In the U.S., people have a constitutional obligation to change the laws they refuse to follow
This is the exact resolution: In the United States, people have a constitutional obligation to follow the law, and to change the laws they refuse to follow.
The Constitution empowers the federal, state and local governments to make laws; this same constitution also dictates the rights we have as citizens. Therefore, as members of our nation, and to remain consistent and in agreement with the supreme law of the land, people have a moral and legal obligation to follow the law. When an offensive and/or oppresive law is passed or encountered, and people refuse to follow this law, citizens have an obligtion to change the law to preserve the integrity of the U.S. Constitution.
(You might say this is really an argument against nihilism--which permits people do whatever they choose and rejects the supremacy of the rule of law.)
To clarify, with this resolution I'm not arguing that people should follow oppressive/blatantly offensive laws. My position is that oppressive/blatantly offensive laws should not be followed. But people do have a responsibility to change these laws to keep permitted social action consistent with the law of the land. Methods that can be used to alter bad laws can include not following through with the law (a form of civil disobedience, favored by Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi) and other forms of non-violent social activism, to place pressure on lawmakers. I'm also not arguing that civil wars and conflicts (wheve many civilian laws are broken) aren't justified, because I think they can be if the intent is to eliminate a list of oppressive laws and remove an oppressive/corrupt regime from power.
However, the primary aim of these actions should be to eliminate offensive laws (and regimes) and replace them with social rules (and competent governments) that are more in harmony with social justice and fairness and inclusive life-improving policies. Ultimately, a primary aim of social activism and civil disobedience must be to get laws changed to preserve the integrity and supremacy of the rule of law.
My opponent will oppose this resolution. FIRST ROUND is for acceptance only.
Resolution and Purpose
My objective in this debate is to show that the following resolution is true:
In the United States, people have a constitutional obligation to follow the law, and to change the laws they refuse to follow.
It can also be interpretted as an argument against nihilism--which permits people do whatever they choose and rejects the supremacy of the rule of law.
My purpose in arguing this is to show that since our constitutional rights and individual liberties come from the constitution and the law it establishes, we have an obligation to protect the integrity and supremacy of the law. Without the law, we would have no clearly defined human rights and in fact anyone could do whatever he pleases based on passion alone. To avoid this condition--base social disorder--and to prevent the empowerment of despotic regimes and tyrants--which do whatever they want with minimal regard for those they rule--we have an obligation to protect the laws of civilization and the rights provided to us through them, even if it means laying down our lives in doing so!
Even When We Disagree With a Law and Refuse to Follow It, We Have an Obligation to Change It
Even in the case where we do encounter laws we find to be oppressive, offensive, or just plain atrocious, and in bad need of eradication or alteration, our actions should remain consistent so as to demonstrate that the law and the right's afforded to us through it are still needed. If we must organize and protest a specific law or set of laws which we find oppressive or atrocious, this is absolutely appropriate--so long as we remain devoted to all other laws, to demonstrate good will to all members in our society and to keep it from plummeting into disorder. Non-violent civil disobedience can also be the right action to take when we're confronted with a particularly oppressive set of laws. In non-violent civil disobedience (sometimes simply labeled "civil disobedience"), a protestor refuses to abide by the offending law(s) or refuses to adhere to a related law(s) to grip the consciencenous of others and to force society to reassess its moral parameters, without ever resorting to violence . The aim of non-violent civil disobedience is to place pressure on lawmakers to change or eradicate the offending law(s), while simultaneously maintaining the peace and tranquility in society so that it can still function .
Notable participants of non-violent civil disobedience include:
--Mahatma Gandhi, who protested British institutions and organized boycotts inside of India to gain independence of the South Asian nation, also his homeland; furthermore, he formulated most of the philosophy behind political non-violent action and civil disobedience, which he called "satyagraha"; it remains one of the most potent philosophies in freedom struggles today . Gandhi was arrested and jailed for his non-violent political actions by the British government (inside India), but throughout his life he advocated the moral need to remain peaceful and to work within society to allow it to function .
--Rosa Louise May Parks, a civil rights activist (and daughter of former slaves) who refused to surrender her bus seat to a white passenger on December 1, 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama; she was instructed to give up her seat but refused and was subsequently arrested . Her action inspired the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott on the day of her trial, to protest her arrest and to call for an end to segregation laws throughout the American South . Though she was found guilty in her trial and required to pay a fine, Parks insisted throughout her life that people have a responsibility to work to end discrimination and unfair laws and to advance laws--such as those advocated by the Civil Rights Movement--that promote individual equality, greater opportunity, and social tranquility .
--Martin Luther King Jr, a Baptist Minister and social activist who organized non-violent marches and boycotts to put an end to race segregation laws in the U.S. and to promote civil rights reform; his profound activism was instrumental in the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, in increasing the number of blacks and minorities that registered to vote during that period, and in getting Americans to see the error of fighting the Vietnam War . From the 1950s until his assassination in 1968, he led the American Civil Rights movement, and during this period he promoted non-violent civil disobodience and social activism as a means of stimulating changes to the nation's (or a state's) discriminatory laws; he often cited the non-violent social action philosophy of Gandhi as a major inspiration of his own political methods and was arrested for his protests multiple times .
