R2-M4: TeamBG4 VS The Da Vinci System

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4
Future of Europe

WELCOME TO ROUND 2 OF THE FUTURE OF EUROPE E-DEBATE COMPETITION!

The topic for the 2nd debate is:

Civil disobedience and actions are justified when the justice system and rule of law are undermined.

In this debate TeamBG4 (Affirmative) will face The Da Vinci System (negative).

The 1st debater of the affirmative team has 24 hours to post the 1st speech of the debate. Even if the speech is posted before the 24 hours expire, the 1st negative speakers’ 24 hours of preparation time will begin when the initial time expires.

Before posting please consult Guildelines and the Online Debate Guide.

Good luck to all teams!

RESULT

I thank both teams for this debate.

This was an enjoyable match to follow, with a lot of good points made by both sides, but in the end I sided with team opposition, The Da Vinci System.

The main reason for this is simple, I felt that both teams concentrated on their own arguments more than on counter-argumentation, and the opposition team had overall stronger arguments.

Proposition team does a good job of setting up the need for such a potential mechanism, and outlines a few examples where some action is required. Furthermore the idea of “without law, there is no actual democracy” is fairly well explained and upheld by the example. The 2nd speaker also does a good job of showing why “trust” is an essential resource needed in order to foster constructive discourse and interaction between the people and the state, broadly speaking. However, I would have liked to hear/read more about how this motion can actually solve these problems. Yes, in theory it can, but in practice I think that the mechanism needed a more thorough portrayal in order for me to ultimately believe that this motion is desirable, especially in light of the opposition attacks and arguments.

Which does bring me to the opposition team that outlines some clear risks and they’re overall impact, such as the vagueness of the motion which can lead to subjectivity and a lack of consistency in terms of “civil disobedience”, the dangers of radicalization, the slippery slope of the disobedience/abuse on both sides, disengagement from politics and the civic society in general, and so on. Though I felt that some of these points weren’t taken to their natural conclusion, such as the potential weakening of the countries’ economy and how that can lead to disastrous consequences. Furthermore, some alternatives to disobedience are presented, but only superficially and the point made by proposition that “sometimes, we need to resort to this because all else fails” still stands. But I’m convinced that the method proposed with probably lead to the desired outcomes.

In the end, I did not find that proposition tackles the opposition ideas sufficiently, nor do they present arguments that have sufficient impact or likeliness of positive outcome to supersede the myriad risks and pitfalls present. In conclusion, The Da Vinci System wins this debate.

Speaker points:

1st Affirmative: 19 (Content: 7; Style: 7; Strategy: 5)
2nd Affirmative: 18 (Content: 7; Style: 7; Strategy: 4)

1st Negative: 22 (Content: 8; Style: 7; Strategy: 6)
2nd Negative: 21 (Content: 8; Style: 7; Strategy: 5)

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    The Da Vinci System

    We have seen that democracy is on the edge in Europe. There are more and more waves of radicalism, euroscepticism and nationalism that seem to grow fast because people don’t believe in the rule of law and they have many reasons why to credit populist rhetorics.
    First of all, we have explained how the motion will create a world dominated by populism and citizens will be easily manipulated by their leaders and we also proved why the status quo do not need “ultima ratio” actions such as the one proposed by the Affirmative team. I want to present our mechanism in which civil disobedience leads to immorality.

    1.Civil disobedience is based on people’s subjectivity.
    a.The problem with undermining the rule of law is by definition that laws are not respected. Why does this lead to illegality? The reason is that no one can create a direct link between a specific law and a specific problem. This happens because people have different needs, expectations and dissatisfactions regarding the system, therefore every single individual will refuse to obey the laws taking into consideration of their particular reasons. Moreover, it is very hard to believe that people will disobey laws because they want to rise awareness regarding corruption, crooked judge or opaque governmental policies. These problems in order to be solved need a clear impact and citizens will not be able to propagate it because of their subjectivity that cannot be put together in a coherent version.

