> However, Slate fails to even take on the challenge of disabusing people of their expectations that one must submit to egregiously harsh punishment to be validly considered a civil disobedient.
and spends much of the rest of the article arguing that Snowden's actions pass the other requirements that thinkers have claimed is necessary for justifying civil disobedience. So I'm pretty sure the Waycott is trying to claim Snowden's actions are justified even if he doesn't submit to punishment.
But I can't find anywhere that the Waycott distinguishes between Snowden and the historical cases of civil disobedience where thinkers have agreed that submission to punishment was necessary for justification. Surely those past examples didn't submit to punishment for no reason. So what's different here?
The Slate article, for what it's worth, makes a distinction: the magnitude of the punishment.
ACT-UP's Civil Disobedience Training handbook states that a civil disobedient who pleads guilty is essentially stating, "Yes, I committed the act of which you accuse me. I don't deny it; in fact, I am proud of it. I feel I did the right thing by violating this particular law; I am guilty as charged," but that pleading not guilty sends a message of, "Guilt implies wrong-doing. I feel I have done no wrong. I may have violated some specific laws, but I am guilty of doing no wrong. I therefore plead not guilty." A plea of no contest is sometimes regarded as a compromise between the two.
And then there is always Sophie Scholl. But exactly because of that I think sometimes that can be a waste of perfectly good life... so in the end, I don't know what to think exactly.
Because my comments grew so long, I regrettably needed to sleep without digging into even further theories of and on punishment, which are central in treating not the justification of civil disobedience, but the just response to civil disobedience. Justification centers on the mode of action and motivations for action, not the results of action and punishment of action.
Furthermore, Slate's article offers examples of civil disobedients who submit to punishment in such a way that leaves readers continuing to expect that civil disobedience == breaking law + submission to punishment. This problem has plenty of historical counterexamples to distinguish disobedients from one another, and confuses submission to punishment as a requirement, instead of a feature. This is why I wrote, because Slate "fails to take on the challenge of disabusing people of their expectations that one must submit to egregiously harsh punishment to be validly considered a civil disobedient."
A primary example is that of revolutionaries, who often feature in discussion of civil disobedience. The American colonists who participated in the Boston Tea Party and other defiant actions were civil disobedients. Those who participated in the Arab Spring were, as well. Yet none of them submitted to punishment for their crimes, instead turning to work with other political participants to initiate a rebellion against what they perceived as a government that had departed from the principles of justice.
As far as the theorists go, Rawls certainly was of the opinion that willingness to accept punishment is a sign of fidelity to the legal system in which civil disobedience is engaged. However, that is not the same as saying it is a requirement or a distinguishing factor that makes some civil disobedients better than others. Submitting to punishment can be injurious and undesirable when it weakens or derails further attempts to effect change. It may also be detrimental when a disobedient has yet to complete disobedient acts that will call full public attention to the cause.
Would they have agreed that the revolutionaries were justified? Is Snowden closer to the revolutionaries, or to repressed blacks in 1963 Alambama?
Fundamentally, he did not protest an unjust law by publicly and openly defying it, thus showing to the world the injustice of enforcing it. Rather, he brought unjust actions to light by violating a law, namely that of government secrecy, that is not really central to the issues raised.
If he were protesting government secrecy in an of itself, then without standing up to face the punishment of the offence his protest would be ineffectual. But violating that secrecy is not what he is protesting, so staying to confront the legal consequences buys him nothing.
You seem to be arguing that submission to punishment is not necessary if the disobedience is indirect rather than direct (i.e. if the injustice which is to be exposed is not the actual law broken). But I don't see why that's important. If MLK decided to break a traffic law in order to speak out against segregation, he surely would accepted the punishment for this violation of the law. If anything, submition to the punishment is even more important for indirect civil disobedience, since the punishment itself is just.
It's an interesting case study on how terms like "civil disobedience" get coopted by those in power, to convince people that disobeying them should be hilariously self-defeating. (Imagine the US government submitting to punishment and reparations when it breaks international law.)
As with all things, you choose actions based on their predictable consequences. ("Let myself get destroyed? Hmm, what could go wrong..?")
As MLK himself would've no doubt pointed out, there were others participating in the Civil Rights movement. These movements aren't reduceable to the famous minds of Great Leaders, though of course those in power (who want people to obey leaders) try to frame history that peculiar way.
I've been enjoying your comments throughout this thread a good deal, because you raise a lot of great points of discussion. But it appears that, in total, you're very distracted by the likes of MLK and Gandhi, and it's somewhat preventing considering things from a higher, more abstract level where you can reason about civil disobedience itself, pulled apart from the particulars of how some disobedients have practiced it.
Snowden has a much smaller pool because 99.9% of Americans can't break these unjust laws. We simply don't have information to leak.
MLK and Ghandi made a political decision to accept punishment, so did Snowden. I don't believe any made a moral decision that punishment was just.
MLK and Gandhi did not make the moral claim that the punishment was just--they would say the opposite--they claimed that their own actions were only just because they accepted this (unjust) punishment.
