The Instigator
djexcelsior
Con (against)
Winning
14 Points
The Contender
symphonyofdissent
Pro (for)
Losing
13 Points

In a democracy, civil disobedience is an appropriate weapon in the fight for justice.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 5 votes the winner is...
djexcelsior
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/9/2008 Category: Society
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 13,957 times Debate No: 5927
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (12)
Votes (5)

 

djexcelsior

Con

"One cannot expect a regime to last if any citizen can at any time decide to defy its laws whenever his conscience moves him to do so." (Reeb, Richard, May 19, 2006, Con 19)

For this and many other reasons, I stand in firm negation of this resolution: "In a democracy, civil disobedience is an appropriate weapon in the fight for justice."
I present the following 4 points:

I.Civil Disobedience erodes democracy
II.There are Better Alternatives
III.It Leads to violence and takes away others' rights
IV.It can promote bad causes

I offer the following definitions:
DEMOCRACY: That form of government in which the sovereign power resides in and is exercised by the whole body of free citizens directly or indirectly through a system of representation. ( Black's Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition.)

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE: A group's refusal to obey a law because they believe the law is immoral. Wordnet.princeton.edu
The act must be illegal, "predominately nonviolent," intended to rouse the notice of the community to the illegal action and for which those engaged are willing to accept punishment. (Gonzaga Law Review, 1997/98, XXpg. 19)

APPROPRIATE: Consistent with prevailing or accepted standards or circumstances. (Houghton Mifflin company)

JUSTICE: The quality of being just; fairness.
American Heritage Dictionary

MINORITY: The state of being a legal minor.

I.CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE ERODES DEMOCRACY AND JUSTICE IN A SOCIETY.
"The idea of the "social contract" teaches that by living under a state we accept the benefits it brings us (for example protection, health care, education, etc.) and by accepting these benefits we consent to its laws. If individuals placed their own values, whatever they are based upon, over the collective laws of the state, the state would dissolve and none of its benefits would be available to any of us." (Mott, Richard, June 6, 2006, "Civil Disobedience," International Debate Education Association. Carver pg. 33.)

Just imagine for a moment a society where each individual decides which laws they should obey and which they should ignore. Your neighbor can decide it's unjust for you to have more money than him, so he breaks in your house and takes your money. Without law, this situation would occur constantly. Each individual would be out for himself or herself! You would have to be constantly vigilant about protecting your belongings and your loved ones, because without law, why not take whatever you want? Why not kill anyone who stands in your way? There are no consequences! This is anarchy, which is the "Absence of any form of political authority." (dictionary.com)

Winning a change in the law is worthless, if obtaining it has destroyed the ability of the state, its police and its courts to uphold any law, just or unjust." (Mott, Richard, June 6, 2006. Carver pg. 24)

II.THERE ARE BETTER ALTERNATIVES THAN CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE TO GET YOUR VOICE HEARD.
There are legal means by which everyone can create change in a democracy, these legal methods allow the minority to be heard without having to break the laws that we have set for ourselves. Through the years, our courts have made decisions which have changed unjust laws. "Our legislatures have regularly met the changing times and changing needs of the society with consideration for the unalienable rights of all. Even the Federal and state constitutions have been amended. Our law has not only been a guardian of freedom, but the affirmative agent for freedom." (Leibman, 2007, Carver, pg. 33)
What are some other ways to get your voice heard? Here are five alternatives to Civil Disobedience:
1.The Media: Without the media's influence, civil disobedience would make no changes at all. So why not go straight to the media? If Rosa Parks had refused to move on the bus and no media covered the story, would change have happened? No. And there are many forms of media to get your point across. Send e-mails out and encourage them to be sent on to others. Videotape your issue and put it on You Tube. Start your own blog. Send letters to the editor. These are all effective ways to make change without threatening a democracy, as a whole.
2.Get a permit to have a parade, a rally or a demonstration.
3.Get a petition drive going! Send in the results to the media and to your legislator!
4.Everyone gets a voice when they vote for their representatives!
5.Sue the offending party and make a change within the courts.

Civil Disobedience is an inappropriate and completely unnecessary weapon in a democracy. Why break the laws we made for ourselves, when so many other options are available in our society?
Mott in 2006, "Most democracies also allow appeal to the courts against laws which are obviously unjust. If the law can be shown to be in conflict with the country's constitution or charter of rights, then courts can usually overturn it. People who are unhappy with such a law should take their struggle to the courts, rather than taking to the streets and undermining the rule of law itself.
"Even if a particular cause is just, those promoting it should not break the law. By doing so they set an example of illegality and contempt for law and order which others, with less worthy causes or no cause at all, will follow. Winning a change in the law is worthless, if obtaining it has destroyed the ability of the state, its police and its courts to uphold any law, just or unjust." (Mott, Richard, June 6, 2006. Carver pg. 24)

III.CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE CAN HURT OTHERS' SENSE OF JUSTICE.