    b.How will the citizens refuse obeying the law? People engage in creating a culture in which they refuse paying taxes, they fraud the government and commit many other illegalities. This reveals what citizens follow a self interest, also it is very difficult to create links or connections between their actions, and their actions do not target a specific problem. This leads to a an non-existent impact on their actions.

    c.Furthermore, law disobedience leads to less involvement in politics. People instead of being proactive and directly interested in finding solutions to problems, they become reactive. The consequence is that only a group of people will be interested in dominating the political stage: populist leaders, nationalists and radical. There will not exist a dialogue between different political views which often means balance and the guarantee that a political perspective will not be absolute. This is just a vicious circle where nothing changes and it causes less cooperation. In addition to this, less taxes collected by the state, means less money spent in public fields such as education and medical care. Less money spent on public security means a weak police which causes fear, instability and insecurity in social groups.

    2.Civil disobedience leads to radicalism.
    Radicalism alters social structures and trust in long term. How does it function? Because citizens have their reasons for opposing the rules initiated by the government, on the long-term the lack of communication between them will lead to a distorted image about each other. “The mirror image effect” explains how citizens believe that their government cannot solve their problems, it does a bad job in creating the best services for them and it serves only to corrupt politicians, and on the other hand we have the state who watches the disobedient citizens who do not respect the rule of law and create more and more illegalities without taking into consideration the consequences. These assumptions will create a gap between the two major actors in this debate: citizens and the state. Each side will have a radical view about the other one and will not be interested in having a dialogue and discuss the issues. The false assumptions that the “other side is entirely corrupt”, “it is full of thieves and manipulative figures” or “ they do never respect the rule of law” will lead to many people who will break the law and no one will be aware of that. The two sides will be too concentrated on the false assumptions rather than verifying if the rule is respected accordingly.

    Our world is a place where people are encouraged to have dialogues to their leader, to use democratic tools to make a change in the society and be active citizens, not reactive ones. We believe that a functional society is not dominated by immorality. If there are problems with the rule of law, we should find moderate alternatives and only if they fail, we might think at a more radical ones.

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    EU Prosperity

    To address the concerns expressed by the opposition team, it appears necessary to restate the definition of civil disobedience which we proposed. Namely, it’s a way of demonstrating disagreement with specific policies, by means of disobeying certain laws. Without this prerequisite, it would be simply breaking the law and impossible to prove as civil disobedience. Moreover, our suggested definition implies the need for a connection between the action and goal. However, due to the variety of possible contexts, any suggested universal rule for when civil disobedience is justified would have exceptions. Instead, we prefer taking an honest look at actual trends and the potential consequences of the specific case. What we find is that normally, civil disobedience isn’t the first instance of displaying disapproval. First, there are facebook posts, then there are letters, then there are protests, and if everything fails to bring about change, then civil disobedience follows. We never argued that civil disobedience should be the first or is the best option to display disapproval. Rather, subversion of the legal system and rule of law are issues of extreme consequence and therefore, actions outside of the legally permissible could become necessary to restore their propriety. Mind you, something as little as assembling with just one more person than is allowed to for a protest without an official permit can be classified as civil disobedience.

    Let us now examine trust, which is an important commodity in any society. For example, one of the criteria for establishing a tax haven is the rule of law, which translates to financial security for investors. The said investors need to trust a specific country to not claim their investments. In this sense, by disregarding the rule of law, a government undoubtedly lowers trust levels within corporations and citizens. This means fewer investments, which means slower economic growth, which means higher rates of financial fraud by citizens and businesses. This, by the way, is not a speculation, as it becomes very obvious in casual and academic conversations within developing countries. On the other hand, the people of Denmark and Norway, for example, don’t mind paying higher taxes because they trust that they will receive a return on their investments in the form of public services. The rule of law facilitates trust. What we’re alluding to is that if the rule of law isn’t upheld by the people who should be enforcing it, the government, it will not be upheld by the citizens, either. It is clear that such vicious cycles must be avoided at all cost, which is why championing the rule of law is so vital.