EDIT (reply to grimtrigger): You would argue, then, that MLK's followers (or their followers' followers) would be justified in fleeing? I don't think so.
My point is that they Accepting submitting to punisment as a method to convince others to join them.
Lets say they did what Snowden did and fled the country. Both may of had the means, but their potential constituencies did not. MLK/Ghandi said "I'll stick around and accept the punishment, because thats a path others can follow".
It wasn't MLK or Ghandi breaking the law that changed anything. It was their millions of supporters breaking the law that had the effect.
To state that baldly, my whole point is that what Snowden is doing is _not_ Civil Disobedience, and that calling it that cheapens his actions. Talking about "previous practitioners of civil disobedience" seems to imply that he is practicing civil disobedience, which I clearly (at least, I thought clearly) stated that he was _not_ doing.
A significant part of civil disobedience is that by standing up and violating an unjust law (or the unjust enforcement of a just law), and being subjected to punishment for it, makes people (who are fundamentally good and decent) see that it does not make sense to punish people for doing something that shouldn't be illegal. This is an attempt to compensate for people's natural instinct to meekly obey unjust laws, and to bring out societal and eventually legal change.
Snowden is not saying that government secrecy laws are unjust. If he were to do so, he might find that he has very little support (from those good and decent people). Many people feel that the government has an obligation to keep some things secret. What he appears to be protesting is the specific government program that he leaked, not secrecy laws.
No, I mean necessary to be justified. As I've tried to make clear, I'm not interested in arguing about the semantics.
I think practitioners of civil disobedience stress that acceptance of punishment is necessary to justify disobedience because (1) the laws passed by democratic governments are valid (even if unjust) and (2) because acceptance of suffering for your cause calls the public's attention. I've never heard it argued that the mere fact that you are technically being punished for a just law (in the case of indirect disobedience) gets you off the hook for accepting the punishment. Hence my MLK traffic example.
Personally, I would add that acceptance of punishment reduces your ability to deceive yourself into thinking you're disobeying for the greater good, rather than just for your own personal gain or fame.
Being a conscientious objectors during the Vietnam war is justified if you accepted the alternate role upon being drafted, or if you accept imprisonment. But do you think fleeing to Canada is justified? After all, most people agree that the government has a right to draft soldiers in times of national emergency.
The most effect strategy depends on the circumstances. If Snowden can maximize publicity by playing cat-and-mouse with the U.S. government for weeks, maybe that's a good enough reason for him to resist being arrested by U.S. authorities. The implications of personal conscience also depends on the small print. People might agree with your general argument for the draft, but at the same time deny that the Communist takeover of Vietnam was anything close to a national emergency. After all, the eventual defeat in Vietnam did not cause the U.S. to cease to exist.
Many contemporary political philosophers seem to take Gandhi and MLK as examples, but I'll take Hobbes and Locke any day over them: as soon as the state steps over the limits of its strictly circumscribed powers, you are under absolutely no obligation to obey the parts of its law that exceed the limit. You may voluntarily choose to obey the punishment part for one reason or another, but that's just your choice and it's irrelevant to the legitimacy of your cause. (Hobbes said that death row inmates have the right to try to escape from prison, because in his theory, the state was never authorized to execute people.)
> If Snowden can maximize publicity by playing cat-and-mouse with the U.S. government for weeks
That's a completely different claim than the one being discussed (that Snowden is justified to avoid punishment per se), and hinges on a question about Snowden's motivations which for which there's no evidence.
Your points about MLK and Gandhi possibly being wrong are fine. Arguing about that is way beyond the scope of this thread.
EDIT (resonse to kijin): Snowden's motivations are obviously relevant if you're justifying his avoiding of punishment because of the publicity issue. If Snowden think going to trial would maximize publicity but is still avoiding punishment because he's a wimp, and it just so happens that avoiding punishment ends up giving him more publicity, the latter fact does not justify his actions.
It's not a requirement for promoting justice that you are sinless. But I would claim it is a requirement that take reasonable steps to prevent self-deception during the particular justice-promoting act. If someone steals a loaf of bread to feed their family, and also takes a nice watch for themselves along the way, I am prepared to say that that theft was not justified. I don't need to look into the family situation.
Also, most people doesn't dispute that the espionage law is just, they dispute whether PRISM is just and whether Snowden was justified in violating the (just) espionage law to expose PRISM.
As for taking reasonable steps to prevent self-deception, I still think it's a separate issue from whether an instance of disobedience is justified. There are two moral imperatives at issue: an obligation to protest an injustice and an obligation to be honest about your motivations. A person can technically fulfill one without fulfilling the other. If everyone had to have a spotless conscience in order for them to do something right, nobody would ever do anything right. I therefore don't care what Snowden's personal motivations are. It's tangential to the issue of whether his act of disobedience is justified, which I think it is, for reasons that have nothing to do with the contents of his psyche and everything to do with the (lack of) objective merits of the espionage law that requires his arrest.