King felt that methods of non-violent activism not only needed to be admirable in the eyes of the public, but they had to be effective too to trigger change, hence his adoption of Gandhi's philosophy, which succeeded in gaining India's independence from Britain a full decade earlier .
--President Nelson Mandela, a civil rights activist who was elected to become South Africa's first black President from 1994 to 1999 and who was conducive to the elimination of the Apartheid system that operated inside the county for nearly a century, but that also had a connection to early European colonial traditions . For over 20 years as a young man, social activist/lawyer Nelson Mandela employed peaceful, non-violent acts of defiance against the South African government and its racist policies. The South African Apartheid System prevented blacks from running for elected office, from voting in the nation's elections; it required blacks to live in separate areas from whites and to use separate public facilities; it prohibited interracial marriage; beginning in the 1950s it instituted Land Acts acts that set aside more than 80% of the nation's land for the nation's white minority and forcibly removed blacks from areas designated for whites; the all-white government, fearing a united black backlash, further instituted policies to separate black South Africans from each other, by declaring 10 Bantu homelands; it then declared that Blacks were no longer the majority . Apartheid plunged black South Africans into poverty, hopelessness . Becoming disillusioned with the government's increasingly segregationist tendencies, Mandela very briefly flirted with more aggressive methods of political resistance and was arrested in 1963 for offenses, including attempted sabotage against the government; he was sentenced to life imprisonment . As a leader of the Anti-apartheid movement, his incarceration drew international attention and increased support against the South African government . While in prison, he lauded international efforts to get the South African government to change its policies; efforts included interntional sanctions and embargoes .
The government resisted until the late 1980s, when President P.W. Botha finally instituted some reforms to reduce Apartheid policies; these reforms, however, were minimal . In 1989 Botha resigned and his replacement, F.W. De Klerk, quickly acted to repeal some major Apartheid laws and to release Mandela from prison . After being released, Mandela publically declared that he would peacefully cooperate with the government and that he forgave it for what it did to him, but that it urgently needed to eradicate all racist policies . In 1994, a new constitution was established, which--for the first time--enfranchised blacks; that same year, Mandela was elected President, with F.W. De Klerk as his first deputy .
Despite everything black South Africans had gone through, Mandela insisted that with the establishment of the new constitution, which provided legal equality, people had to move for reconcilation & forgiveness and to work within the law, to think about the future .
--Henry David Thoreau, a 19th century poet, essayist, philosoper and abolitionist; he first coined the term "civil disobedience" when he and several others refused to pay the state poll tax that was being used to fund the American government's prosecution of the war in Mexico and to enforce the fugitive slave law . He was opposed to slavery and even spent time in jail for his views, but recognized the importance of laws and the rights they provided .
Each of these individuals utilized non-violent civil disobedience in their political methods, but insisted that the law had its place and that good laws had to be followed to maintain social cohesion and the law's integrity, but also to provide society with the peace and tranquility it requires to function. None of these iconic men and women defended cold, disordered nihilism, for to do so would be socially destructive.
In the next ROUNDs I will review the importance of social contracts (constitutions and other legal frameworks) and demonstrate their primacy in establishing human rights & social laws, and I will also show, with examples, that it is perfeclty natural and typical for human communities to live under despots and regimes that do not acknowledge human rights or care much for civil laws.
If we therefore want to live in a nation that provides us with rights and social laws, we must therefore collectively agree to the supremacy of the law--this is the foundation of social contract theory . What we want (and do) is the foundation of societal laws and rights .
(Important Note: SC = See comments section)
Housekeeping: Putting citations in the comments is generally considered unacceptable on DDO. This is to prevent sources from being buried in comments and keep them in an easily accessible. Citations are part of an argumentative case so they belong in-round. Citations should be placed within the argument space- I ask that Pro past his citations from R2 in his next round out of fairness. If Pro does not post his citation in-round, I would ask judges to take this into consideration when voting.
1) Pro makes the fundamental mistake of equating a “constitutional obligation” with a “moral obligation.”
A constitutional obligation is an obligation generated by the U.S. Constitution. A moral obligation is an obligation generated by morality.
Moral obligations are a class of obligations distinct from Constitutional obligations. The Constitution generates obligations which may be moral, amoral or immoral. The U.S. Constitution sets up obligations for public officials and governmental bodies such as Congress and the Supreme Court which are incomprehensible in terms of moral obligation or run directly contrary to moral obligations. For example, the original U.S. Constitution included a Fugitive Slave Clause which created an obligation for States to return runaway slaves.
