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On the Importance of Civil Disobedience.
When I converse with the freest of my neighbors, I perceive that, whatever they may say about the magnitude and seriousness of the question, and their regard for the public tranquility, the long and the short of the matter is, that they cannot spare the protection of the existing government, and they dread the consequences to their property and families of disobedience to it. For my own part, I should not like to think that I ever rely on the protection of the State. But, if I deny the authority of the State when it presents its tax bill, it will soon take and waste all my property, and so harass me and my children without end. This is hard. This makes it impossible for a man to live honestly, and at the same time comfortably, in outward respects. It will not be worth the while to accumulate property; that would be sure to go again. You must hire or squat somewhere, and raise but a small crop, and eat that soon. You must live within yourself, and depend upon yourself always tucked up and ready for a start, and not have many affairs. A man may grow rich in Turkey even, if he will be in all respects a good subject of the Turkish government. Confucius said: “If a state is governed by the principles of reason, poverty and misery are subjects of shame; if a state is not governed by the principles of reason, riches and honors are subjects of shame.” No: until I want the protection of Massachusetts to be extended to me in some distant Southern port, where my liberty is endangered, or until I am bent solely on building up an estate at home by peaceful enterprise, I can afford to refuse allegiance to Massachusetts, and her right to my property and life. It costs me less in every sense to incur the penalty of disobedience to the State than it would to obey. I should feel as if I were worth less in that case.
While a civil disobedient does not necessarily oppose the regime inwhich she acts, the militant or radical protester is deeply opposed tothat regime (or a core aspect of that regime). This protester usesmodes of communication unlikely to persuade others of the merits of herposition. Her aims are more urgent and extreme than those of the civildisobedient; she seeks rapid change through brutal strategies ofcoercion and intimidation, not through strategies of persuasion andmoral appeal. And often her action includes force or extreme violenceas a key component. Given the nature of her conduct and objectives, sheis likely to try to evade the legal consequences of her action. This isless often the case for civil disobedients.
On Electronic Civil Disobedience.
Conscientious Objection: This kind of protest may beunderstood as a violation of the law motivated by the dissenter'sbelief that she is morally prohibited to follow the law because the lawis either bad or wrong, totally or in part. The conscientious objectormay believe, for example, that the general character of the law inquestion is morally wrong (as an absolute pacifist would believe ofconscription), or that the law extends to certain cases which it shouldnot cover (an orthodox Christian would regard euthanasia as murder)(Raz 1979, 263). While commonly taken to refer to pacifist objectionsto military service, conscientious objection, says Raz, may apply toany law, negative or positive, that a person believes for moral reasonsshe is compelled to disobey. A narrower conception of conscientiousobjection, described as conscientious refusal, characterises this kindof disobedience as non-compliance with a more or less direct legalinjunction or administrative order (Rawls 1971, 368). Examples wouldbe the refusal of Jehovah's Witnesses to salute the flag orThoreau's refusal to pay his taxes (it is interesting that theaction of the man who coined the term ‘civil disobedience’is regarded by many as lying at the periphery of what counts as civildisobedience). Whereas conscientious refusal is undertaken with theassumption that authorities are aware of the breach of law,conscientious evasion is undertaken with the assumption that the breachof law is wholly covert. The devout person who continues to practiceher religion in secret after it has been banned does not protestagainst the law, but breaches it covertly for moral reasons. Thepersonal nature of this disobedience commands respect, as it suggestsmodesty and reflection, which more vocal and confident displays ofconviction may lack.
Rule Departures: A practice distinct from, but related to,civil disobedience is rule departure on the part of authorities. Ruledeparture is essentially the deliberate decision by an official, forconscientious reasons, not to discharge the duties of her office(Feinberg 1979). It may involve a decision by police not to arrestoffenders (cf. Smith 2012) or a decision by prosecutors not toproceed to trial, or a decision by a jury or by a judge to acquit anobviously guilty person. Whether these conscientious acts actuallycontravene the general duties of the office is debatable. If anofficial's breach of a specific duty is more in keeping with thespirit and overall aims of the office than a painstaking respect forits particular duties is, then the former might be said to adherebetter than the latter does to the demands of the office (Greenawalt1987, 281)
It describes feelings from the Bible, Society, and laws of nature.