Because you want them to care what you think when you're in the 51%. That's the basis of a lawful society. If everyone feels that they can do whatever they like regardless of what anyone else thinks, you just have anarchy. It seems that you decide to obey laws on a case-by-case basis on purely pragmatic grounds, but if everyone acted that way we'd in effect have no laws at all.
The basis of a lawful society is that the law gives people incentive to obey it, by punishing people who disobey. It makes the individually pragmatic coincide with the greater good. I never said that disobedient individuals will not be punished. I only said that they have the right to try not to be punished (as in Hobbes's example of the death penalty). But in the end, what they want might not matter because the state is vastly more powerful than any single individual. An important feature of a lawful society is that the law tends to win. But might doesn't make right. The Mafia always tends to find you in the end.
What happens when everyone willingly defies the law and gains the power to evade punishment? Anarchy? No, just a momentary revolution and then back to order. For most people, extreme disorder just isn't a rational choice. Political instability causes stock prices to go down, right? Who wants that? So there will always be a (more or less) lawful society, regardless what anyone thinks about its legitimacy. Anarchy is a fictitious threat that friends of the establishment tend to wave in the air when they feel threatened, that's all.
I don't think it's realistic to view the law in that way. I think that it's possible to have a lawful society only if the majority of people are willing to obey the law for it's own sake the majority of the time. You'd need to have a police state to enforce the laws otherwise (or "Leviathan", as you might term it). In most countries, people could break all kinds of laws all the time and get away with it.
Also, it's very unclear what it would mean to say that someone has the right to try not to be punished. How can I tell the difference between a situation where I have that right and where I don't? Since no-one could possibly stop me from merely trying, it seems vacuous to say that I have the right to do so. If you mean "has the right" in a moral sense (i.e., they would be morally justified in doing so), then I see what you mean but don't agree.
As a matter of fact, the majority of people in any society obey the majority of the law the majority of the time. After all, laws are often specifically designed to coincide with what the majority thinks is right, convenient, reasonable, etc., so the majority will obey those laws for the sake of doing the right thing, doing what is convenient, doing what is reasonable, etc. But if you want people to obey the law for the sake of obeying the law, I don't see what might justify such a demand.
In my opinion, criminal law is just a device to facilitate obedience to moral imperatives. (Other laws might serve other purposes, such as facilitating commerce.) It's like a proxy server that helps me talk to an authoritative data source. A lot of the time, the proxy is good enough. But if the proxy interferes with my websocket, I have every right to bypass the proxy and talk directly to the data source. Note that this doesn't mean that I'm going to ditch the proxy altogether. I'm still going to use the proxy for all of my non-websocket needs because it's faster, better documented, etc.
By the way, sorry for the vagueness surrounding the phrase "has the right". I meant it in a justificatory sense. In other words, if and only if a law contradicts moral imperatives, anyone has JUSTIFICATION to break that particular law and try to evade punishment. If, on the other hand, the law coincides with moral imperatives, there can be NO justification for breaking it (not because of the law but because of moral imperatives), but a person may still be justified in trying to evade punishment depending on whether the punishment is moral. For example, if the law requires disproportionately severe punishment for a petty crime, that's immoral.
That's news to me. Is this actually your interpretation of the present state of affairs in the US, or is it just how you think things ought to be?
>The validity of moral imperatives and rights does not depend on the existence of any law.
That's not a point of disagreement here. The question is whether, in addition to the other moral imperatives, there is a (defeasible) moral imperative to obey the law.
>In my opinion, criminal law is just a device to facilitate obedience to moral imperatives.
Again, this is a fantasy view of the law, not one that can possibly be applied in practice. Consider theft. How are you going to determine, in every case, whether it is morally justified that someone owns something? You can always go back and find an injustice in the chain of events which leads to ownership. Or take a clear case, say, Bernie Madoff. Would it have been ok to steal from him because he didn't justly acquire his possessions?
1. It's my understanding of the present state of affairs in most countries. Apart from religious law, it is rare for criminal statutes to include a clause like "No person shall murder another." People do tend to interpret "Murderers shall be put in prison" as "Thou shalt not murder", but IMO the latter is an assumption behind the law, not its content. All the lawmakers already assume that murder is wrong. The law's job is to decide how to discourage murders, what to do when murder happens, etc.
2. The set of objective moral imperatives that exist at all times and places, and their application in particular circumstances, should exhaust the set of all the moral imperatives that we are ever obliged to obey. By "all times and place" I mean "even in times and places where the state does not exist", because that's the condition in which humans lived for the majority of their existence on Earth. So I don't think it even makes sense for there to be a moral imperative that only exists in certain circumstances (e.g. the state) unless it is an application of an all-times-and-places moral imperative. But I cannot seem to find an all-times-and-places moral imperative that could be applied in such a way as to justify obedience to the laws of a state just because they are the laws of a state.
3. Bad example. What makes you think it is morally permissible to steal something just because the owner had obtained it immorally? (Two wrongs don't make a right, etc.)