This understanding of “constitutional obligation” is also consistent with the use of the phrase in the context of legal literature on the subject. My first source is a legal article which distinguishes between moral and constitutional obligation in the manner I have described .
This Resolution concerns “constitutional” obligations. Whatever Pro meant when he typed the Resolution, I accepted the debate spelled out by the Resolution; I cannot read Pro’s mind, I can only read the Resolution. The winner of this debate is whichever said best advocates their position in relation to the Resolution as it is written. This means Pro must show that people have a constitutional obligation to follow the law and change the laws they refuse to follow.
Pro has not offered a single argument in favor of the Resolution at this point. The entirety of Pro’s case has focused on moral obligations to the government. Not once has Pro offered an argument showing that the Constitution obligates individuals to obey the law or try to change the law.
2) Pro’s position is internally contradictory – Civil Disobedience is incompatible with an obligation to follow the law.
As laid out in R1, the full resolution states that “people have a constitutional obligation to follow the law…” By definition, civil disobedience is NOT following the law in a principled manner. As Pro himself says: “a protestor refuses to abide by the offending law(s). “ An obligation to follow the law is incompatible with an obligation to change the law by refusing to follow the law.
Pro’s entire argument in favor of civil disobedience invalidates the Resolution- Pro has argued the Con position and has made my case for me.
The fact that Pro explained in R1 that he allowed for Civil Disobedience is irrelevant- the R1 “clarification” is simply incompatible with the Resolution.
Note that this point holds regardless of whether we are talking about constitutional or moral obligation; Pro has argued against an obligation to follow the law.
3) Pro has the burden to show that the Constitution obligates individuals to change laws they disagree with.
Pro is making a positive claim and so has the burden of proof.
My response to his assertion is simply “where in the Constitution does it say individual citizens are obligated to change laws they refuse to follow?”
If Pro can’t point out where the constitution creates such an obligation, he has lost this debate.
4) The Resolution implies obligations that are not found in the Constitution, such as the obligation to vote.
The primary way individuals impact legislation in the U.S. is through democratic participation. If the Constitution created an obligation to change laws, it should compel individuals toward some definite action that would achieve that goal. Yet the Constitution does not obligate voting and certainly does not obligate civil disobedience.
5) Individuals have no obligation to follow the law.
a) Statements about moral obligation have no Truth content – moral theory is a language game used to justify political power structures.
The arguments Pro puts forth in defense of moral obligation are nothing more than linguistic games designed to play on the persuasive tendencies of the audience. Arguments like social contract theory have developed out of the political history of Western Civilization to create moral justifications for Western political practice. Their structure and ability to convince is contingent on the cultural milieu in which they were developed. Eastern conceptions of political life are radically different – societies that developed with Confucian conceptions of government developed slightly different arguments to justify their power structures.
These arguments have no truth value; statements like “individuals have a moral obligation” are neither true no false because “moral obligation” only makes sense in the context of the morality language game. There is no “out there” or “objective” sense of morality, moral statements do not correspond to any True Reality.
What does it mean to have a moral obligation? What actually IS a moral obligation? Pro has to offer some explanation of what it means to claim “moral obligations exist.”
The entirety of Pro’s case is just an exercise in linguistic chess; the Resolution has no truth content and so cannot be true. The Resolution is thus negated.
b) Even if moral obligations did exist, individuals have no obligation to laws forcibly imposed by the state.
Individuals are born into societies with a complicated set of laws already in place. Individuals do not have the choice to accept or reject the laws of the state, they are simply forced to obey the law or be punished. To declare that individuals have an obligation to obey these rules is to accept that obligations to other individuals can be instituted by force and without consent.
If a mob surrounded Pro’s house and told him he had an obligation to give them all his material possessions, no one would say Pro actually had that obligation. If a car salesman walked up to Pro on the street and handed him a pair of car keys then demanded payment for a car, no one would say Pro was obligated to pay for the car. In the same way, individuals do not have obligations to the state simply by virtue of any non-consensual power relations or benefits provided by the state.
c) Pro’s argument for obligation to the law fails to prove a universal obligation
Pro argues we have an obligation to uphold the law in order to prevent the rise of tyrants or the rule of anarchy. This argument means that the obligation is provisional; we have the obligation only insofar as we want to prevent the rise of tyrants or rule of anarchy. Many individuals would prefer anarchy to the existing U.S. government. These individuals do not desire the prevention of anarchy and so have no obligation to uphold the law.
Before I continue I want to thank Raisor for being brave enough to accept this debate. As with most debates I participate in, I expect this to be a learning experience for him, myself, and others about this civics issue.
Now let's begin.
In Round 2 my opponent provides various points to discredit the resolution "In the U.S., people have a constitutional obligation to change the laws they refuse to follow."
As I explained in ROUND 1, the exact resolution I'm defending is "In the United States, people have a constitutional obligation to follow the law, and to change the laws they refuse to follow."