"Just as massive non-violent civil disobedience has been used to shutdown or suspend governmental or corporate operations, massive non-violent email assaults will shutdown government or corporate computer servers. . .There are already examples now in existence of the theory and the practice of electronic civil disobedience. .. (Wray, Stefan, 1998, Carver pg. 34)
With Civil Disobedience, many people, including you, could be hurt. To vote pro, you would be saying all forms of civil disobedience promote justice, when, in fact, they do the opposite and hurt many citizens in a democracy.
Many forms of Civil Disobedience can be very offensive, for example, a group of people sitting in on someone else's property. What if the people sitting in on this person's property are hurting his business. Isn't Civil Disobedience harming their sense justice?

IV.CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE CAN BE USED TO PROMOTE BAD CAUSES AND THE RESULTS HURT OTHER CITIZENS AND DISRUPT THEIR JUSTICE

*Who says that Civil Disobedience is only used for purposes that promote basic rights? What one person says is a right that they have, another may say that it is immoral and wrong. (Quinn in 2007, Carver pg. 23)

White supremacists could use Civil Disobedience to protest that they think slavery should be reinstated, Child pornographers could protest with graphic signs that child pornography should be legal. While these are despicable causes to most people, they are actual causes some people believe in and feel are morally right for them. Who can judge when it's okay to break the law? It's a slippery slope.

Because it erodes a democracy and especially because there are alternative, legal methods to protest an injustice, I hope you will agree with us that Civil Disobedience IS NOT an appropriate weapon in the fight for justice. Please vote Con.
symphonyofdissent

Pro

First of all, I want to begin by setting up my standard of proof. I do not have to show that in every instance civil disobedience or the violations of laws are morally justified, merely that in democratic societies some scenarios can reasonably emerge where Civil Disobedience is a necessary tool to point out injustice and move individuals to action.

1) Democracy is a system of government in which majority will can at times adversely and even systematically limit the rights of minorities. Voting rights or abilities to be part of the system of control is within this realm

Protection of the minority or even the majorities perception of an injustice against a minority are not inherent in democracy not even a constitutional one. A large majority can make amendments to the constitution to explicitly deny a target group its basic rights to do things such as voting. In fact, in American history this has happened quite frequently and without just recompensation or righting of wrongs. I will give a brief overview of those groups historically or currently unable to vote or participate in the democratic system.

For the better part of the later 19th century and even into the 21st anyone who believed or practiced polygamy or (until 189) was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints (Mormons) was denied the total right to vote. Literacy tests were a common thread throughout the 21st century. We all know the sordid history of denying blacks and women the right to vote. Those living in Washington D.C pay taxes and are citizens and yet for most of our history have not had any real vote on matters of congress affecting their lives. Those under the age of 18 are not able to have any voice or vote. Felons are often not reinstated in their ability to vote. Non citizens living in the country legally and subjected to the nations rules are given no voting recourse for the laws that shape their lives.

We can develop countless threads and examples from the United States alone in which we can see individual groups do not have a say in developing the laws to which they are later bound. The con therefore makes a major fallicious assumption when he suggests that everyone has a legislative recourse in our system.

Moreover,
2) On a practical level our system often means that injustice perpetuates unless dramatic attention is brought to issues

Because we have a two party democratic system in the United States, social issues that are unpopular to touch or controversial can often be pushed under the carpet or stifled with a gag rule. Note the 50+ year consensus (1789-1845) on ignoring the issue of slavery in congress, or the utter lack of civil rights oversight for nearly a century. We elect leaders from a two party selection and therefore as voters have little to no control over the process. Moreover, most of our legislatures are bought and controlled by interests that often do not want causes of injustice to be brought
to light.

1+2 Summary and extension= There are individuals in society and issues in society that do not have legislative recourse or avenues of change. This can be systemic or accidentally built into a two party system, but the result of this is that many times individuals need other avenues of recourse.