My understanding is that there are laws against murder in most countries. Do you have any evidence to the contrary? This is a rather surprising claim. I don't see anything to back it up in the Wikipedia article on Murder in English common law: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_in_English_law
>So I don't think it even makes sense for there to be a moral imperative that only exists in certain circumstances
Why not? Ethical situationism certainly makes sense, even if you don't agree with it.
In any case, you can just assume that there is a conditional moral imperative to obey the laws if there are any, in which case this imperative could perfectly well have been valid throughout human history. Most moral imperatives presuppose the existence of things which don't necessarily exist. E.g., "don't steal" presupposes the existence of property.
>What makes you think it is morally permissible to steal something just because the owner had obtained it immorally?
If he obtained it immorally then in what sense does he "own" it? At most in a legal sense. But that shouldn't matter to you.
All I see is an RFC that (a) defines what counts as "murder" and (b) specifies what protocols the government should follow when murder occurs. AFAIK it doesn't contain any sentence to the effect of "persons MUST NOT commit murder", not even anything that amounts to "persons SHALL NOT commit murder". So I stand by my claim that such a prohibition is an assumption behind the law, not the content of the law.
The Ten Commandments, on the other hand, definitely includes the clause "persons MUST NOT commit murder". So do a lot of other religious texts. The idea that criminal law is comprised of a set of prohibitions, IMO, is a sticky residue from the days of theocracy when people thought there was a big guy in the sky who went around issuing explicit prohibitions.
> a conditional moral imperative to obey the laws if there are any
I accept that ethics may differ in different situations, but only to the extent that general imperatives allow. Every conditional moral imperative (hypothetical imperative according to Kant) is an application of a general moral imperative (categorical imperative according to Kant). Therefore the proxy analogy still holds, and I don't see any general moral imperative that can lead to the conclusion that I should obey whatever 51% of an arbitrarily delimited group of people say I should. The closest you can get is that the majority is likely to be right, but empirically, that's a rather questionable assumption.
In my view there is no general moral imperative not to steal. That presupposes the concept of ownership, which, as you said, is problematic. Rather, I think there is a moral imperative to refrain from depriving people of things they hold dear, which is itself an application of the general moral imperative to respect individual human beings.
Again, you are making a bizarre claim (that laws against murder do not constitute requirements that people should not commit murder) and provide nothing to back this up. You need to show that this is actually how laws are interpreted by the judiciary, not just give your own amateur legal opinion.
> Every conditional moral imperative...is an application of a general moral imperative (categorical imperative according to Kant).
That's not what I mean. I'm talking about a general moral imperative whose logical form is that of a conditional sentence. E.g. "If your society has laws, obey them." There is actually no such thing as a "conditional imperative" in Kant's system (were you thinking of hypothetical imperatives?) See the following (p. 293 first complete paragraph) for an explanation of why something with the form of a conditional sentence isn't necessarily a hypothetical imperative:
The irony here is that Kant didn't think that people had a right to break the law or rebel against the government!
In any case, I'm not a Kantian, so I don't really care whether his ethical theory has this consequence or not.
I did mention "hypothetical imperatives" in my comment above. "Conditional imperative" was your terminology. You're right that a conditional sentence may turn out to be a categorical imperative. But since according to Kant there exists only one categorical imperative with 3 different formulations, and since "If your society has laws, obey them" ain't on the list, I'm going to assume that Kant doesn't think it's a categorical imperative.
If so, it's just another hypothetical imperative whose validity depends on whether it is consistent with the categorical imperative. Kant apparently thinks it is, for unrelated reasons. That's where I depart from Kant, because I don't think the imperative in question is consistent with the categorical imperative. At the very least, it would have to be revised to something like "If your society has laws that promote obedience to the categorical imperative and its logical consequences, follow them."
That's why I asked you before whether you were making a claim about the actual state of affairs in the US. If it's just your philosophical opinion and not a claim about how the law is actually interpreted, who cares? You're rather fond yourself of dismissing the opinions of the judiciary. Surely your opinions on the law are of even less account.
> But since according to Kant there exists only one categorical imperative
That's really a terminological issue. There are clearly lots of specific moral requirements which follow from "the" categorical imperative, which meet the general requirements for being a categorical imperative (i.e. they are desire independent) and which don't meet the definition of a hypothetical imperative. I believe Kant did think that some kind of requirement to obey the law followed from the categorical imperative.
Again, since Kant does not agree with you on this specific issue, and since there are lots of moral philosophers besides Kant, what exactly is your point here? That Kant might have agreed with you if it wasn't for the fact that he didn't?
"actual state of affairs" === "the true, objective metaethical status of law".
> You're rather fond yourself of dismissing the opinions of the judiciary. Surely your opinions on the law are of even less account.
I'm of the philosophical opinion that nobody's legal opinion really matters when it comes to metaethical truths. If we were comparing legal opinions, my opinions would probably be worthless. But I thought we were talking about philosophical opinions? If my philosophical opinions are wrong, they'll be wrong because of flaws in the structure of the theory, not simply because the judiciary or anybody else thinks otherwise. The distinction between legal validity and moral truth is one of the most important concepts in the philosophy of law.