My opponent could only accept this debate AFTER having been aware that there was a ROUND 1 fairly-lengthy explanation for this debate--which introduces the potential challenger and readers to the complete resolution (which had too many characters to be used as the title of this debate).
However, my opponent accepts the clarified ROUND 1 resolution, as indicated by the points he asserts in his ROUND 2 arguments. I will briefly go over every point and explain why he is either right or wrong in making them. I will then go on to thoroughly show that (1) citizens and others inside the U.S. do in fact have an obligation to follow the law; that the Constitution obligates people to follow the law, and (2) that our rights are different depending on the nation we're in--therefore it's a nation's social contract (framework of laws) that establishes rights; [legal] rights, therefore, do not exist outside of established social contracts, be they pertaining to a nation, to an enclosed, smaller district, or to the international community.
Refuting my Opponent's List of ROUND 2 Points
My opponent claims:
1. "Pro makes the fundamental mistake of equating a 'constitutional obligation' with a 'moral obligation.'"
No, I never equate moral obligation with constitutional obligation. What I do insist is that we have a moral and constitutional obligation to follow the law or to change the law in the U.S. to make those laws we refuse to follow compatible with the U.S. Constitution and our nation's laws. But I never state that moral obligation is necessarily equated with constitutional obligation, as there are many moral obligations that have no relationship to the Constitution or to laws.
2. "Pro’s position is internally contradictory--Civil Disobedience is incompatible with an obligation to follow the law."
Here my opponent is correct. But it's not contradictory with an attempt to change the law so that at some point down the line our actions and political beliefs are consistent with the law. In fact, the founding father's wrote the constitution so that laws approved through federal legislation could be changed and so that citizens could eventually prohibit/allow practices they disapproved or approved of. Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Henry David Thoreau and others utilized civil disobedience but with the intent of making the consitution and federal/state legislation consistent with the actions/policies they wanted to prohibit (slavery/segregation) or permit (equal voting rights, etc.).
3. "Pro has the burden to show that the Constitution obligates individuals to change laws they disagree with."
I do have this responsibility, and it can be demonstrated in mutliple ways. First of all, America's Founding Father's wrote numerous papers explaining that the United States operates according to the principle of the "rule of law"; in fact, they explained (as is evidenced in the U.S. Constitution) that the U.S. Constitution is the "supreme Law of the Land", and it enunciates the powers and the limitations of each branch of government, explains how laws and legislation must be passed, explains what branch of government has the power to interpret laws and pass down criminal sentences for breaking these laws; the Constitution also explicates what rights people have within the country and how it can be amended (changed) .
Article 6, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution (often referred to as the "Supremacy" clause) plainly addresses the U.S. Constitution as the "supreme Law of the Land" :
"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made . . . shall be the supreme Law of the Land . . . "
Furthermore, John Adams, the 2nd President of the U.S. and also a contributor to the U.S. Constitution, elaborated that the U.S. is "a government of laws, and not of men", meaning that no person or group is above the law--not even the U.S. President or an elected official . This is why the President, Justices of the Supreme Court, members of Congress and other elected officials must first recite an oath pledging to uphold the Constitution before carrying out their jobs . New citizens to the U.S. must also recite an oath [oath of allegiance] pledging their loyalty to defend the U.S. Constitution . It's quite clear that no one is above the law and that everyone has an obligation to follow it or suffer the criminal penalties for not doing so; I'll have more on this later.
4. "The Resolution implies obligations that are not found in the Constitution, such as the obligation to vote."
I showed in my answer to his 3rd point that in the U.S. people have an obligation to follow the law or suffer the consequences for not following the law. The Constitution provides people with the freedom to speech, assemble, to petition the government, and to vote (among other rights) to effect political change .
5. "Individuals have no obligation to follow the law."
But the Constitution DOES obligate people to follow the law, since it empowers Congress and the President to pass federal laws that restrain civil behavior; it also empowers states (and local governments within states) to pass legislation, including laws that people must adhere to. Just as critical, the Constitution empowers the Courts to pass down sentences and other criminal penalties on individuals that do not follow the law. The Constitution obligates people to follow the law or to suffer the consequences for not doing so--it is the "supreme Law of the Land"; it empowers people with certain rights to participate democratically and to engage the government and reform the law if they dislike certain laws. But the obligation to follow the law is there and is plainly stated.
This by itself demonstrates that people have a constitutional obligation to follow the law, or to change the laws they refuse to follow, because of the criminal penalties that will imposed if they persist in not following the law.
To state it clearly, the consequences of not following the law are criminal penalties; therefore if a person wants to avoid these, he has an obligation to either follow the law or change it so that it accommodates his political beliefs. Failure to adhere to the law will result in criminal penalities when convicted, no matter how the person personally or morally feels about it.