3) Civil Disobedience is philosophically just and works only when used for just causes

Civil disobedience is not the utter negation of the legal system as side con suggests. Instead, with Civil Disobedience a group or an individual is intentionally bearing the consequence of a violation of the law in order to show that such a law is in their eyes injust. These individuals are not therefore in any way eroding the notion of Justice or the legitimacy of the system of laws. They are accepting all punishments associated with their violation of a law but deciding that the moral cost to their own sense of self by obeying the law outweighs the cost of breaking a law. It is important to note that this is the same calculus we all make whenever we consciously break any law. We know what the consequences of violation are, and weigh those consequences with our reasons to break the law. We are all making a decision every moment of the day which law we should honor or ignore. Having a large group of people breaking the law for a social purpose is thus not more erosive to the legitimacy of the system than violations of the law for any reason. A contingency which or legal system is expressly in place to deal with.

Thus, unlike what con suggests we are unlikely to have massive Disobedience movements formed over truly trivial causes because most individuals value the notion of being kept out of jail and therefore will not accept jail time unless there is a widespread belief that their actions have some ultimate impact and actually push forward their cause. It is only in the limited cases where massive arrests actually either muck up a system ( in the case of the draft) or bring broad sympathy to a movement ( Civil-rights) where broad based campaigns of Disobedience actually have a chance of being sustained. Civil Disobedience can only be utilized and maintained thus when both those inside the movement feel their jail time and punishment is a worthwhile sacrifice and when this impact can be imparted on other.

I want to spend the bulk of the rest of my argument responding to most substantive point on the cons argument. The idea that other avenues exist rather than Civil Disobedience. It is here that I think side con really destroys its own position irrevocably.

Lets look at the means that are suggested.

1) Legislation ( Summary of points 3 and 4 on cons list)- I have already shown why many individuals with a legitimate interest in the laws that effect them can not actually impact their legislature. Many have no vote. Moreover, many issues are never going to gain legislative traction in the normal course of events no matter how strong the moral cause.

2) Litigation- Here comes the big fault line in pros arguments. Can anyone with a brief knowledge of American constitutional law tell me what is necessary for a legal case to change constitutional precedent? That's right, you actually need someone to be arrested in violation of a law or to have some claim to actual direct harms the law inflicted. Suing the offending party as Con suggests does nothing to make a change within the court, in fact in America breaking the law is generally what is required. That is why so many of the civil rights related protests ended up as court cases. Plessy V. Fergeson the dubious case that set the precedent of seperate but equal was the case of an individual who practiced civil disobedience and voluntarily broke the laws of segregation to bring forth a test case. Civil disobedience is a neccesary compliment to legal action in most modern democratic systems including our own.

3) Get out on the streets- Here's the other obvious flaw in cons alternatives. arguments. Throughout American and other country history, groups have been explicitly denied their ability to express their free speech or to get their ideas out. In germany it is illegal to speak out with pro-neo nazi ideas for instance. If individuals in these groups are not allowed to get out and speak but do anyways...guess what they have committed. That's right, Civil Disobedience. Thus, the avenue of parades rallys or demonstrations are often tools of civil disobedience rather than alternatives.

4) Media- The problem here is that the media is often in the pocket of the same interests that keep news stories down. The only thing that can often crack the facade of our mainstream media is something large scale and unprecedented. Widespread arrests can do that while routine rallys of even hundreds of thousands of people get scant attention. Rosa Parks arrest and other disobedient actions make stories no media can deny coverage.

The bottom line is that the other avenues that side con suggests
Debate Round No. 1
djexcelsior

Con

To set a roadmap for this for this round, I will first attack the PRO's points and defend my case through my rebuttals.

Pro 1) "Democracy is a system of government in which majority will can at times adversely and even systematically limit the rights of minorities. Voting rights or abilities to be part of the system of control is within this realm"

In this point, my opponent chooses to use examples from the United States. While I agree that this should not be purely a hypothetical debate, the examples that my opponent uses to support his first contention directly contradict the principles of democracy and cannot be looked to. For example, in the case of the civil rights movement, civil disobedience was indeed a powerful tool in the fight for justice, however, these people did not have the right to vote. As I have clearly defined in my first contention a democracy is a

"form of government in which the sovereign power resides in and is exercised by the whole body of free citizens directly or indirectly through a system of representation. ( Black's Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition.)"

"exercised by the WHOLE BODY of FREE citizens" is the key statement in my definition. Because all of my opponents examples involve a group of people who didn't have the right to vote and for their voice to be heard, this point cannot be looked to.

Now to clarify, I will accept arguments from the United States, and from other real world democracies, but because these particular examples completely contradict the definition of democracy; they cannot be looked to.