> I believe Kant did think that some kind of requirement to obey the law followed from the categorical imperative
Yes, he did. I said so in my comment above. I suggest that you read other people's comments more carefully before trying to repeat what they already said.
> since Kant does not agree with you on this specific issue ... what exactly is your point here? That Kant might have agreed with you if it wasn't for the fact that he didn't?
If you'd read my comment above, you might have noticed that I specified exactly where I disagree with Kant. But it looks like you're just scanning for loose sentences to quibble about.
> since there are lots of moral philosophers besides Kant
Of course there are. Some of them agree with Kant, others don't. There are also a number of philosophers, such as R. P. Wolff and A. J. Simmons, who argue that there is no duty to obey the law just because it's the law. I'm inclined to agree with them.
Yes of course, but you haven't offered any justification of your philosophical opinions. Also, you weren't just offering a philosophical opinion. You said "there is no law against murder", which is at least on the face of it a factual statement regarding the law. It's clear in point 1 of this comment, for example, that you were originally trying to make a legal point and not a purely philosophical one:
Regarding Kant, I still don't see your point. He doesn't agree with you, and you haven't shown how his metaethical theory supports your views. So why are you referring to him?
I think you're still lumping together different actions with different moral qualities. Just because they happen near the same time or are perpetrated by the same person doesn't mean that they should be evaluated together.
If Jean Valjean steals a bread and a watch, but if the watch was completely unnecessary to feed his family, his stealing of the bread might still be justified. If he helps a little girl escape from abuse while he himself is on the run, that doesn't mean that he was wrong to help her, nor that it was okay for him to lie about his identity. He did a good thing and a bad thing at the same time, just like the rest of us do all the time.
Submitting to punishment only shows a strong fidelity to law. The link between submission to punishment and purity of motivation is, though a serious consideration theoretically, a tenuous connection practically. There is nothing in submitting to punishment that absolves a disobedient of acting for "personal gain or fame".
Moreover, submitting to punishment may be okay in a nearly just society, but the further one moves from that ideal, the weaker the connection becomes between effective civil disobedience and submission to punishment becomes.
If the punishment is severe enough to outweigh potential gain, then of course there is. Snowden could get 30 years in a federal penitentiary. If he stayed in the US and pled guilty to the charges, who could possibly think he was doing it for personal gain?
> Moreover, submitting to punishment may be okay in a nearly just society, but the further one moves from that ideal, the weaker the connection becomes between effective civil disobedience and submission to punishment becomes.
OK, but if you want to use this to avoid the civil-disobedience arguments of MLK, then you need to say that (for instance) today's society is less just than 1963 Birmingham, AL was for blacks.
I wasn't talking about severity of punishments. You'd said that submitting to punishment prevents self-deceit about one's motivations being for the greater good, rather than for personal gain. You said nothing about severity of the punishment. Given your premise, I disputed that there is nothing in accepting punishment itself that clarifies one's motives or otherwise indicates more altruistic and pure motivation. You simply cannot draw a definitive connection.
Please be careful about suggesting I am avoiding the arguments of practitioners like MLK, et al. I am specifically dealing with the philosophical debate around civil disobedience, which has not significantly relied upon punishment as a justification for disobedience.
What justifies civil disobedience is the mode of action and the motivations for action. Not the acceptance of punishment. Punishment shows fidelity to the legal system one is disobeying. It does not purify motives. It does not absolve disobedients of acting from defeatable reasons.
It is not inconceivable that a disobedient might act in such a manner, including submission to punishment, even egregiously harsh punishment, for reasons that are not pure, altruistic, or otherwise engendering controversy for the sake of personal gain and/or fame.
While you may look at MLK and say, "His submission to punishment justifies his actions," that is a very dangerous maxim to put into play, because you cannot apply that as a universal rule for justifying illegal actions. This is why theorists leave punishment out of the justification-seeking, because it has no part. It is a marker for fidelity to the rule of law, around which much thought has been shared to understand what is just punishment for civil disobedience.
MLK engaged in justified civil disobedience because his mode of action and motivations for action have been interrogated and found undefeatable.
Well, I said "Personally, I would add that acceptance of punishment reduces your ability to deceive yourself into thinking you're disobeying for the greater good, rather than just for your own personal gain or fame." I thought that was implicit in the "reducing", in the sense that the avoidance of self-deception was not full, and presumably depends on the size of the punishment. Sorry if this was unclear.
>Please be careful about suggesting I am avoiding the arguments of practitioners like MLK, et al. I am specifically dealing with the philosophical debate around civil disobedience
I meant no disrespect. I meant "avoid" in the same way a physicists proposing a new particle avoids constraints placed by existing experiments on the properties of that particle. He does this by specifying the properties of the proposed particle in a way that ensures it would not have already been seen.
> It is not inconceivable that a disobedient might act in such a manner...for the sake of personal gain and/or fame.