In the U.S, People Have an Obligation to Follow the Law or to Suffer the Consequences
Article 6, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution plainly addresses the fact that the U.S. Constitution is the "supreme Law of the Land" :
"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made . . . shall be the supreme Law of the Land . . . "
The U.S. Constitution empowers Congress and the President to pass federal laws that restrain civil behavior; it also empowers states (and local governments within states) to pass legislation, including laws that people must adhere to. It empowers the U.S. Judicial system to bestow criminal sentences and other criminal penalties on those convicted of breaking the law, whether the convicted approve of it or not . The Constitution does obligate people to follow the law simply on the basis that it is the "supreme Law of the Land" . People within the U.S. have an obligation to follow the law because it empowers the Courts (and the established penal system) with lawful control over the convicted's life for breaking the law .
As I already explained, the U.S. operates under the principle of the "rule of law", which is further elaborated by the creed that the U.S. is "a government of laws, and not of men"; no one person or group is above the law--no matter the position or title in the country . This is why elected and appointed U.S. government officials must first recite an oath pledging to uphold the Constitution before carrying out their jobs . This is also why new citizens of the U.S. must also recite an oath [oath of allegiance] pledging their loyalty to defend the U.S. Constitution and the nation's laws . The responsibility to follow the law is something everyone in the U.S. must do. Even juveniles that break the law and are convicted will be restrained within juvenile detention centers or receive other criminal penalties . No one is free from the obligation of following the law within the U.S.
Rights (and Laws) are established by Social Contracts
Rights (and Laws) are established by social contracts (constitutions and other legal frameworks). This is why legal rights (and Laws) can be different between countries; our rights as citizens come from these.
(Topic will continue in ROUND 4.)
Sources this ROUND
ROUND 2 Sources
1 in ROUND 2
2 in ROUND 2
1) Pro agrees that moral and constitutional obligations are distinct and different. To win this debate, Pro must defend the Resolution in terms of constitutional obligation.
I would also emphasize that the Resolution has two components
i) Individuals have a constitutional obligation to follow the law
ii) Individuals have a constitutional obligation to change laws they refuse to follow
Pro must win both these issues to win the debate.
I equally acknowledge that an attempt to change the law is not incompatible with an obligation to follow the law. Public referendums and democratic legislation are two ways to attempt to change the law while maintaining an obligation to follow the law. However, Civil Disobedience as a method of changing the law is incompatible with an obligation to follow the law.
First, the establishment of power of governance does not establish any obligation for individuals to recognize that power of governance. The Constitution only generates obligations for the governmental organizations it establishes. This is because the Constitution is the architectural document which established these governmental organizations. In creating the executive branch, the Constitution defined what that branch of government can and can’t do; the executive branch thus has obligations that are derived from the Constitution.
There is no way to make sense of the claim that the establishment of the U.S. government created an obligation for individuals to acknowledge that government. Pro is claiming that upon ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788, an obligation was instantaneously created for thousands of people who did not sign the document, who may have been opposed to ratification, or who may not have even known the Constitution existed.
Pro mentions that individuals are given rights under the Constitution, but Constitutional Rights are simply obligations imposed on the government. The right to free speech is actually a restriction on the government’s ability to regulate speech. The 1st amendment doesn’t obligate people to speak freely; it DOES obligate the government to refrain from restricting free expression.
Pro can offer no justification for the claim that the constitution generates any obligation for individuals, just as he could offer no justification that any other document could generate an obligation of obedience to an arbitrary group of people. I can’t create a document establishing the government of Raisor and claim that everyone now has an obligation to obey my laws.
The Constitution is a document concerned with the constitution of the U.S. government- it establishes obligations for the government, not for individuals. As Pro notes, the U.S. is “a government of laws, not men;” the Constitution does not establish obligations for individuals except insofar as they operate as governmental actors.
Again, Pro may argue that there is a moral obligation to uphold the constitution or obey the law- but this does not uphold the Resolution. Only an obligation generated by the constitution can be considered a “constitutional obligation.”
Second, even if the Supremacy Clause established obligations for private citizens, it would only establish an obligation to submit to the laws of the land. Pro only argues that this clause establishes the supreme law of the land and that no man is above the law. At best Pro has shown that the establishment clause generates exclusive law-making legitimacy for the U.S. government. The only obligation this could generate is that individuals recognize the law-making power of the government. I can submit to the law without obeying it; Civil Disobedience calls for deliberately disobeying the law while submitting to the legal consequences. Criminals may disobey the law but they still submit to its supremacy when they must face legal sanction in court.
Third, to win this debate Pro must prove both that the constitution creates the obligation to follow the law AND to change laws that individuals refuse to follow. The establishment clause clearly does not create an obligation for individuals who refuse to follow the law to try and change the law. Criminals in the U.S. aren’t charged with the additional crime of “not trying to change the law you broke.”
What about laws that violate the constitution?
My point 4 shows that such an argument would imply other obligations that are not found in the Constitution. As I pointed out, if the Constitution establishes the obligation to change laws individuals disagree with, why doesn’t the constitution compel democratic participation?