PRO 2) "On a practical level our system often means that injustice perpetuates unless dramatic attention is brought to issues."

My opponent tries to argue that because we (the United States) elect leaders and representatives, that we have little control over the laws that are passed. There are two problems with this argument.
1.) This is the definition of republic according to dictionary.com
"a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them."
The system of electing representatives, like my opponent talks about is part of the republic side of the United States democratic-republic, since the resolution only mentions democracy, this point falls.
2.) Since we all have the right to vote at the grass-roots level, we consequentially hold all the power within our system.

Also, legislatures being bought out and being controlled by interests that don't coincide with the views of the majority of our country is not an inherent impact of democracy, but inherent of society itself.

PRO 3) "Civil Disobedience is philosophically just and works only when used for just causes"
(cross apply my first point) In a democracy, everyone has a voice, and for a democracy to exist there must be a social contract. Many of the most famous philosophers in our history (locke, Rusoe, Aristotle) have accepted and taught this philosophy.

"The idea of the ‘social contract' teaches that by living under a state we accept the benefits it brings us and by accepting these benefits we consent to its laws. If individuals placed their own values…over the collective laws of the state, the state would dissolve and none of its benefits would be available to any of us." (Mott, Richard, June 6, 2006, "Civil Disobedience," International Debate Education Association. Carver pg. 33.)

While my opponent argues that civil disobedience could never erode our democracy in the United State, any degree of Civil Disobedience is inappropriate when there are other legal alternatives that haven't been exhausted.

As Christopher Gray, author of "Civil Disobedience: Philosophy of Law", puts it. "Legal channels can never be ‘exhausted' Activists can always write another letter to their congressional delegation or to newspapers; they can always wait for another election and cast another vote."

(Cross apply my third and fourth point)
My opponent argues that because people are willing to accept the consequences of breaking the law, they are justified in their actions. Not only does this completely contradict the concept of the social contract, but think about the negative impact of this.
Since nobody can determine what is moral or immoral, civil disobedience being deemed "appropriate" would justify anyone with any cause to break the law in the fight for their cause. Just because someone is willing to accept the consequences for murdering someone, does not mean that they are justified in doing so, even if it is in a fight for what they believe is morally just. (I know that civil disobedience is non-violent, this is just a simple analogy that could be applied to any civil disobedience situation)

"Thus, unlike what con suggests we are unlikely to have massive Disobedience movements formed over truly trivial causes…"

This statement is un-topical, and generalized. We are not arguing how often, or when civil disobedience will occur, we are arguing whether or not is "appropriate in the fight for justice", which I have proven it is not.

CON 2 (see pro's rebuttal)

"1) Legislation ( Summary of points 3 and 4 on cons list)"
Just like in my arguments against the pro's first point, under my definition of democracy, for a democracy to exist, all citizens must have the right to vote. When they do not, it is no longer a democracy.

"2) Litigation"
My opponent makes it sound as though the law must be broken for the overturning of a law to occur. This is simply not true. If it were then there would be no way for proposition 8 to exist. Courts overturn laws all the time. Civil Disobedience creates no change by itself; it always has to go through our legal system. So why not go straight to court, where the actual change is made.

"3) Get out on the streets"
While I can certainly see the incentive for Germany to suppress neo-nazi ideas from reaching the public, it is very un-democractic of Germany to restrict the voice of its citizens. This is a poor example because, once again, when the voice of the people is restricted, and the principles of democracy are violated.

"4) Media"
My opponent sets a double standard for his argument. He says that the media has the power to suppress coverage of large legal protests and stories, but they do not have the power to suppress coverage of acts of civil disobedience. This is false for several reasons:
1.) Large legal protests are as likely, if not more likely, to gain media coverage than acts of civil disobedience. My opponent argues that it is easier for the media to brush legal acts under the rug, and though I believe Rosa Parks to be one of the most influential women in the civil rights movement, her story wasn't the only one to gain coverage. The bus boycott, which was completely legal, is what created the controversy that later led to court trials and change, Martin Luther Kings "I have a dream" speech, was completely legal, and sparked much of the change that our country needed. Plus it would have been much easier for blacks to gain equality if they had a voice, and since they didn't we can't look to this example, because this debate is specific to democracy. My opponent gives no reason or example that proves that it is easier for the media to suppress legal acts such as protests or speeches, than it is to suppress acts of social disobedience.
2.) Being neglected by the media is more likely due to an insignificant number of citizens in favor of your cause, rather than the media trying to keep you out of the national spotlight. Because the media is made up of a group of different parties and opinions, it is a generalization to assume that the media is completely biased for one side of the issues.

