfully request my opponent to enlighten both the audience and myself as to why this legislation is acceptable, and as to why individuals have no right to disobey such moronic, unethical decrees.
The Security Fallacy
And since we're on Raw Milk anyhow...
"For example, in the raw milk case that my opponent has pointed out, the prohibition of distribution of raw milk is to ensure the security of person. Every person not only has the right to liberty, but also the right to security, and allowing raw milk to be sold clearly threatens such security."
Logic dictates that, if we were to treat raw milk this way (which has been widely consumed for centuries,) we must also treat tobacco, sodapop, caffeine, toothpicks, swimming pools, firearms, anything and everything pointy or heavy -- really anything consisting of matter in the same fashion. If only for the individual's safety.
"Threats and harms, again, may not necessarily be direct but could in fact be indirect. Furthermore, just because a person hasn't harmed a person yet by breaking a law, does not mean there will not be consequences later on. By prohibiting certain activities, the government seeks to significantly reduce the risk of this happening."
"In the U.S., the FDA estimates that there is one case of listeriosis linked to raw-milk cheese for every 55 million servings eaten." -James Andrews, Food Safety News
Raw milk has health risks. So does pasteurized milk. So does water. And... anything and everything on the planet, in the solar system, in all of the known universe. I'll refrain on citing a source for this obvious observation. Quite apparently, raw milk is no more detrimental to the individual than cigarettes or alcohol.
If individuals are not free to make stupid decisions (raw milk is certainly not one,) are they free at all?
Enough of the Examples, on to Philosophy
"Laws were made in order to reflect the values and attitudes of society. As society is continually changing, so too is the legal system. If one were to look back a few centuries, the practice of witchburning was actually recognised by the legal system."
Exactly. Those who resisted those laws had no right to do so?
"While those laws may seem horrid now, they may have been seen as perfectly acceptable by society at the time."
Exactly! Exactly, exactly, exactly!
"Pro did not recognise the dangers of raw milk, so if he 'Disobeyed this Bad Law,' he could have seriously threatened someone's health and wellbeing, all the while thinking that he has the 'right' to sell the milk."
But I do have the right to sell raw milk. A voluntary exchange of a service/product for another product, service, or currency does not violate any individual's rights, whether it be alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, a coffee mug, or sex. What one does not have the right to do is use force and/or threats of force in order to stop such a voluntary, peaceful exchange.
Voluntary, my dear Watson. Voluntary.
7. http://www.naturalnews.com... <-- Timeline of raids.
11. http://www.amazon.com... <-- Good read.
serenadeofsadness forfeited this round.
As my conclusion, I'll simply post an excerpt from Wikipedia that could give readers an idea of where to start researching this topic further.
"A victimless crime is a term used to refer to actions that have been ruled illegal but do not directly violate or threaten the rights of any other individual. It often involves consensual acts in which two or more persons agree to commit a criminal offence in which no other person is involved. For example, in the United States current victimless crimes include prostitution, gambling, and illicit drug use. Edwin Schur and Hugo Bedau state in their book Victimless Crimes: Two sides of a Controversy “some of these laws produce secondary crime, and all create new ‘criminals’ many of whom are otherwise law abiding citizens and people in authority.” This is an issue in the United States where prison rates keep increasing even though it already has the highest prison population out of any country. The term "victimless crime" is not used in jurisprudence, but is rather used to cast doubt onto the efficacy of past, existing and proposed legislation; or to highlight the unintended consequences of the same. In politics, for example, a lobbyist might use this word with the implication that the law in question should be abolished."
Not only does one have the right to commit victimless "crimes," (an oxymoron,) one also has the right to violently resist force used by others -- including agents of the government -- if it infringes upon their natural rights.
To close, here is the Free Man's Creed...
Learn more about Voluntaryism:
serenadeofsadness forfeited this round.