    While we understand why our standpoint was perceived as black and white, we must respectfully disagree. As we have already mentioned, trust is a crucial part of societal functioning. The lack of trust enforces the “friend/enemy” mentality in people, creating the factions mentioned by the opposition. Specifically, it is through the distrust of the fact that everyone is working towards the common goal of improving our quality of life that we get the tension between citizens and policemen or politicians.

    Civil disobedience in the specific context of the topic has the ability to expose institutional issues, by virtue of the way in which participants are treated. Moreover, it has a good chance of bringing about the resolutions necessary in a completely non-violent way, which causes minor inconveniences, such as, blocking roads. And finally, it may increase public participation in political life as a byproduct, which would make a representation that much more legitimate.

    The reason for civil disobedience when the legal system or the rule of law are undermined is to restore their propriety. While perfect organization on the part of dissenters is unlikely, to claim that the people fighting against personalized and arbitrary rule would turn to authoritarian demagogues as their saviours is a stretch of illogic - It would be a performative contradiction.

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    The Da Vinci System

    Today’s world poses great challenges for Democracy. Nationalism, authoritarianism and corruption are on the rise. We disregard failed states like Venezuela, where neither respecting nor breaking the law brings much difference as there is no relevant law enforcement. We also believe that Dictatorships, Countries like Saudi Arabia or North Korea, are places in which civil disobedience rather leads to a death penalty.

    Civil Disobedience actions have to meet 2 cumulative criteria for them to be justified: Directness and Effectiveness.

    1. Indirectness leads to immoral actions;

    Unlike the context for the suffragettes or afro-americans disregarding specific sexist or racial laws, the context proposed by the motions can’t offer an objective way to choose which laws to disobey. It is highly possible (as there have been cases of such Civil Disobedience actions) for people to consider generally to stop paying their taxes, stop cooperating with authorities or to commit voting fraud as in their view a corrupt government should never get to spend their money, corrupt police officials should not be trusted and a rigged system of voting should be undermined.
    However, this white and black mentality can easily be subverted. It is not just a common individual who will see herself as being justified to stop paying taxes, it is also a corporation which will see an opportunity for profit, a criminal who will blame police forces or a local party group who will justify winning through any means necessary in order to defeat the corrupt enemy. Without an objective metric it becomes easy for many self interested agents to abuse the narrative of civil disobedience in order to further their interests.
    What is more, everybody is a hero in their own stories. Without a way of balancing the views of individuals even people who sincerely believe their actions are justified can harm others who believe their opposite actions are just as justified or more. In Romania, for example, there are many factions who truly believe the legal system is corrupt and therefore this enables them to circumvent it: radical nationalists who planted illegally hundreds of crosses against a mosque in Bucharest, others who send death threats to the majority party officials and some who argue that ID documents for the elderly should be hidden to stop them from voting the ruling party.

    2. Disobedience further creates the context for political groups to undermine the rule of law;

    Where civil disobedience could be effective there are better alternatives. EU countries and USA rejoice in freedom of speech, giving the ability to inform and attract supporters to any cause. In cases like Russia or Turkey there is still a multi party system in which people can run for office, form new parties and attract supporters. Along with that, and unlike in the past, there are strong international organizations, like the Council of Europe, which safeguard human rights and which can be directly addressed by any one who has been harmed by their state. It can be highly difficult but it is not impossible.
    The alternative however creates the perfect narrative for authoritarians to further their power and dismantle other democratic safeguards. Even well coordinated groups, such as Pussy Riot in Moscow, have done nothing more but give exactly the narrative that Putin needed to prove to his followers the Russian Orthodox Values are under attack by Western decadence. “We have red lines beyond which starts the destruction of the moral foundations of our society,” Putin said. “If people cross this line they should be made responsible in line with the law.” describing Pussy Riot’s protest as “an act of group sex aimed at hurting religious feelings”. It can be very easy for PiS ,Fidesz, or PSD to use Civil Disobedience as proof of a real internal threat. In the age of identity politics, all a radical group needs is proof of illegal behavior in order to consolidate the needed support to dismantle democracy.