Because of the social contract, and because there are legal alternatives to civil disobedience that don't violate others sense of justice and that cannot be exhausted, vote CON
symphonyofdissent

Pro

First of all, my last sentence was cut off for some reason. It should have said " the avenues that side con suggest are inefficient or do not exist without civil disobedience actions."

First of all, lets look at the definition of democracy as this is obviously fundamental to the round. First of all, inherant to the definition used is the word "free people." Why is this relevant? If Democratic systems can exist with a sub class of slaves or individuals not granted any notion of citizenship, then they can also exist with varying degrees of laws regarding citizenship. Laws including or excluding who can or can not be part of the electorate can not by definition mean the corrosion of a democracy. By that logic, America was not a democracy before our more recent amendment allowing those of age 18-21 to vote or that because 18 is viewed as the voting age in most democratic countries they cease to be democracies. Blocking Felon voting is another example of a legitimate practice that is widely practiced The demos in a democracy has to have the ability to define for itself who is part of that voting block without ceasing to be a democracy. This is logical and totally inherent to the concept of democracy. This is why even your Black's dictionary definition includes the concept of free citizens. Moreover, the fact is that these things do happen in every democratic society we have ever known. Thus, these are real situations that citizens in a democracy face.

Moving on.

My opponent totally mishandles my second argument. Democratic systems often enter into an equilibrium of consent between parties in which true injustices are not touched. Note the consensus over slavery or civil rights in American history, or the mistreatment of any minority group in most democracies ( I could spent hours talking about the Bedouin in Israel for instance if you want me to). This is the key of my argument that is ignored. Voting on certain issues can do little to actually impact the status quo. Something dramatic often must be done to bring attention to certain issues.

Then, my opponent tries to sleazily contradict his own definition of democracy he spent so much time arguing about. His Black's definition of Democracy explicitly includes republican rule and this is obviously the only system that actually has any practical relevance. Moreover, my opponent constantly mentioned representatives in his initial argument.

The right to vote does not guarantee any semblance of power. Almost every country and model of democracy has a very limited ability for citizens to participate. Even if thats different, we still have to factor in that civil disobedience can have a dramatic affect on public opinion and if used properly galvanize people to fight an injustice they never knew existed before.

In response to my third point, my opponent does provide a substantive though flawed argument so that is at least appreciated. It is clear that he has used his victory briefs quotes effectively. The problem here, is that the notion of a social contract can not bind individuals to totally violate their own conscience. Even John Locke argued that disobedience or even revolutions against unjust regimes or laws was completely justified. To suggest that a social contract binds one to follow blindly any result of a democratic election is to undermine the notion of the individual in the system and the very notion of morality. Note, that side con does not deny that unjust laws can exist. He does not try to argue that any law that emerges in democracy is inherently just. He just says that other avenues are better. Yet, he gives no reason why other avenues such as law suits are any more legitimate within the mechanism of democracy.

I think my opponent does not understand my argument of individual choice of action very well. A democracy is a system in which individuals agree to abide by the authority of the masses or the representative of the masses in order to institute codes of justice and an overall system of consequences and punishments. There is nothing in the definition of democracy that implies that one cedes his or her ability to choose how to act. I am not saying that individuals are inherently justified in breaking laws, instead I am arguing that in some case as long as individuals are willing to accept the consequence of their actions, they are not acting counter the legitimacy of a democracy. We should as a society just overall whether an action is just or unjust based on its cause or result but not inherently label violations of the law as in and of themselves contra democracy.

My argument about the likelihood of unjust civil disobedience actions is actually quite relevant. My opponent spends a long while arguing that civil disobedience would lead to every cause and group being disobedient. I give lots of arguments as to why this is wrong. The purpose of civil disobedience is to galvanize public opinion. In and of itself, without doing so, Civil disobedience can only result in the arrest of the followers of a movement and its running out of steam. Thus, only righteous causes that actually can generate sympathy can utilize civil disobedience to any purposeful end. It is only when those who appear innocent victims of a system willingly allow themselves arrested in protest, that sympathy is generate. Malicious actions of disobedience only generate antipathy and resentment towards a movement. Thus, civil disobedience is a self propelling force only in the hands of rightful causes.

