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Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified.
in General

By agsragsr 858 Pts

Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified.

That is an interesting topic that is worth debating.  I see multiple components of this debate.  To me the most interesting example, is a question of politically charged movement like Occupy Wallstreet or an Union Strike provide a positive net change.

I am also interested in interpretation of what is morally justified, what exactly is a civil disobedience, and how this problem applies to different flavors of a democracy.

So, is Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified? Lets look at definitions first.

Key Definitions of Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified

Civil disobedience

 The Merriam-Webster definition is:

noun - refusal to obey governmental demands or commands especially as a nonviolent and usually collective means of forcing concessions from the government.

To me that is such a broad range of actions.  It can be a massive strike that threatens public safety, or a passive aggressive refusal to park close to enough to the curb.



noun - government by the people; especially : rule of the majority; a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections; a political unit that has a democratic government.

To me, there is a wide range of democratic societies.  On one hand we have United States with arguably mature government.  On the other hand you have India, which is also democratic but has a very different social norm and full of corruption.



adjective - of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior; expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior; conforming to a standard of right behavior; sanctioned by or operative on one's conscience or ethical judgment.

We all have a very different personal value framework how we judge morality.  Unless you are mother Teresa, we are forced to operate under different shades of what morality means to you.

morally justified


From the root "to justify" - to prove or show to be just, right, or reasonable; to show to have had a sufficient legal reason;

That is another point of ambiguity. Justify to whom, yourself, authorities, etc?  Legal reason to me is not an ultimate code of morality.

I will not be taking an affirmative or negative side of this debate.  I am interested in what others have to say on the issue of Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified, and arguing to shape clarity on the definitional points. I personally can see myself arguing either side of this debate.

  1. Live Poll

    Resolved: Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified.

    5 votes
    1. Civil disobedience in a democracy is morally justified.
    2. Civil disobedience in a democracy is NOT morally justified.
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  • Any civil disobedience that endangers lives or puts public safety at risk cannot be morally justified.  For example, Medical union workers going on strike endangers patient lives.
  • There are a number of points to make:

    There are always exceptions, so I suggest to clarify this resolution definition to "most of the time".  
    Is civil disobedience in a democracy always morally justified?  I claim, that it's not.  Is civil disobedience most of the time morally justified in a democracy? Nope.  Is civil disobedience sometimes morally justified - sure, under rare cases.

    In the last century, we didn't have social medial, and had limited electronic communication.  Civil disobedience was a primary method of voicing concerns.  With all the other methods agailable now, strikes and other methods of civil unrest are less important, and often become politically motivated and even backed by political money.

    I content that civil disobedience actually undermines democratic process.   It is responsibilty of every citizen to obey the law.

  • I am affirmative on this issue.

    Civil disobedience has been crititical in shaping the history of the United States and has been a key right to protect our democracy.  It is morally justified as it is actually our right.

    My contentions for why civil disobedience is morally justified:


    Civil disobedience was instrumental and successful in bringing important changes throughout history of the United States.
    Boston Tea party, Martin Luther King.

    Civil disobedience is a mechanism for rights protection under democracy for the citizens.

     Associate Professor Susan Tiefenbrun:

    “Within the liberal-democratic tradition, civil disobedience can be considered as a fundamental part of the right to rebel against unfair laws and tyrannical government. It is possible to argue that civil disobedience, as a dimension of the right to rebel constitutes a fundamental human right. Even more, I would like to argue thatThe right to rebel is not simply another human right, but the most important human right we have. In fact, without acknowledging the existence of a right to rebel, the very idea of human rights ceases to make any sense. We need to remember that the dominant discourse of human rights emerged out of the mass rebellions of the American and French Revolutions. Within modern society, it was the exercise of the right to rebel that opened the possibility for us to contemplate today the very notion of human rights. The right to rebel underwrites and creates the foundation for every human right to exist, its full exercise therefore becoming the only effective avenue of political defiance when those rights are under attack by conservative forces.”[1]

    She explains that without civil disobedience, our rights would be useless, and governments could potentially be as tyrannical and unfair as they wish. 


    citizens of a democratic regime serve as an important check and balance within the government. The citizens have a right and actually duty to show their government its flaws. 

    Paul F. Power:

    “Civil disobedience has functional utility for the regime in a second respect, through informing it of its misuse of power according to systemic ideals. The abuses may have resulted from pretensions to sanctity, inefficiency, or elitism. In effect, civil disobedience enlightens the regime, permitting its decision makers to learn about their misconduct from outside sources. Because of constraints,those who engage in civil disobedience contest illicit acts of the regime, not the regime's 1egitimacy.If a positive response ensues, athird, possibleeffect of civil disobedience may be the regime’s correction of abuses through executive, legislative, or judicial action[2]

    civil disobedience is  a fundamental right and has beem effective to show a government the flaws within its systems.  It's more power than twitter or facebook. These flaws can be an unwanted war to the genecide of an entire race. 


    [1] Susan Tiefenbrun, Associate Professor Of Law At Thomas Jefferson School Of Law In San Diego, California, 2003

    “Article: Civil Disobedience And The U.S. Constitution.” Southwestern University Law Review.

    32 Sw. U. L. Rev. 677

    [2] Civil Disobedience as Functional Opposition Paul F. Power The Journal of Politics, Vol. 34, No. 1. (Feb., 1972), pp. 37-55

    It's kind of fun to do the impossible
    - Walt Disney
  • Civil disobedience is often justified for the following reasons:
    1) It holds Government more accountable
    2) it is often the only choice for those who need to change injustice. As St Augustine said, 'An unjust law is no law at all.'
    3) We are talking about only "civil" and not anything criminal, like killing someone.

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