In claiming that the Constitution obligates individuals to change laws they refuse to obey, is he claiming that individuals are obligated by the Constitution to perform civil disobedience? This is prima facie absurd – Pro’s argument implies that anyone who broke Jim Crowe laws but didn’t participate in the 1960’s Civil Rights movement was violating the Constitution. The Constitution does not compel individuals to Civil Disobedience, and none of Pro’s arguments come even close to demonstrating the Resolution.
Again, Pro’s position would imply that any individual who refuses to obey a law is guilty of two crimes- the original legal infraction and the additional crime of not trying to change the law they broke.
The structure of Pro’s argument demonstrates this point. As Pro says:
“If a person wants to avoid [criminal penalties], he has an obligation to either follow the law or change it so that it accommodates his political beliefs.”
Thus, people only have an obligation to follow the law “if a person wants to avoid [criminal penalties.” If a person is willing to accept the risk of criminal penalties, he has no obligation to follow the law. At best Pro argues only that individuals have an obligation to accept that the law exists.
In reality this argument says nothing about the obligations of individuals- it only lays out governmental powers. I can create a document that empowers me to impose fines on anyone who doesn’t compliment my hair, this does not obligate people to do so.
a) PRO TOTALLY IGNORES MY ARGUMENT. I have presented the case that moral statements have no truth content, that moral arguments are just a language game, and that obligations aren’t real. Pro has offered no explanation of what a moral obligation actually is or what it means to claims obligations exist. Thus the Resolution is negated, as obligations do not exist.
b) Pro offers no response to my argument that individuals have no obligations to the state because social contracts are fictional and obligations to the state cannot exist without consent. I never signed a contract with the U.S. government, no one ever asked me if I agreed to subject to the laws of the U.S.; it is absurd to say there is any contract between individuals and the government.c) Pro’s justification of legal obligation is provisional – Pro justifies obligation by an individual’s interest in upholding the obligation. This means that individuals who do not desire the consequences of upholding the obligation have no obligation at all. Pro’s fails to uphold the Resolution because his argument, at best, only shows that SOME people have an obligation to uphold the law. Pro offered no response to this.
Rights (and Laws) are established by Social Contracts
Rights (and Laws) are established by social contracts (constitutions and other legal frameworks). This is why legal rights (and Laws) can be different between countries; our rights are presented and clarified in these social contracts.
For example, in France people are not legally protected in publicly spreading hateful views about a person or group based on ethnicity, a race, a religion, a sex, a sexual orientation, or for having a handicap--and the penalties for doing so upon conviction can be up to a year in prison and/or a fine of 45,000 euros . Here inside the U.S. we have a greater extent of freedom of speech ( U.S. Courts have consistently ruled, even recently, that hate speech is protected by the Constitution ) but in France the laws on hate speech are very different, and they carry heavy penalties. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which provides Americans with the right to Free Speech (including public hate speech, according to the Courts ), does not apply in France . An American in France would be very foolish to defend his hate speech using the U.S. Bill of Rights. Both unknown citizens and high-profile people in France have been prosecuted and convicted for using hate speech in public. In 2013 Bob Dylan was placed under judicial investigation in France for allegedly provoking ethnic hatred of Croats; the First Amendment of the U.S. Bill of Rights did not protect him . In 2008, well-known French actress Brigitte Bardot was convicted for publicly inciting hatred against Muslims--she was penalized with a hefty fine for the offense . In 2011, British fashion designer John Galliano was convicted for making a disparaging rant against Jews in a French restaurant; his 6000 euro fine was suspended since he demonstrated intense public remorse in the months leading up to conviction, but the Court indicated that he would have to pay the fine if a similar hateful rant was acted out in the future .
Compare hate speech laws in France to U.S. protections of hate speech in the U.S., where the U.S. Supreme Court has recently ruled that even "hurtful" hate "speech" is constitutionally protected, even when protestors shout gay slurs and other amazing offenses at a fallen soldier's funeral, while the soldier's family watches on . It's the social contracts in either country that bestows a person's rights--not personal feelings, not uncorroborated individual opinions.
Rights and laws are listed and clarified by social contracts.
Even the right to life is clarified by social contracts and is not identical around the globe. For example, in many countries around the world the use of capital punishment (a criminal sentence of death) has been outlawed; nations like Germany, the United Kingdom, Argentina, Brazil, Norway and others have banned the practice altogether . In the U.S., capital punishment is legally permitted and many states perform executions on convicted criminals, though almost always for crimes involving homicide ; in Iran, capital punishment is also legal but is handed down by the courts for the cimes of sodomy and kidnapping, besides for the crime of murder .
There are many more examples of divergence on individual rights and laws between nations, and they touch various subjects, from gun rights to the simple act of purchasing bubble gum at a drugstore .