Civil disobedience has the purpose usually of galvanizing opinion by showing the injustice of a law. Last year, a law in Utah for instance banned waving a foreign flag without an American flag along with it. Once individuals broke this law, jurors quickly refused to punish because of the flagrant absurdity of the law and the law was dismissed. This law could have stayed on the books as do millions of anachronistic sexual laws or other random laws and could have prevented individual action had not conscious decisions been made to break and test the legal validity of the law. Thus, in most democratic societies, there has to be a legal action against an individual through some harm before standing can be held. Please note that this is in the light most favorable to my opponent in the sense that judicial avenues for overturning laws on constitutional or moral grounds even exist. In societies such as the UK, laws can not be overturned on any constitutional grounds, and in some societies such as France laws are only reviewed when initially passed and can no longer after that point be challenge on constitutional grounds. Even in the most litigious societies, a test case and the violation of laws is needed.

My opponent makes no claims to why in the definition of democracy he uses the expressive rights of some citizens will not be denied. Indeed, it is easy to see that majorities can inflict such laws on ideas they dislike. The bottom line here is that the act of getting out on the streets, protesting or voicing ones views can in and of itself often be an act of civil disobedience. I've given innumerable examples of good "democracies" doing so.

Sometimes, it is only when individuals show themselves willing to sacrifice their liberty and freedom for a cause, that public attention can shift to something. An arrest draws swift attention as it brings out the police force, entangles the justice system and places the matter in front of peer juries. It is a force that brings hidden stories to light and to question in ways that other avenues presented by con can not do. It is often necessary when groups can not be heard either systemically or for other reasons and must be supported and upheld as a vital tool in any conscientious democracy.
Debate Round No. 2
djexcelsior

Con

Before I start, just to clarify: New arguments, or evidence in my opponents final speech must not be looked to due to the fact that it would be abusive because the con does not get a chance to refute them.
Pro contentions:
PRO- Standard of Proof:
Cross apply my third and fourth contentions. Who is my opponent to determine what is moral or immoral? I provide this quote (which was included in my first round):
"Who says that Civil Disobedience is only used for purposes that promote basic rights? What one person says is a right that they have, another may say that it is immoral and wrong." (Quinn in 2007, Carver pg. 23)
If civil disobedience is deemed appropriate, then my opponent has to prove civil disobedience is appropriate in all instances.
PRO-1
Democratic systems cant "exist with a sub class of slaves or individuals not granted any notion of citizenship, then they can also exist with varying degrees of laws regarding citizenship." Just about everything my opponent stated in his contention against my definition sums up exactly what I'm trying to say. The difference is he is trying to find flaw within my definition. There are a couple things wrong with this:
1.He has at no point provided an opposing definition; therefore we have to look to mine.
2.Unless he can find a definition of democracy that says "democracy: the U.S. and German governments" this argument is invalid.
3.It is impossible for the flaw to be within the definition of democracy. The real problem is that because the United States and other so-called "democratic" countries have restricted the voice of their citizens, they aren't perfect democracies and do cease to be purely democratic, contrary to what my opponent has stated.
My opponents attempt was to catch me on a technicality. However, regardless of whether or not these "democratic" countries he talks about became less-democratic through the functions of democracy, by the definition, they are no longer acting democratically. It is clear that restricting the voice and vote of minorities and citizens completely contradicts the very definition and principles of democracy. It is possible for people within democracy to vote in a way that ultimately does cause the corrosion of democracy. Until my opponent can prove this is not possible (which I don't understand how you can) his point fails.
PRO-2)
My definition of democracy states:
"That form of government in which the sovereign power resides in and is exercised by the whole body of free citizens directly or indirectly through a system of representation. (Black's Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition.)"
"directly or indirectly through a system of representation." This statement proves my opponent wrong. Nowhere in my definition are representatives required, only a system of representation. This could mean any system where everyone is represented. My opponent's argument is that, in the United States, our "representatives" don't always represent the majority. His argument is self defeating because if these "representatives" truly aren't honoring and representing the voice of the majority, then in the United States we don't really have a "system of representation" like a democracy requires. Therefore, this point goes to the Con.
"Almost every country and model of democracy has a very limited ability for citizens to participate."
The word limited, means that the whole body of citizens aren't represented, which contradicts the very definition of democracy. Therefore you cannot look to this point.
PRO-3)
First of all, John Locke argued that without a social contract, democracy cannot exist. In a democracy individuals are not required to violate their own conscience. Part of the social contract is that the democracy gives the citizen a voice and rights in return for an agreement from the citizen to obey the laws of the land (which are ultimately created by the citizens). Like I have mentioned, there are viable legal alternatives to civil disobedience that my opponent can only argue against outside of the context of democracy. Every situation or example my opponent has brought to light has involved a restriction of the voice of the people within that so-called "democratic" system. Through the legal alternatives that the democracy provides people can legally make their voice heard and legally make a change if they can convert their minority into a majority. The burden of proof is on the pro to prove that civil disobedience is necessary; he has failed to do this.
Part of the criteria for civil disobedience is that it must be a last resort. My opponent has yet to offer an example when (within democratic circumstances) civil disobedience was a last resort. Once again I offer this source as my rebuttal to the idea that civil disobedience is sometimes appropriate. "Legal channels can never be ‘exhausted' Activists can always write another letter to their congressional delegation or to newspapers; they can always wait for another election and cast another vote." Christopher Gray, author of "Civil Disobedience: Philosophy of Law"
"He does not try to argue that any law that emerges in democracy is inherently just."
I cannot argue this. Determining what is just would require me to define what is moral, and what may seem moral to me may not seem moral to someone else.
PRO-4)
"…instead I am arguing that in some case as long as individuals are willing to accept the consequence of their actions, they are not acting counter the legitimacy of a democracy."
Despite that my opponent is yet to offer any such case where this is appropriate within a democracy. By deeming breaking the law for the sake of your cause appropriate, we deem it appropriate for any and every cause. Doing this contradicts the principles of democracy. Hence, the social contract theory.
"We should as a society just overall whether an action is just or unjust based on its cause or result but not inherently label violations of the law as in and of themselves contra democracy."
Once again, since no one person can determine what is just or unjust (moral or immoral), if we deem civil disobedience appropriate, everyone's cause has to be considered just, therefore, it does contradict democracy.

