Resolved: Civil Disobedience is morally justified in a democratic society.
Debate Rounds (3)
Civil Disobedience is defined by a person"s right, or a group of people"s right to break the law by nonviolently protesting against something they do not agree with.
A democracy is defined by a government run by the people, in which our unalienable rights are followed.
Morality is defined by what is right in relation to the consequence of a certain action. If it is good it is morally right for the people. This follows consequentialism
Consequentialism is defined as the morality of anything depending on the consequence of a situation.
Unalienable rights are defined as freedoms granted to everyone from the day they were born, and that should not be taken away.
Thomas Jefferson says in the Declaration of Independence that:
...they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
My value is justice, because it is justified to speak your mind so that you can achieve more liberty or more happiness.
My value criterion is the ability to speak or express your mind freely without constraint, also known as freedom of speech.
A Democracy is built by the people, with laws created for the people. Civil Disobedience is justified in that we, the people of Democracy, can speak about a certain law, allowing us to exercise our right to freedom of speech.
The ability to speak your mind freely without constraint has benefits for the country in the long run because it will help the country understand what needs to be fixed. If no one is able to protest a bad law, or to protest anything that shouldn"t be allowed, then nothing will get fixed and the people will not have the ability to achieve happiness.
My first contention is that civil disobedience has led to much great advancement socially in many democratic states. Civil Disobedience has recently taken place in Greece. According to Costas Douzinas
The harassed minister of Greece was referring to the mass protests that have gripped Greece in the last month. They include the "can't pay, won"t pay" movement which encourages people to stop paying the extortionate tolls on Greece's atrocious roads or the public transport fares which went up 40% last week.
This shows that by civil disobedience, and an extensive use of it, the Greek government heard the voices of their people. This was a definite exercise of freedom of speech. The Greek government also saw how they need to control rates in the country, because the transport fares were up 40% in that week. It is fact that the European Union as a whole stepped in to help Greece as well. By bailing Greece out they helped save the country. This good outcome, caused by the demonstrations, was good. Therefore, it is morally justified. Other examples of civil disobedience leading to advancements in a democracy are the many civil rights rallies that were held by many figures most famously being Martin Luther King Jr. Everyone going by today"s standards can see that being racially equal is a good thing. Therefore it was justified to disobey the law, non-violently.
The impact here is that civil disobedience helped democracies move forward. Greece was able to move closer to solving a debt crisis that plagued them. People across the world became aware of how big this crisis was when the Greeks took to the streets. We moved closer to civil rights faster through civil disobedience. Rosa Parks, another figure who civilly disobeyed the law, and Martin Luther King Jr. broke these laws leading to countless advancements.
My second contention is that working within the system would take too long. Peter Suber from Earlham College writes that
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. But justice delayed, King proclaimed, is justice denied. After a point, he argued, patience in fighting an injustice perpetuates the injustice, and this point had long since been passed in the 340 year struggle against segregation in America. In the tradition which justifies civil disobedience by appeal to higher law, legal niceties count for relatively little.
Peter Suber points out that anyone wanting to change a law can always work in the system, but it won"t help them achieve their liberty and happiness. Martin Luther King Jr., a great activist for civil rights, would have never achieved what he did if he had worked within the system that was causing the problem. Even if he had achieved civil rights by working within the system it would"ve ultimately taken longer. Civil disobedience forces the government to make changes whereas writing a letter or voting would take too long. As King said justice delayed is justice denied, meaning that, for the time period in which you have waited for justice your justice has been denied. Also, if it is strongly believed that what you are doing is morally right civil disobedience helps earn public opinion again forcing the government to change. Martin Luther King Jr., who led many great rallies, and Rosa Parks, who would not give up her seat on the bus, helped earn public opinion through civil disobedience rendering it justifiable. The Greeks helped earn attention towards their situation.
Suber also writes that:
Thoreau, who performed civil disobedience in a democracy, argued that sometimes the Constitution is the problem, not the solution. Moreover, legal channels can take too long, for he was born to live, not to lobby.
He points out that the law of the land can sometimes be the problem and that it is justifiable in a democracy run by the people to peacefully protest against it. He also points out it would take a very long time to work within the democratic system so that the problem gets fixed. This means that he has not met the happiness guaranteed by his unalienable rights.
The impact here has two parts:
A.We the people can take action by using our freedom of speech to protest against the government. If you want change, you would want it in your lifetime. Sometimes people feel that you are undecided when it comes to voting because neither candidate would fit your needs for change, therefore you need to take action yourself.
B.We must not work within the system if the system itself is the problem. Anyone would agree that you cannot wait to get a problem fixed, that you must take action through your freedom of speech to pursue your happiness.
My third contention is that the government, morally, must be a limited one. Henry Thoreau writes:
"I heartily accept the motto, "That government is best which governs least"; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe " "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient."
We the people must have our right to speak freely. A government cannot take that away and must back off allowing the people to speak out through civil disobedience when the law is the problem. In many ways leaving the government out will help people, but in the case of civil disobedience, letting people protest will lead to a better change and less deaths. Usually when the government gets involved harm will be done, and that is not morally right. The part where Thoreau mentions the fact that the government is an expedient at best means that the government is there to propose and promote these laws. The constitution of the United States sets up a government where laws can be passed. If people want change they have to break a law to then get the government to promote a law that would be better for the people. In the end this is justified.
