Civil Disobedience Can Be Justified
Last updated: March 8, 2017
There were times in history when breaking the law was justified: Great leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, broke the law and changed the world for the better.
It makes governments more accountable
This is absolutely false in which you can't "give up". Civil disobedience has helped strengthen justice in America. The sole purpose in which it states is "breaking the law for a justifiable cause". People are always going to have an opinion, and the reason for doing so is so you can, as Thoreau stated, "refrain from evil."
2) There are also local elections between general elections, where parties can be rewarded or punished for their actions in government, acting as a very good barometer of public opinion without the need for civil disobedience.
3) Civil disobedience puts pressure on the state to privilege the interests of the civilly disobedient minority over the majority. Compare this with voting, in which anyone who chooses to exercise their vote has equal say. This is why it makes sense to say that voting makes governments "accountable to the people", whereas civil disobedience in a democratic society is (often) anti-democratic.
Sometimes it’s the only tool in the box
In a democratic society, civil disobedience is never the only "tool in the box." There are always the power tools. In a democracy, the power tools are simply the legal channels. While the actions of Martin Luther King, Junior should certainly be applauded, we must look to two instances in which the legal channels were far more beneficial.
First, MLK orchestrated a great showing in his march from Selma to Montgomery. The spotlight shined brightly on this march. Often revered as a great act of civil disobedience, the fact is that MLK acted completely within the law. The legal channels cleared the way for him to march, and the issue rose to national prominence. No where did civil disobedience occur, so we see that it is never the only tool left in the box.
Furthermore, arguably the most significant Supreme Court case of the Civil Rights era occurred exclusively through the legal channels. Brown v. Board of Education occurred in 1954 without any civil disobedience. The issue of segregated schools rose to prominence and was properly addressed.
Quite simply, civil disobedience is never the only tool in the box in a democracy. There are always various avenues to obtain change. More often than not, these avenues are far more appropriate and capture the need for change much more than an often senseless act of breaking the law.
Sometimes it’s the only way to publicise an issue
Saying people should get arrested is tantamount to giving them free reign to do whatever they want to get publicity. And let’s not forget the term ‘oxygen of publicity was first applied to the IRA – hardly models for the civil disobedience movement.
Sometimes the law is wrong.
THE KEY WORD IS CIVIL! We are not going to kill anybody when we protest and speak about a good cause! So read your facts more correctly! Thanks!
Understand laws before you obey them
Yes, but yet slightly no.
Unfortunately however, not everyone is logical or full of common sense and sometimes the best intentioned non-violent disobedience can transform into a mob with mindless violence on their mind and foam frothing from their mouth; utter chaos out of order.
Still, even with that said, I believe orderly civil disobedience is justified. See: The Civil Rights Movement - Much of it was civil disobedience.
Practice comes before law.
There is no agreement on what CD is.
Not engaging in civil disobedience no matter how you define it helps criminals maintain power behind a false idea that we should not insult someone or create strife in society. People should remember it is a criminal leadership that often times creates the strife. In other cases the strife is created by genuine disagreements as to what injustice is, such as the abortion issue.
In a modern, developed state, i.e. Canada vs. Iraq, civil disobedience is a harmful shortcut that many cynics unfortunately resort to. People need to realize that civil disobedience has both short, and long term consequences. There is an abundance of acceptable paths to take in order to combat an allegedly corrupt government that need to be exhausted (which is theoretically impossible) before true civil disobedience (in the form of a coup) should morally take place.
All forms of government including democracy are flawed.
When the voters decide who to vote for they have to consider the the stand of each candidate on many different issues, and their chances of winning. A person may agree with candidate A on 3 issues be opposed on 7, with Candidate B agree on 5 and be opposed on 5, and with candidate C agree on 8 and be opposed on 2. This person may vote for candidate A because he is in agreement with him on the 3 most important issues. An ideological twin of this voter may vote for candidate B because they agree with her more often. Therefore the usual claims by a victor that she has a mandate to do this or that are nonsense. A candidate may claim that she pays attention to the polls of her constituents but studies have shown that the way a question is asked can determine the outcome of the answers.
Still another theory is that the people elected to an office should not be concerned with what the people of their district think today but that they should vote to do what they think is best reguardless of what the voters in their district think.
Furthermore many candidates only pretend to care about what their constituents think or what is in their best interests anyways. Studies done on game theory show that special interest groups will almost always come out the winners in the competition over government policies because for an investment of x amount of resources they can make a return of many hundreds of times their initial investment. Yet the people who represent the general welfare would go bankrupt if they tried to defeat these numerous and powerful groups. To even confront one of them is going to leave you worse off financially than if you had done nothing at all. Why because the costs of each special interest special treatment are spread over the whole society. It is these collective costs that destroy the general welfare. But if you confront one special interest you will bear most of the cost for your society. And since special interests usually win you will be charged twice.
Structural flaws as these cause those who have lost by playing by rigged rules to try to play by their own rules. Yes it is chaotic but chaos is unavoidable.
The only question is whether or not you will be personally affected by the chaos of government agents often acting on behalf of special interests or the chaos of some non-conformists trying to defend the common good. Or whether you think that it is the non-conformists who are the special interest group and it is the government defending the common good.
... but very rarely!
If you think speed limits should be reduced, you should not break them as an act of civil disobedience but vote for politicians who promise to reduce them. If you want to end scientific experiments on animals, you should not commit acts of civil disobedience but vote for politicians who promise to ban them.
The flaw in this argument is that the way we elect MPs in the UK means that most people's votes are ineffective because they live in safe constituencies and, even when they are effective, it is usually only betweeen the two leading parties in the constituency with no opportunity to choose between different candidates from the same party who may have different views on speed limits, animal experiments or whatever matters to us.
The disenfranchized black voters of South Africa were morally entitled to use civil disobedience in their campaign because democratic methods were not available to them. Oponents of the massacre of Jews by Nazis would similarly have been morally entiitled to use civil disobedience.
The present Government was elected by only 35% of the voters. Civil disobedience would be fully justifable now in the UK in favour of a more democratic voting system that resulted in more representative Parliaments and allowed us to choose between candidates of different views in the same party. Once that is achieved, civil disobedience should be less necessary and less justifiable for other causes.
Law is there to serve justice based on truth.
If any regulation of the "law" codex is in violation with its purpose, it is justified and even advisable not to obey or follow it.
It sets a bad example
Laws are a basket from which we have to pick and choose because to obey unjust laws leads to anarchy just as fast as not obeying just laws.
Furthermore governments themselves often do not even obey their own laws then the population has no recourse but to resort to vigilante actions.
The debate can become overshadowed by the violence
Even violent CD can at times be justified especially when the government is breaking its own rules. Governments are institutions of violence. There has to be at least the threat of violence to force people to obey even just laws. The threat of violence is also the use of violence. If those threats are not sometimes carried out they will seen to be empty threats and criminals will run rampant over society. Yet often criminals capture the controls of the state. The state then wages war against society. Some people could conclude that such a situation exists in America in the early 21st Century. In such a situation if the people are not allowed to use violence to protect themselves from a morally bankrupt state it is like a conflict in which one side is waging a violent war against another side that seeks to defend itself solely by asking the criminals to cease and desist with their criminal behavior.
Civil disobedience is a form of civil war
An act of civil disobedience sets a precedence of breaking the law.
Not to engage in civil disobedience is also to walk on a slope that is just as slippery as engaging in civil disobedience.
There is no limit to the injustices that have been perpetuated by popular governments. Is that not Chaos?