These observations do not alter the fact that non-violent dissentnormally is preferable to violent dissent. As Raz observes,non-violence avoids the direct harm caused by violence, andnon-violence does not encourage violence in other situations whereviolence would be wrong, something which an otherwise warranted use ofviolence may do. Moreover, as a matter of prudence, non-violence doesnot carry the same risk of antagonising potential allies or confirmingthe antipathy of opponents (Raz 1979, 267). Furthermore, non-violencedoes not distract the attention of the public, and it probably deniesauthorities an excuse to use violent countermeasures againstdisobedients.
Non-violence, publicity and a willingness to accept punishment areoften regarded as marks of disobedients' fidelity to the legalsystem in which they carry out their protest. Those who deny that thesefeatures are definitive of civil disobedience endorse a more inclusiveconception according to which civil disobedience involves aconscientious and communicative breach of law designed to demonstratecondemnation of a law or policy and to contribute to a change in thatlaw or policy. Such a conception allows that civil disobedience can beviolent, partially covert, and revolutionary. This conception alsoaccommodates vagaries in the practice and justifiability of civildisobedience for different political contexts: it grants that theappropriate model of how civil disobedience works in a context such asapartheid South Africa may differ from the model that applies to awell-ordered, liberal, just democracy. An even broader conception ofcivil disobedience would draw no clear boundaries between civildisobedience and other forms of protest such as conscientiousobjection, forcible resistance, and revolutionary action. Adisadvantage of this last conception is that it blurs the lines betweenthese different types of protest and so might both weaken claims aboutthe defensibility of civil disobedience and invite authorities andopponents of civil disobedience to lump all illegal protest under oneumbrella.
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Civil Disobedience (Thoreau) - Wikipedia
Together the three above positions bring out some key points ofdisagreement amongst philosophers on the issue of a right to civildisobedience. First, philosophers disagree over the grounds of thisright. Is it derivative of a right to participate in the politicaldecision-making process? Is it derivative of other rights? Is itfounded on a person's equal status as a being worthy of concernand respect? Second, philosophers disagree over the parameters of theright. Does it extend to all acts of civil disobedience or only tothose acts that meet certain conditions of justifiability? Third,philosophers differ over the kinds of regimes in which the rightarises. Does it exist only in illiberal regimes or does it hold in allregimes including just regimes? A final issue, not brought out in anyof the above views, is whether the right to civil disobedience extendsto indirect civil disobedience. Presumably, it should, but none of theabove positions offer arguments on which one could base such aclaim.
SparkNotes: Civil Disobedience: Summary
Ronald Dworkin rests the right to civil disobedience not just on aperson's right to political participation, but on all of therights that she has against her government. People may be supposed tohave a fundamental right against the government, such as freedom ofexpression, when that right is important to their dignity, to theirstanding as persons equally entitled to concern and respect, or to someother personal value of consequence. A person has a right to disobey alaw, says Dworkin, whenever that law wrongly invades her rights againstthe government (Dworkin 1977, 192). Thus, the moral right to breachthe law is not a separate right, like a right of conscience, additionalto other rights against the government. It is that part ofpeople's rights against the government which the government failsto honour.
Examples of civil disobedience - Wikipedia
A further challenge to Raz might be that real societies do not alignwith this dichotomy between liberal and illiberal regimes; rather theyfall along a spectrum of liberality and illiberality, being both moreor less liberal relative to each other and being more or less liberalin some domains than in others. Given the stringency of Raz'snotion of a liberal regime, it is unlikely that any society could bewholly liberal. So, although Raz may have grounds to hold that in thetruly liberal society a right to civil disobedience would not exist andthat, to the extent that our society approximates such a regime, thecase for such a right diminishes, nevertheless in the majority of realsocieties, if not all real societies, a right to civil disobediencedoes exist. Note that to make legally protected participation fullyadequate, the liberal society would have to address Russell'scharge that controllers of the media give defenders of unpopular viewsfew opportunities to make their case unless they resort to sensationalmethods such as disobedience.
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