Again, rights (and Laws) are established and clarified by social contracts and other legal frameworks; they are not derived nor protected by intuition, especially since everyone's intuition is different. Furthermore, the Earth has a long history of leaders--many of them national heroes--that stepped all over their countrymen, worked them to death, and even took away their lives without even batting an eye. National leaders like Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and others have forcibly worked their countrymen to death while privately dismissing their claims to individual rights . So much for the laws of men living in their hearts. Nope. It's much better to get the law down on paper, where everybody can see it and where it can be clarified. Even the American Founding Fathers experienced private dissonance when it came to the "self-evident" rights of men. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence and claimed liberty was an "unalienable" human "right", possessed slaves; as did George Washington .
This speaks to the truth about why we have laws in the first place. The law is not a man; it is something beyond one individual--in fact, it exist for the community, and it defines permitted relations between individuals and between individuals and their government. The law pertains and applies to interaction within the group. This is why the law cannot be decided soley by one man--this would be unfair and horribly ineffective at optimizing satisfaction and peace within a community--chief reasons why laws exist to begin with. Instead the law belongs to the group and is decided by the group and is clarified with words in a legal manuscript and through associated, clarifying legislation.
In ROUND 3 my opponent claims that no one citizen has an obligation to follow the law, and that no one can be forced to follow the law, because we are all in fact free people, with the power the to do what we want. He's correct to insinuate that no one can be forced to follow the law, and that people can choose to do whatever they want, but by insisting that people have no obligation to follow the law he's necessarily undermining why laws are created in the first place--and that's to provide us with law and order, to create peace and to create a nation where individuals can pursue happiness. If anybody could do whateve they want, since they have no obligation to follow the law, that means they can rob whoever they want, that means people can steal your identity, and take your credit/debit card information for their own personal use; since no one has an obligation to follow the law in my opponent's view, that means people can break voting laws and vote five times in the same election, that means people can break any traffic laws they wish, and that means a person is justified in practicing pedophilia and commiting rape; it means doctors don't have an obligation to follow established laws during medical procedures and they can provide substandard aid and use dirty equipment on patients; same with dentists. Since no citizen has an obligation to follow the law, it means murder is justifiable.
What my opponent fails to grasp is that the law establishes concensus; it prevents people from becoming their own law--a major requirement in establishing a thriving, stable, peaceful civilization. When no citizen has an obligation to follow the law, you can throw stability, peace, civility, happiness and hope out the window! The law establishes a legal framework for everyone to follow to establish order and allow us to pursue our life's hopes, our dreams.
My opponent also states this in ROUND 3: "People only have an obligation to follow the law 'if a person wants to avoid criminal penalties.' If a person is willing to accept the risk of criminal penalties, he has no obligation to follow the law. At best Pro argues only that individuals have an obligation to accept that the law exists."
Well, okay, but if a person wants to maintain his full set of rights offered to him by the U.S. Constitution (the right to vote, the freedom to assemble, the right to bear arms, the right to walk free, and many others) he has an obligation to follow the law. Otherwise in this country he shall only live as a convict--not as a constitutionally empowered citizen. In other words, if a person wants ALL HIS rights and freedoms, he must follow the law. A person has an obligation to follow the law if he has any realistic hope in living a satisfying life or, at the bare minimum, as a non-incarcerated citizen.
Notes on the U.S. Constitution
Since this debate is about the U.S. Constitution and the law it has jurisdiction over, I'm going to admit that sometimes the law can have inconsisties and be vague. Some legal scholars argue that since the law can be inconsistent at times and be vague, that the principle of the "rule of Law" only applies when the Law is written clearly and coherently, and when it's consistent, so as to not create barefaced confusion . This should affirm in us the responsibility to change written law to get it to become consistent and coherent. Furthermore, the law is larger than what the Federal, state and local governments legislate.
Articles 6 of the U.S. Constitution indicates that treaties signed by the U.S. with foreign nations and international organizations shall have such jurisdiction so as to be identified as belonging to the "supreme Law of the Land". Since this is the case, agreements, resolutions and charters passed by the UN through binding procedures legally have jurisdiction over U.S. policies and U.S. law, including those pertaining to human rights and those addressing treatment of civilians, refugees, combatants, soldiers and prisoners of war, since the U.S. has signed on to and is an active member of the UN organization and its Security Council .
 Round 3, Source 1
 Round 3, Source 2
What I do dispute is that individuals have any obligation to follow the laws established and executed by different countries and, more specifically, that any potential obligation to follow or change the law is generated by the U.S. Constitution.
Stating the countries have different laws does NOT demonstrate that social contracts exist, or that they are legitimate. All Pro"s argument has demonstrated is that state entities have the physical power to prosecute those who do not follow their laws. That Bob Dylan was investigated by the French Government does not demonstrate a social contract existed between Bob Dylan and the French government. In fact, I strongly suspect that were Bob Dylan ever asked "is there a social contract between yourself and the French government?" Bob Dylan would have heartily responded "Hell no!" Pro"s position requires contracts between non-consenting parties, which is an absurd moral condition. I cannot create a contract with Pro without his consent, and neither can governments create a contract without citizen consent. If non-consent contracts are possible, then I am establishing the following contract between myself and Pro without his consent: "Con shall win this debate if contracts are possible without consent." Either way, the judges need to vote Con on this issue.