PRO-5)
"The purpose of civil disobedience is to galvanize public opinion…Thus, only righteous causes that actually can generate sympathy can utilize civil disobedience to any purposeful end."
You can replace the words "civil disobedience" with any of the legal alternatives that I have offered and the statement is still true. My opponent has yet to prove that this is unique to civil disobedience. Plus his argument is completely irrelevant. We are discussing whether civil disobedience is appropriate in a democracy, not how often it would be practiced or whether or not it would create an actual change.
"..a law in Utah for instance banned waving a foreign flag without an American flag along with it. Once individuals broke this law...the law was dismissed."
Once again, my opponent proves no uniqueness. This same response could have occurred through a petition, a court case, a letter, or a protest.
None of the "democracies" my opponent has given examples of are true democracies. While it is true that the majority can inflict such laws as he stated, once they do so, they are contradicting the definition and principles of democracy.
Note: I cross-applied all of my points within this third round
Throughout this debate the Pro has given no evidence to support his claims. He has merely made speculations that I have disproved through logic, expert opinions, and evidence. Because voting Pro would mean destroying democracy through the breaking of the social contract, ignoring the legal alternatives that are effective and are offered to us, deeming civil disobedience appropriate for every cause, and overall allowing the harming of other peoples sense of justice and morality through civil disobedience, I strongly urge a vote for the CON
symphonyofdissent

Pro

I reject the Pro standard of proof completely. He is correct that I am not an authority to determine what is moral or immoral, but what I have presented and what has never once in this round even been attacked or mentioned by my opponent is that there is a self regulatory mechanism to civil disobedience which, given that in a democracy we do have faith in the moral faculties and deciding power of the people, ensures that civil disobedience for a cause that can not gain traction among a large swath of the people as a moral cause will exhaust itself. I did not need to establish that Civil disobedience is moral in every single instance but only that it is necessary in some cases that can arise in a democracy and that there is a mechanism in place for self regulation of this process. None of my arguments on this matter were responded to and certainly stand.

We should look at the con definition of democracy as it has become very relevant in this round. I want to highlight some of the basic assumptions my opponent makes that is in no way inherent to the definition of democracy he provides.

1) No slave class or non citizens in society. (I pointed this out not to poke holes but to reveal that a society such as slave holding Athens or pre Civil-War U.S.A is truly still a democracy)
2) Judicial avenues of review for laws ( not true in every democracy and certainly not in ancient Athens)
3) No laws regulating speech
4) Continual ability of citizens to impact the process ( If citizens had no impact on how government were run except for at the ballot box we would live in the most extreme form of representative democracy but it would still fall under the definition of democracy)

There are others, but the key is that the more of these assumptions are not in place, the more we can easily imagine scenarios where no other avenue of protest or impact can be found. I have shown, however, that even in the case where all of these assumptions are in place, that due to systemic, monied power or the distance and difficulty to reach out to government, Civil disobedience may be a citizens only true way to impact government.

