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On Rawls's account of civil disobedience, in a nearly just society,civil disobedients address themselves to the majority to show that, intheir considered opinion, the principles of justice governingcooperation amongst free and equal persons have not been respected bypolicymakers. Rawls's restriction of civil disobedience to breachesthat defend the principles of justice may be criticised for itsnarrowness since, presumably, a wide range of legitimate values notwholly reducible to justice, such as transparency, security,stability, privacy, integrity, and autonomy, could motivate people toengage in civil disobedience. However, Rawls does allow thatconsiderations arising from people's comprehensive moral outlooks maybe offered in the public sphere provided that, in due course, peoplepresent public reasons, given by a reasonable political conception ofjustice, sufficient to support whatever their comprehensive doctrineswere introduced to support (Rawls, 1996). Rawls's proviso grants thatpeople often engage in the public sphere for a variety of reasons; soeven when justice figures prominently in a person's decision to usecivil disobedience, other considerations could legitimately contributeto her decision to act. The activism of Martin Luther King Jr. is acase in point. King was motivated by his religious convictions and hiscommitments to democracy, equality, and justice to undertake protestssuch as the Montgomery bus boycott. Rawls maintains that, while hedoes not know whether King thought of himself as fulfilling thepurpose of the proviso, King could have fulfilled it; and had heaccepted public reason he certainly would have fulfilled it. Thus, onRawls's view, King's activism is civil disobedience.

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Objection: Civil disobedience cannot be justified in a democracy. Unjust laws made by a democratic legislature can be changed by a democratic legislature. The existence of lawful channels of change makes civil disobedience unnecessary.

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One could say Henry David Thoreau"s Civil Disobedience inspired Martin Luther King"s Letter from Birmingham Jail. ... It wasn"t Thoreau"s Civil Disobedience or the abolitionists influenced by it that ended slavery. It was a civil war that killed at least 618,000 Americans. ... It secured them through nonviolent protest: lunch counter sit-ins, marches, and boycottsaE"precisely the civil disobedience advocated by Thoreau, and later King. ... Because Thoreau wrote against enormous opposition, as the Civil War made evident, he wrote Civil Disobedience less to change the minds of millions of southe...

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Reply: Thoreau, who performed civil disobedience in a democracy, argued that sometimes the constitution is the problem, not the solution. Moreover, legal channels can take too long, he argued, for he was born to live, not to lobby. His individualism gave him another answer: individuals are sovereign, especially in a democracy, and the government only holds its power by delegation from free individuals. Any individual may, then, elect to stand apart from the domain of law. Martin Luther King, Jr., who also performed civil disobedience in a democracy, asks us to look more closely at the legal channels of change. If they are open in theory, but closed or unfairly obstructed in practice, then the system is not democratic in the way needed to make civil disobedience unnecessary. Other activists have pointed out that if judicial review is one of the features of American democracy which is supposed to make civil disobedience unnecessary, then it ironically subverts this goal; for to obtain standing to bring an unjust statute to court for review, often a plaintiff must be arrested for violating it. Finally, the Nuremberg principles require disobedience to national laws or orders which violate international law, an overriding duty even in (perhaps especially in) a democracy.

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There is some dispute over the kinds of policies that civildisobedients may target through their breach of law. Some exclude fromthe class of civilly disobedient acts those breaches of law thatprotest the decisions of private agents such as trade unions, banks,private universities, etc. (Raz, 1979, 264). Others, by contrast,maintain that disobedience in opposition to the decisions of privateagents can reflect a larger challenge to the legal system that permitsthose decisions to be taken, which makes it appropriate to place thisdisobedience under the umbrella of civil disobedience (Brownlee, 2012;2007). There is more agreement amongst thinkers that civildisobedience can be either direct or indirect. In other words, civildisobedients can either breach the law they oppose or breach a lawwhich, other things being equal, they do not oppose in order todemonstrate their protest against another law or policy. Trespassingon a military base to spray-paint nuclear missile silos in protestagainst current military policy would be an example of indirect civildisobedience. It is worth noting that the distinction often drawnbetween direct civil disobedience and indirect civil disobedience isless clear-cut than generally assumed. For example, refusing to paytaxes that support the military could be seen as either indirect ordirect civil disobedience against military policy. Although this acttypically would be classified as indirect disobedience, a part ofone's taxes, in this case, would have gone directly to support thepolicy one opposes.

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