The Edmondson Blog

Civil Disobedience

In a democracy, each citizen has a general moral duty to obey all the laws. He owes that duty to his fellow citizens, who obey laws they do not like, to his benefit. But this general duty cannot be an absolute duty, because even a society that is in principle, just, may produce unjust laws and policies and a man has duties other than his duties to the state.

A man must honour his duties to his conscience and he is entitled, in the end, to do what he judges to be right. If he decides that he must break the law, however, then he must submit to the judgement and punishment that the state imposes, in recognition of the fact that his duty to his fellow citizens was overwhelmed but not extinguished by his moral obligations.
From Taking Rights Seriously by Professor Ronald Dworkin.

There are a number of core tenets of civil disobedience:
  • A valid cause.
  • Large numbers, strong leadership, and organisation in support.
  • All initiatives must be non-violent in all circumstances.
  • We must generate victimless crimes. We must generate humour.
  • Where there is price to paid for our actions, it is we, not members of the public, who must pay it.
  • Our campaign must be totally inclusive involving the widest possible spectrum of support in its planning and execution.
As developed by Ghandi and Martin Luther King.

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