Not inconceivable, but it does make it much more unlikely.
> "His submission to punishment justifies his actions," that is a very dangerous maxim to put into play,...
I definitely never meant to suggest this.
So strip the labels entirely before applying them ruthlessly.
That said, let me talk to the heart of your argument, which is more about whether his actions are justified, rather than what they are called. I would say that Snowden's goals are twofold, in my mind. One goal is to expose a secretive and possibly illegal operation perpetrated by a government that is supposed to represent the will of its people, that was being kept secret despite the fact that publicly acknowledging it arguably does not compromise it as a means of stopping the organizations that it is purportedly targeting, and thus the secrecy was not essential to the operation, but rather was to keep people ignorant of the violation of their privacy.
The second goals is to encourage other people to come forward with information that they feel satisfies these criteria.
The third goal, which is really, in my mind, a non-goal, is to expose the government's harsh treatment of people who reveal government secrets.
Facing trial and potentially being incarcerated furthers only the third of these goals, which is not really even a goal. It hurts the second goal significantly. And it is largely irrelevant to the first goal, which is accomplished whether or not he is penalized. Successfully fleeing prosecution advances the second goal significantly, and only hurts the third goal. I don't see how the fleeing prosecution affects the first goal in either direction, which is the most important one.
So are his actions justified? I think, as do many others on this site, that the first two goals here are very important ones, and the third is not important, so in my opinion, yes, justified. I hope his conscience is clear. The other question, whether they are effective, is separate, and remains to be seen. I am not optimistic; violations of privacy cause no real substantial harm until they do, and at that point it is too late to protest. I haven't even switched away from google, and my parents don't even know who Edward Snowden is.
> That said, let me talk to the heart of your argument
So first, those statements are clearly in conflict.
Second, I purposefully haven't been arguing from first principles about the general question of whether his actions were justified. That's just way, way beyond the scope of this thread.
I have consistently only been discussing whether practitioners of civil disobedience would find his actions justified (modulo my one interjection that starts "Personally,..."). That doesn't make my argument about semantics, it means I am only discussing what how the arguments of those thinkers would be applied to this situation. Saying "but it's not civil disobedience" does not avoid the charge, according to those arguments, that the acts were unjustified.
Talking about what the practitioners of civil disobedience think is entirely irrelevant to justification. A boy helps an old woman carry her groceries across the street. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., exclaims, "why would he do that! That's not civil disobedience! It is unjustified!"
People can do good things, that are justified, without it being civil disobedience. If one calls it civil disobedience, then viewed in that light, it gets complicated. But since it is not civil disobedience (I assert), why do we have to justify it against the standards applied to civil disobedience? It's also not "rule by divine right of Kings" -- is it therefore unjustified by that standard? It's not "because it helps the children", is it therefore unjustified? We can go over all the ways that it does not meet how various people justify actions, and still come no closer to looking at his actions for what they are.
Clearly, in my mind, this is a case of "whistleblowing", where someone reveals information that is hurtful to an organization but helpful to the public. A mafia informant doesn't stick around to get whacked, and nobody faults him, because receiving the punishment for violating the secrecy does not help the cause that he is trying to advance.
Now, you assert Z is justified, which a lot of people say looks a lot like X. In fact, Z = X + delta_X. Furthermore, it is agreed by everyone that Y does not hold in this case. So some people say, "Z is effectively X, and Y doesn't hold, so Z is unjustified." You say, "but Z != X. Therefore this argument breaks down. Here's my new argument for justification". But someone replies "but delta_X is small, and I claim that it doesn't change the outcome of the original argument".
You can't respond "But Z is not the same thing as X, so we should use completely different arguments to judge justified-ness." You either need to claim that delta_X is large enough to break the original argument, or acknowledge that you disagree with that argument.
I believe you're misinterpreted me to be saying "Snowden's actions are trying to be civil disobedience, but they don't have all the qualities of justified civil disobedience, therefore it's unjustified". Hence your thinking that my argument was composed of semantics. But this is not at all what I argued, and I think you'll agree if you re-read my comments.
I don't know what this jibber-jabber about "indirect civil disobedience" is. I agree that a lot of people say Z looks a lot like X. In fact, my entry into this thread consisted of saying "Z does not look like X at all". They are so different, in my mind that applying delta X is like saying "imagine that instead of leaking documents and fleeing the country, he had not leaked documents, but instead sat at a segregated lunch counter, and instead of fleeing the country, he calmly complied with the police and spent the night in jail".
I agree with all of your points about Civil Disobedience itself; and you beat me to quoting King's Birmingham Jail letter by the barest of fractions of hairs. If you choose to, say, not pay taxes, and when the government gets wise, you skip town to avoid paying, this is not civil disobedience; even if you chose to not pay taxes to specifically protest the tax itself. But this does not even barely resemble what Snowden has done, so I do not concede that Y is necessary or even relevant to the justification.