The impact here is that when government is out of our lives we can speak freely and we will feel better about our country and ourselves. Martin Luther King says that
Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase.
Martin Luther King perfectly describes how faith can lead to accomplishments, or getting closer to achieving an accomplishment. If the government is out of our lives and we have more freedom you are able to have faith in accomplishing anything. If you are able to speak freely and have faith in what you are protesting about you are able to accomplish it. This good outcome renders it justifiable.
Another quote from Martin Luther King shows how a limited government is a better one.
Never, never be afraid to do what's right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society's punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.
King tells us that we should never be afraid to stand up for what is right. However, that would be too much to ask for certain people. They are too afraid to go up against their government, therefore denying their freedom of speech. If the government is limited, they will not be afraid therefore protecting their freedom of speech. Soviet Russia was not a democracy, but this example will prove my claim right. The people in Soviet Russia were too afraid to go up against a government that was obviously a lot more powerful than them.
I negate civil disobedience is morally justified in a democratic society.
The following definitions are provided:
"Utilitarianism: A doctrine that the useful is the good and that the determining consideration of right conduct should be the usefulness of its consequences; a theory that the aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number
The value is justice, because civil disobedience can often lead to violence. The action of violence leads to major social uprisings, issues, and disruptions in public life in general. Violence also leads to, on occasion, the loss of lives, which is inexcusable to any extent. Civil disobedience often leads to violence, which leads to the loss of people. Because the loss of lives is not morally appropriate, the value is justice.
The value criterion is protecting the lives of citizens, because the loss of lives, as stated earlier, is absolutely inexcusable to any extent. Civil disobedience very often leads to violence, which also stated earlier, leads to casualties. On occasion, the casualties can reach heights that cannot be accepted in any way. The loss of lives is to no extent morally justified, so civil disobedience cannot and is not morally justified in a democratic society.
Contention 1: Civil disobedience is not morally justified because it leads to jeopardizing the lives of people. Some protesters of civil disobedience resort to violence to spread their own messages, jeopardizing the lives of others in the process. Malcolm X is an example. Throughout his role in the civil rights movement, he resorted to violence in order to express his ideas in a widespread manner. In the article, "MLK vs. Malcolm X" by Brielle Edwards, it is stated,
"His most famous line was "By any Means Necessary". He believed in fighting back physically. Whatever had to be done to get freedom he was all for it whether it be violence or non violence."
She also states:
"Malcolm X had a different perspective regarding the march. He felt that integration would destroy the black and the white man. He felt that American blacks should be more concerned with helping each other. He felt blacks should start by giving the same race self-respect first."
The impact is that some protesters of civil disobedience can resort to violence in order to spread their message. The inappropriate act of violence can lead to the loss of lives, which is morally wrong.
Contention 2: Civil Disobedience is not morally justified because it leads to violence w=very often. As stated in "Fredrik Bendz" philosophy: Civil Disobedience" by Fredrik Bendz, it states: "Even a small group of citizens can, with only a little effort, cause great destruction on the infrastructure of a country. The problem with this is that a small terror group without any mandate from the rest of the population may consider themselves to be the righteous ones. Some Anarchists even think that they are acting in the best interest of society, even though the people sympathize neither with their ends nor their means. These people seem to think that they are somehow superior, and that the others don't know their own best." The impact is similar to the previous argument; it jeopardizes the lives of people, leading to deaths in occasion. However, if civil disobedience can be prevented, the loss of lives can be prevented, all the while keeping the general public"s autonomy in balance.
My opponent's value criterion is protecting the lives of citizens. I would like to extend my third contention from my AC. I stated that civil disobedience is a non violent protest and the government has to be a limited on in order to prevent violence. If violence is prevented, then we will see less deaths.
My opponent's first contention is the same as his value criterion. He does offer one example, that referring to Malcolm X. However, he has committed fallacy to hasty conclusions by stating in his value criterion that it very often leads to violence. That may have happened in incidents caused by one person, but I show a different side in where the government causes the violence, thereby violating the citizen's freedom of speech, and that the protestors do not cause violence. Martin Luther King was an advocate of peace and his rallies were non-violent. Greece's citizens did not start violence, the government did. These are two of many examples.
My opponent's second contention is the same as the first one. Therefore, that argument should be dropped. I also offered up many points in my AC in which my opponent did not respond to.
I would like to extend contention 1 of my AC which is that civil disobedience has led to much great advancement in society. I say this because Greece is in the process of changing. Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders gave us civil equality. I would now like to end by turning my opponent's value criterion to fit my first contention. By achieving advancements you are reducing threats from, for example, the Klu Klux Klan, and therefore protecting citizens rights. My opponent also did not respond to my second contention. Working within the system takes too long. And by taking to long, you are allowing change to be delayed, therefore keeping citizen's lives in danger, as well as your freedom of speech.
Also, my third contention was not responded to. I stated that the government must be a limited one. This protects both freedom of speech and the lives of citizens. My opponent stated in his first contention that civil disobedience often leads to violence. However, I offered two examples as to why the government was the problem. As well as in my third contention I offered quotes from Thoreau and Martin Luther King. If the government fights back you are endangering their lives and you are making them become afraid. This will lead to a loss of life and a reduction in freedom of speech. Thus I urge you to affirm, because there were no arguments against my AC in which I can respond to as well as the fact that I offered ways in which civil disobedience helps protect the lives of citizens and freedom of speech.
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