I would also love to point out that the quotes my opponent uses such as his oft repeated Christopher Gray quote actually come from pro Civil-disobedience writings. Gray actually uses his argument rhetorically show argue that we can forever preoccupy ourselves with inefficient channels in a democracy, but that justice can not be deffered. We can always write more letters, but if those letters fall on deaf ears and never impact the process than we need to find alternatives avenues clearly.

My opponent is flat wrong about John Locke. Locke clearly stated that unjust laws should be ignored by citizens of conscience. Locke held that an unjust law violated the social contract and individual had an obligation to their concience.

Moreover, my opponent has failed to respond to my fundamental argument about authority in a democracy. Breaking a law does not mean that we reject the authority of society to make and enforce laws in so much as we are willing to take the consequences of that legal violation. This is choosing to the take the stick in the carrot and stick presentation of a law. We always have the right to break a law without it violating our social contract as long as we are willing to accept the consequences. This goes back to my social regulation argument which never gets a response because violations of a law can only be used in very limited circumstances to make a point about the lack of justice of a law.

I hope that I have effectively shown the need for civil disobedience in many cases in society. My opponents own reliance on court cases betrays a knowledge that in most cases test cases and legal violations are needed to challenge a law. Someone needs to be hurt or punished under an unjust law in order to have the validity of that law properly tested and to establish legal standing. Protests may be limited in a legitimate democracy meaning that avenues are curtailed.

Even if this is not the case, it is often impossible to affect peoples sense of justice until they see the suffering a law can inflict. Civil disobedience makes the impact of a law concrete and unavoidable. It draws the justice system and the legal system into the process casting a very clear glare on it. If this sounds repetitious relative to my prior arguments, it is because none of these things were responded to effectively at all. Because breaking a law and going to jail involves picking up a burden and limiting ones freedom, it draws attention and makes it clear that individuals are willing to sacrifice for their cause. None of these things emerge through any of the avenues my opponent suggested.

My opponent has widely made assumptions about what a democracy is, but when you unpack a democracy you see that curtailments on speech, expression, impact and even voting can exist well within its sphere. Even in the most favorable type of democracy that my opponent suggests I have made clear that civil disobedience does not break the social contract and can often be the most effective and a legitimate form of action and protest.
Debate Round No. 3
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Joel_A 6 years ago
Joel_A
Every citizen is obliged to obey the rules and regulations imposed by the government. If we keep on violating it, then laws will going to be useless thus it will create chaos, which is a scary thing to happen. Furthermore, if violators will always be free then, what's the use of punishment? But of course, human rights should also be considered here. Law and punishment must also have limitations just like our rights, we should always think about our limitations on using our freedom, because not every time we are right. Know your limitations and never go beyond it, as if you do that's the time you break the rules, and expect punishment for doing it.
Posted by symphonyofdissent 8 years ago
symphonyofdissent
Yeah more voters would be nice. This was a very good debate.
Posted by djexcelsior 8 years ago
djexcelsior
it would be way cool if more people voted on this debate.
Posted by djexcelsior 8 years ago
djexcelsior
Thanks for accepting this debate btw symphonyofdissent. Sorry my third round took so long. I was judging a debate tournament over the weekend.
Posted by djexcelsior 8 years ago
djexcelsior
under my response to the pro's rebuttal to my second point where i accidentally put "social disobedience" its supposed to say "civil disobedience" sorry for the error.
Posted by Ragnar_Rahl 8 years ago
Ragnar_Rahl
"In that case, the instance of you posting that comment was inappropriate.
?"

Why?

Just because it's inappropriate to rape someone doesn't mean the WORD rape is inappropriate.
Posted by knick-knack 8 years ago
knick-knack
If either of you would like to debate this topic again feel free to challenge me.
This is one of my favorite subjects to debate about ever since January.
-Kk
Posted by djexcelsior 8 years ago
djexcelsior
its from marriam webster dictionary. i can use whatever definitions i can find that have a legitimate source, and if the source is illigitimate, my opponent can call me out on it, or if he can find a different definition, then he may argue against mine.
Posted by mrsmooth27 8 years ago
mrsmooth27
It seems, to me, as if you used an incorrect definition of the word "minor". You may wish to revise that, although I'm not saying that you do.
Posted by Harlan 8 years ago
Harlan
In that case, the instance of you posting that comment was inappropriate.
5 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Vote Placed by masterzanzibar 8 years ago
masterzanzibar
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