Pro has not made the case that individuals have any obligation to government entities. As I have argued in my previous rounds, social contracts are fictitious and do not exist. I never signed a contract with the US government; the US government never asked if I agreed to follow the law. That the US government imposes its legal will on me through use of force only demonstrates that it has the ability to do so, not that I have an obligation to follow the legal will of the US. The Resolution is thus negated.
In his final round, Pro seems to be shifting his entire position on the Resolution; Pro seems to be claiming that all rights and obligations are simply legal constructions and that morality and obligation does not exist apart from such constructions.
First, this is a deviation from his earlier position when Pro stated that moral law and constitutional law were two different things. Pro appears to have no stable advocacy in this debate. Pro stated in R3: "there are many moral obligations that have no relationship to the Constitution or to laws." But then states in his final round "Even the right to life is clarified by social contracts and is not identical around the globe." Pro claims that individuals have no moral right to life, but only a legal right which varies based on geographic location.
Second, even if Pro"s argument is correct and the bare fact of a functional government is enough to generate obligations to the law, he has only shown that individuals have a right to submit to the law. This is because Pro"s argument rests entirely on facts of power relations and not on normative claims. For example, he says "if a person wants to maintain his full set of rights"he has an obligation to follow the law." Thus, an individual only have obligations insofar as they desire certain outcomes dictated by existing power relations. This does not establish an absolute obligation to follow the law, it only establishes that individuals have an obligation to operate under existing power structures, i.e. submit to the law. As I stated before, Pro"s argument means that anyone who is willing to give up his full set of rights has no obligation to follow the law.
Pro also argues that a lack of obligation to follow the law means "anyone can do whatever they want" and that it undermines the purpose of the law, the provision of law and order. Again we see that Pro"s argument deals not with obligation, but with bare facts of the existence of the state. For it is plainly clear that anyone CAN do whatever they want- individuals have the physical capability to break the law regardless of whether or not they have an obligation not to. The existence of an obligation does not preclude violation of the law. Furthermore, the US government has the physical power to arrest individuals and uphold law and order regardless of whether those individuals broke any obligation. Achieving a stable state, maintaining law and order, and following the law are matters only of existing power. No obligations need to exist for the outcomes Pro is advocating for.
Pro says my position means that "murder is justifiable." This is not at all what I am arguing, and demonstrates the manner in which Pro conflates multiple issues. My argument does mean "murder is not a violation of constitutional obligation," as I argue that the constitution generates no individual obligations. My argument does mean "murder is not a violation of the social contract," as I argue that the social contract is fictitious. However, my argument does not preclude other arguments that render murder unjustifiable. I make very specific arguments about what we cannot claim about individual obligation; these don"t preclude other arguments for the unjustifiability of murder.
Pro repeatedly says that individuals "have an obligation to follow the law or suffer the consequences." This clearly illustrates that at best, individuals only have an obligation to submit to the law. The "or" Pro includes demonstrates that any obligation individuals might have includes the option to not follow the law. Under Pro"s argument, and individual can say "I won"t follow the law; I"ll take whatever consequences happen."
Throughout this debate, Pro conflates normative obligations with bare facts of existing legal power structures. This is not a debate about how states exercise their power, but about what obligations are generated by the US constitution. My position in this debate has been stable and consistent. The US constitution created the US government and defined the scope of governmental power. In doing so, the US constitution generated obligations for the government and individuals acting as governmental actors. The result of this is that only the government has constitutional obligations, such as the obligation not to bar free speech or the obligation not to search and detain without probable cause. Individuals have no constitutional obligations. It may be the case that individuals have moral obligations to follow the law. Even if this is so, those individuals do not have a constitutional obligation to follow the law, and so the Resolution is negated.
Finally, even if you buy that the U.S. Constitution generates an obligation to follow the law, Pro has not even come close to proving that the Constitution generates an obligation to change laws individuals disagree with. Nowhere in this debate has Pro explained how the constitution obligates me to change the law! He only repeats the Supremacy Clause, which is merely an argument that individuals must follow the law. Pro"s own position, that individuals "have an obligation to follow the law or suffer the consequences," shows that individuals do NOT have an obligation to try to change the laws. Individuals can simply break the law and then suffer the consequences- no effort at legislative change required.
Pro never responded to my argument that the Constitution creates no obligations that support an obligation to try and change the law, such as an obligation to vote. Pro only replied that the Constitution gave the right to vote- but a right to do something is not the same as a requirement to do something. If the Resolution were true, all criminals would be guilty of two crimes- the initial legal infraction and the additional infraction of not trying to change the law they refused to follow. This is not how our legal system functions, thus the resolution is patently false.
I thank the judges for their time and urge a Con vote.