14th August 2021
Gabriel Moens on Civil Disobedience – and comments by Augusto Zimmerman
Augusto Zimmerman wrote an article on 24 February 2021 in the Epoch Times, “On Civil Disobedience and Covid Measures”.
Zimmerman wrote this on 8 February 2021:
Professor Moens reminds us in Chapter 2 (‘On Civil Disobedience’, 1980) that there are instances of governmental arbitrariness which can be remedied only by means of civil disobedience.
He starts this chapter by describing civil disobedience as the violation of law which is promulgated in accordance with the formal requirements of a legal system. Then he communicates that some acts of civil disobedience appear to be protected by Articles 18 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Accordingly, the need of governments to legally respect our fundamental freedoms of thought, conscience and religion implies a natural right of the citizen to breach any legal norm that is inconsistent with the ordinary exercise of these fundamental freedoms.
Professor Moens is careful to explain that the efficacy of civil disobedience is dependent on its rationality. He proceeds to demonstrate how a commitment to rationality requires that the principles invoked as justification for civil disobedience must be balanced against the principle of regular obedience to validly enacted laws.
This, according to him, is particularly important because human beings are naturally inclined to disobey rules with which they personally disagree.
Professor Moens also explains “that a system does not function adequately anymore when some groups have entrenched power positions in society and use their power to impose their will on weaker and vulnerable classes of people”. He informs that “when the opportunities for change which are provided by the legal system are deficient, civil disobedience is often an effective and expeditious way to challenge the law”.
In other words, civil disobedience might be justified when the normal channels of social and legal change can no longer function properly, or whenever serious grievances are not properly addressed by the State and the voice of the people is simply not heard.
Zimmerman gave a talk on this issue recently: