Civil Disobedience



Summary

In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule their consciences. Whenever a government commits unrighteous actions (for example, starting a war), it is your duty to disobey government, as to not to become an agent of injustice. 

 

Reflections:

You could make a similar argument as Thoreau does concerning economic interests overruling your conscience. To reduce impact on the environment, shifting your company’s entire electricity supply to renewables, would then be a moral duty. Even though I would agree with that statement, I don’t think it’s the most effective way to create change.

 

Anecdotes or passages worth sharing:

“It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, as much as for the right.”

“Unjust laws exist: shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once? Men, generally […] think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. [Government] makes it worse. […] Why does it not encourage its citizens to put out its faults, and do better than it would have them [do]?"

“It is not a man’s duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even to the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support.”

 “If a state is governed by the principles of reason, poverty and misery are subjects of shame; if a state is not governed by the principles of reason, riches and honors are subjects of shame.”