No, a subset of prior civil disobedients willingly submitted to punishment to allow their disobedience to remain justified in the public view so they could continue their civil disobedience after punishment. This has not been a rule among civil disobedients, but a feature common to some.
However, submission to punishment is often especially helpful in cases of indirect civil disobedience, not only because the punishment is just, but because it absolves the disobedient of accusations of infidelity to the legal system in which s/he acts. Still not a requirement, though, as it can be detrimental to continued disobedience and successful initiation of change.
I never got this sense, let alone thought of it as clear. Can you explain?
"If MLK decided to break a traffic law in order to speak out against segregation, he surely would accepted the punishment for this violation of the law."
Would he? And even so, would he do it because he thought otherwise his actions would be unjustified?
> In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.
Basically, as I understand it, the idea is that the law is valid. It has been passed according to a democratic process. (Here, democracy might not be as important as the plain need for government to ensure law and order. I'm not sure.) If you were threatened by a random robber, MLK would not say you would not be obligated to give up your belongings or accept that the robber shoots you. But the government is different, because it is valid/necessary/whatever. Breaking the law and fleeing is wrong, but breaking the law and accepting the punishment for just ends is respectful of the rule of law.
I understand Gandhi even less. He was pretty fanatical about non-violence, going so far as to say the Jews should have offered to kill themselves in the holocaust in order to catch the world and the German's people's attention. (To be fair, at this point he was pretty old and maybe going crazy.) But he definitely urged Indians to break the British law and accept the punishment. The British rule certainly wasn't valid according to democratic ideals. I'm pretty sure Gandhi would say you should allow the robber to shoot you.
There are reams of paper that could be easily filled by 'laws' that were passed in a 'lawful' fashion, but that were contradictory to the Constitution of the United States, thereby making their effect a nullity at best. The Constitution is there to uphold the rights of the citizenry, but also to empower the government to uphold the law, while at the same time restraining the government such that it cannot violate the citizens' rights in doing so. See recently, Prop 8, DOMA, et al.
American Jurisprudence tells us that laws in violation of the Constitution are not laws at all, and further, that no one is obligated to obey them, nor are any courts obligated to uphold them just because they were otherwise lawfully passed.
The assertion here is that the collection of private data by our government is in violation of said Constitution, and the legality of that law will likely hinge on the Supreme Court's decision on whether or not that data is indeed private or not. Thus far, we know that at least parts of the program in play have been deemed unconstitutional, and it seems that the NSA is performing them anyway. But as the government is empowered to govern through the consent of the governed, how can we have consented to a program we know nothing about? If its only discussion is done in secret?
In that regard, if we assume good faith on all parties, then we can say that at the very least, somebody needed to bring it to the attention of the public, and that person could also reasonably concede that the government in violation would have no subsequent authority to imprison or punish them, except falsely - for which I can't see even the most ardent civilly disobedient person willing to subject themselves to.
In summary though, I agree that civil disobedience is a term faultily applied here, but for perhaps the polar opposite of your reasoning.
 - http://constitution.org/uslaw/16amjur2nd.htm
I think this is just more evidence that it's not really the democratic process per se. It's the fact that the government is maintaining law and order. It's the fact that breaking of laws, even unjust and unconstitutional ones, contributes to a weakening of social order (and, in the extreme, anarchy).
I'm unsure if you read the post or not, but I specifically address this. There is a long-standing recognition of indirect civil disobedience--e.g., violating law A to bring attention to the unjust nature of law B because you cannot, or choose not to, directly violate law B. You're thinking inside the box of only direct civil disobedience--e.g., refusing to give up your seat on the bus to a white man even though the law requires you to do so.
It is still civil disobedience, and I think far more civil disobedience than whistleblowing, yet another label that has been used to label Snowden.
Why don't we like "whistleblowing"? It seems that this exactly describes what he did. Is there a connotation associated with whistleblowing that I'm not aware of? I thought whistleblowing was considered an admirable thing in and of itself. I mean, you have to acknowledge that what he did was _at least_ whistleblowing, even if it was more than "just" whistleblowing.
How is that not protesting an unjust law by publicly and openly defying it?
Now there is state. You cannot decide not to provide funds to the state when it behaves the way you dislike. Even if you hide your taxes, the state controls all your currency and prints it for itself without asking you. You cannot simply choose another currency. You can move out — to another state just like yours or worse. You are only allowed to make a humble limited input every 4 years in a form of choosing who will tax you.
There is nothing strange or bad in disobedience. You do it everyday in your life. It's only state propaganda which starts from the early age at school that keeps people terrified at the idea that they are simply bullied to give money for wars, police, spying and terrorising people around them. Under the premise of "social good", of course.
Consider birds, dogs, cats, whatever! It seems that just about any "advanced" (for lack of a better word, don't mean a value judgement) animal is rather picky about whom with and how they interact. When they become quiet and passive, they are either sick, poisoned or dying, or domesticated and broken.... or domesticated and with friends they know they can trust.
Voluntary co-operation is awesome, accepting legitimate authority in a given circumstance is smart and necessary (like trusting parents one shouldn't run into the streets just because they say so), but blind submission, unless it's roleplay or whatever, what is that good for?
Honest question, because from what I can tell, not even any "owners" win anything. A leash, any violence or trickery always transforms the people on both ends into slaves. So, what gives?
(oh, and if someone were to say that not driving over other people with your car is a leash, I think that would say more about them, than about leashes)
Even the time I spend in traffic has already exceeded your timeframe of "wonderful anarchy". Not to mention all the other personal matters that I could theoretically choose to do, if I were a douchebag.
What if I choose not to spend time with my children? Or to say 'Hello' to my wife? Am I sticking it to The Man with my rugged individualism?
> You cannot simply choose another currency
Sure you can. Just make sure to convert enough of it to legal tender when it comes time to pay the taxes that paid for your schooling (and the schooling of those idiots you interact with everyday), the environmental inspectors and regulators, medical researchers, Peace Corps works, USAID, etc.
And there is a difference between "we take your money, then educate you" vs. "you pay voluntarily and then we educate you". If my parents were forced to pay for my school, I'm not obliged to be thankful for my education. Otherwise, how can I then be really thankful when I learned voluntarily with people I chose?
By remaining a citizen and staying in the country you agree to do these things though. The "social safety net" does not pay for itself, whether you're a liberal or a libertarian or an anarchist.
i.e. by being here you have caused the state to have to provide for you in some regard, whether it's delivering mail to you, accounting for you in a census, medical emergency services, protection from the other citizens, military defense, safe transit from one spot to the next, and far, far more.
The exchange to that is that you contribute some fair share to pay that back. If you end up paying more today then that's OK, because the state paid more when you were a child and will likely pay much more when you're elderly.
If that's something you personally don't like then I would recommend renouncing your citizenship and moving somewhere where taxes cannot be enforced. That or working to fix the government you're in to magically provide no services and therefore require no taxes.
> If my parents were forced to pay for my school, I'm not obliged to be thankful for my education.
I might at least thank my parents, but perhaps that's just me.
Now the question to you is how do you define property rights and how exactly state legitimately acquires property? You cannot use the same argument shifted one generation back ("it was paid by previous users of the state") because it'll be circular argument. There must be some valid legitimate source of good produced by the state (who exactly, btw?) before anyone was taxed.
I believe there never was any legitimate source of state income which then can be "traded" with you for taxes. It was always violent extraction first, then questionable "service" after that. Because logically, if there were no violence in the first place, it would never be called "tax", but "payment". No one would ever talk about "giving fair share" and "contributing to society". If there was a private gathering of individuals who voluntarily raised money and made some service, they wouldn't need to make any propaganda about how good it is to pay. Because there wouldn't be any violence to justify with moral commandments.
History is far too undocumented to go back for millenia and settle old scores.
What I'm saying is, here's the status quo, here's the rules and structure we inherited from the "shoulders of giants" that came before us.
If this is what we like then we keep it. If this is not what we like then we change it. But I'm not going to reframe society as if everything that was ever created is illegitimate because Hammurabi was mean to other people before he created his Code.
How do you derive this from my words? Children are created by adults who may use peaceful methods to raise them, or use violent methods.
If you support "status quo" you should equally support any status quo in any point in history. Be it slavery in 19th century, or catholic tortures in medieval times. Was slavery "OK" in your view because many people thought it was OK back then? It's just a double standard. If it was morally okay before, it should be morally okay in every time in the history (from the point of view of the same observer, that is you or me).
About status quo: there are two ways to change any status quo. Voluntarily (via mutual agreement) or violently (the strongest wins). Every time you go to work you are changing status quo. You create wealth that did not exist yesterday. Or you fix things that got broken and would remain broken until you fix them. Typically you do it peacefully: by agreeing with everyone whom it might concern that they don't mind doing what you do (and may even pay you for that). Now, imagine we agreed together that I do something useful to you for a payment. Everyone who is really concerned about such change in the universe is participating voluntarily and has no objection. But then comes a guy who calls himself a "government" and brings a thing called "income tax". He now wants to change the status quo violently. Instead of providing us something of value and negotiating, he simply states "since you produced something of value to each other, both of you now must pay me". And shows his gun.
In other words, if you use "status quo" as a moral principle, you create many more problems. You either have no moral stance whatsoever, so your argument self-destructs (e.g. if slavery was okay in 19th century and not okay in 21st, then you have no opinion on slavery per se). Or you have some moral stance, but then you need to come up with a theory why certain status quo is okay and some other is not.
My position: "Why don't we bring down weapons and discuss on equal grounds". Your position: "No, lets keep those weapons as they seemingly solve my problems, and if you have objections you are probably being immoral and against children."
As you can see, if you are pointing government's gun at me, it could never be me who is immoral because I have no power of objection. But it could be that the immoral guy is the one who proclaims what is good and forces people to follow him.
That's a bit pessimistic. You can move to a state is like yours, or worse, or better.
Let's keep aiming for better