Resolved: Civil disobedience is justified in a democracy.
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If the resolution contained only the first four words, it would be ideally balanced. However, I feel that the addition of the phrase "in a democracy" swings the resolution ever so slightly toward the neg. Nevertheless, I like this one. Not too narrow, not too broad. Since this is the resolution that most people use for NFL District Qualifiers ans state tournaments, it couldn't have come at a better time. There's not much else to say in this section. On Aff, I think the best cases will stress the peremptory importance of individual autonomy, while negs should argue that order is absolutely essential to the preservation of democracy.
This topic is much like last year's March/April resolution, in that it asks whether the individual or society is more important.
The following definitions are not from any dictionary, as they are simply meant to point you in the right direction.
- Civil disobedience A phrase championed by American philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau, civil disobedience is quite literal in its definition. It means breaking the law when you feel you would be justified in doing so. On affirmative, remember to stress the fact that civil disobedience, by definition, includes the willingness to accept the consequences of one's actions.
Don't be wishy-washy on this term. You have to have a lot of balls (excuse me, ladies) to be able to debate this resolution well on the affirmative. If put specific constraints on when CD is justified and when it is not (i.e. like in reaction to specifically enumerated injustices) you will lose all your credibility.
- is justified Asks whether CD is all right or not.
- in a democracy. Democracy, at its most abstract level, is simply rule by the people. Negatives should focus on the contractual nature of a democracy and show how CD would break this contract, while affirmatives should define it as a more abstract concept.
Here are some Affirmative possibilities and their related arguments (they are in no particular order). There's not much on the Aff, but each idea is realtively deep and offers many avenues for digression.
- Individualism Championed by Thoreau, this theory states that individuals have a moral obligation to themselves and to God to act on their own personal convictions of justice rather than the principles set by the majority. Thoreau believes that most politicians are corruupt and rarely do they act morally. Individuals must actively oppose any unjust government acts. This means more than simply conducting a sit-in or voting against a particular politician Each of us must refuse to obey any governmental policy that perpetuates injustice. This includes refusing to pay taxes to a corrupt government and purposely violating laws that the individual believes to be unjust.
- Satyagraha Don't laugh just because I'm advocating an Eastern school of thought. In fact, the philosophy of Satyagraha, or the way of non-violence,n is the creation of Gandhi. The ways of Satyagraha are civil disobedience and passive resistance. According to Gandhi, injustices and wrongful laws should should be met with an attitude something along the lines of "I will not tolerate your immorality." All I know about this philosophy I got from the Value Debate Handbook, so either check that or do independent research for more on this idea.
- Locke's Social Contract Locke's Social Contract sets the standard for determining what governmental and civil actions are justified. You should argue that when the government abrogates the terms of the social contract, civil disobedience is justified. One thing that, for instance, the U.S. does is to establish excessive rates of taxation. Locke would believe that this undermines the individual's natural right to lawfully earned property and thus would constitute sufficient grounds for rebellion. Really, this would work for Nozick's Contract, or Rand's, or for almost any social contract except for Rousseau's, Hobbes's, and Kant's.
Here are some Negative possibilities (once again, no particular order.)
- Social Order One of the simplest angles you will ever find on any resolution ever. Order is important. Civil disobedience destroys order. Thus, civil disobedience in not justified.
- Categorical Imperative Normally, I hate this philosophy. This time, I think it is hands-down the best angle on the neg if you can defend the general concept well. Kant believes that if you allow something to be justified in one circumstance, it has to be justified in all circumstances. He calls this the principle of universalizability. This angle provides a compelling reason to reject the aff's conclusions based on his own premises. This is because if you say civil disobedience is justified in one circumstance, you have to say it is justified in all circumstances. This would include even the most trivial things. If the judge accepts the general philosophy, the Aff will then have to show that civil disobedience in justified all the time, not just in opposition to injustice. The aff would be allowed to place no constraints whatsoever on civil disobedience.
- Hobbes' Social Contract Rebellion is never justified. Period. Not recommended.
- Rousseau's Social Contract Rousseau's contract is direct democracy. Policy is decided by the "general will," not elected officials. Upon entering this contract, each individual must subjugate his personal will to the general will. Inn effect, individuals ahve no natural rights, bu the general will might decide to give them to everybody. This means that the individual has no personal will, by definition he cannot disobey the law of the general will. Otherwise he is no longer a part of the democracy. A good value here would be the "Preservation of Democracy" with Rousseau as a criterion. You could show that when individuals partake in civil disobedience, they cease to be members of the democracy. The number of people in the democracy will continue to dwindle as people break the law, and pretty soon you no longer have a viable government.
Sorry it's so short, but I really couldn't think of any other good angles that I am willing to give away. Good luck.
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