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    EU Prosperity

    To begin the discussion, we would like to propose a definition of civil disobedience, which we believe to be concise and agreeable, namely ,,the disobedience of certain laws as a method of demonstrating disagreement with specific policies or a record of actions by representatives”.

    Next, we must highlight the distinction between the concept of justice and codified law. While they are not separate by necessity, they are not synonymous by necessity, either. A modern look towards history quickly reveals this fact. For example, slavery which was legal in most countries for most of human history and is regarded as morally indefensible by today’s standards. Among it we also find the legal sanctioning of genocides, dictatorships, and the subjection of women. And if we think that these issues are in the distant past, we must only look towards the Middle East and Africa. Even within our enlightened Occident societies, all of these issues belong to the recent, and not ancient, history. Moreover, we are often blinded by the progress already made to the yet unresolved issues - While we denounce slavery, we are more than happy to buy items produced by de facto slaves abroad; While we speak with the pretension of caring about the environment, we ride our cars each day; And while we announce our love for animals, we turn a blind eye to the billions killed for frivolous consumption daily. All of these actions are obviously legal, yet the justification for said legality is increasingly coming into question.

    Let us now examine the phrase “rule of law” as it is a particularly loaded term. Originating in France as “Principe de Legalité” and later popularized by Englishmen and Americans, the phrase denounces the rule of individual men in exchange for the rule of law, which is impersonal and universal. The phrase is particularly present within Western discourse and so, it is most appropriate to focus there. Within the said Occident context, the rule of law is a founding principles of all democracies, since if it did not exist, democratic participation would quickly be invalidated by arbitrary decrees. Therefore, to breach this legal convention is tantamount to rejecting democracy itself (the rule of the people). Likewise, when the justice system, which is also essential for the democratic functioning of a state by means of arbitration, is jeopardized “real democracy” ceases to exist. In such a case, a “pretend democracy”, which is in reality a type of oligarchy, is left in its place. Should such an event occur, virtually all dissent can easily be deemed illegal, making it civil disobedience. At which point, in its multitude of expressions, civil disobedience becomes the only option for reestablishing legitimate rule.

    The most recent example is the “Crisis in Venezuela”, from which we can learn several things. When we disregard the conspiratorial talking points, it becomes clear that Nicolás Maduro is an illegitimate representative by virtue of violating the laws and procedures set forth by the Constitution of Venezuela. Furthermore, by refusing to step down as President of Venezuela, he has directly breached the principle of the rule of law. The next thing we can learn from these unfortunate events is that, on the whole, people prefer the comfort of everyday life over any sort of civil unrest, it is only when living conditions become far too dire that people will actively engage in civil disobedience, a rule well-known to despots. And the last thing we can infer is that although the state is experiencing a crisis of the utmost scale, Venezuelan society has not broken down. On the contrary, people express far more solidarity in such moments of crisis than in the moments of peace, which indicates the existence of a social fabric, which transcends or predates, civil life.

    To conclude, civil disobedience does not herald the end of society or a revolution, nor does it entail violence and death. Instead, its form can be seen in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of Martin Luther King Jr., or perhaps in the White Night Riots following the absolvement of Harvey Milk’s murderer, or even in Rosa Parks, refusing to sit on the back of the bus. We firmly hold the stance that civil disobedience is a legitimate position to assume in a time of institutional crisis. After all, it is the institutions that must serve the people, not the other way around. Moreover, law is one of the many codes of conduct under which people operate - common sense, empathy, moral values, tradition, and religion represent a significant part of our modus operandi, evidenced by our blissful unawareness of most laws. The vast majority of times, civil disobedience is the symptom, rather than the problem and so, it has the potential to, at the very least, expose the illness.