A Duty to Resist (with Candice Delmas)

How far should we go to fight societal injustice?

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In Candice Delma’s book A Duty to Resist she highlights a theory of resisting injustice as a duty in of itself. This specific duty could require breaking the law. She also defends uncivil disobedience and where it is limited in feasibility. Throughout this episode she makes us question how far we should go in order to fight an injustice. Delmas argues that the duty of justice, the principle of fairness, the Samaritan duty, and political association impose responsibility to resist under conditions of injustice.

What is civil disobedience? How did John Rawls shape our understanding of civil disobedience? What is a just society? What are the principles of justice? Should disobedience always be civil?

Further Reading:

A Duty to Resist, written by Candice Delmas

Samaritanism and Civil Disobedience, written by Candice Delmas

Related Content:

Resisting the State Injustice, Free Thoughts Podcast

Do We Have a Duty to Obey the Government?, Free Thoughts Podcast

What’s Fairness Got to Do With Obeying the Law?, written by Aaron Ross Powell


00:07 Aaron Ross Powell: Welcome to Free Thoughts. I’m Aaron Powell.

00:09 Trevor Burrus: And I’m Trevor Burrus.

00:11 Aaron Ross Powell: Joining us today, is Candice Delmas. She’s an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Political Science, at Northeastern University and the Associate Director of the Politics, Philosophy, and Economics Program. Today, we’re discussing her new book, ‘A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should Be Uncivil’. Welcome to Free Thoughts.

00:28 Candice Delmas: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

00:30 Aaron Ross Powell: Before we turn to uncivil disobedience, let’s start with civil disobedience, which has kind of a robust theoretical history to it. So, what is civil disobedience?

00:41 Candice Delmas: So civil disobedience is… Has been canonized in a way by John Rawls in the 60’s and at the time other thinkers were also putting their mind to it, and reacting to the activism, the Pro-Civil Rights and Anti Vietnam War activism going on at the time in the United States. But John Rawls kind of crystallized in his theory, a lot of what people took to be the requirements of civil disobedience. So, for a breach of law to count as an act of civil disobedience, it must be conscientious, open, public, non-violent. The agent must be willing to accept the punishment and there are also other requirements such as that the actor should make an appeal to widely accepted principles of political morality, and aim to reform and nothing more than that. And endorse the system, the legal system’s legitimacy, as well as the moral duty to obey the law, and kind of demonstrate that endorsement, that commitment by disobeying civilly, in all these ways. So, that’s kind of the crux of what civil disobedience is supposed to look like. And, I should say, officials and lawyers also seem to have this standard, liberal account of civil disobedience, which, as you can tell, is pretty narrow and demanding. So if you… I mean, I can say more about what civil disobedience is seen to be now decades later. But, that’s kind of the standard, and I think it remains somewhat faithful to what people take to be the central features of civil disobedience.

02:36 Trevor Burrus: Did Rawls presume or and then those who kind of write in his tradition about civil disobedience, did he presume that there was at least a prima facie duty to obey the law? Or at least a presumption in favour of obeying the law?

02:50 Candice Delmas: This is a matter of scholarly disagreement. I think he did. And, why do I think he did? Because he said so in his text. The reason why some people disagree… So he did say, “I assume as in need of no argument, that there is a moral duty to obey the law in societies like ours.” And he said that early like in, I think that’s from 1964. So, you know… If not earlier. So, not like post Civil Rights Act or anything. So, the reason why some people disagree, is because he… If there is a duty to obey the law, it only arises in near just legitimate societies and those are well ordered, governed by the good principles of justice like the ones he endorses. And, in those, there may be injustices that arise in virtue of the society being governed by democratic arrangements, but these injustices can’t be so grave and egregious, otherwise, it just isn’t a near just society, a legitimate society. But, so, on the basis of his account of the principles of justice and what he says of the near just society, scholars say that, “the duty to obey the law didn’t arise and so that he can’t possibly have thought that there was one.”

04:20 Aaron Ross Powell: That, I confess when I read that part in your book and you mentioned that line from Rawls, and then you mentioned the 1964 date that he wrote this, it was rather shocking to be honest, that Rawls would in the United States in 1964 look around and say, this society is predominantly just. Or so just that we don’t even really need to argue about the question of it’s justice. And, I wondered about that in light of these other theories. So this general theory of civil disobedience, the narrowness of it, the civility it calls for, the kind of like don’t rock-the-boat-ness of it, seems like it’s the theory of disobedience that would come from someone who feels pretty comfortable in a tenure track position at Harvard. Someone who’s not really oppressed, not really suffering injustices and so kind of wishes… It’s similar to the reactions of a lot of Conservatives about football players kneeling at games, that it’s okay for you to protest, but please don’t do it in a way that upsets my enjoyment of the game or makes me slightly uncomfortable. And so is this, this predominant theory of civil disobedience, is it one that is accepted by, endorsed by people on the other side of it? Like, genuinely oppressed peoples and groups?

05:50 Candice Delmas: Yeah. That’s a good question and a good way of setting it up. So like you, I am… So, I’m not all that interested in the scholarly debate about what Rawls thought, and what his theory implied exactly about his beliefs and so on. But I do feel that the most straightforward explanation for why you would believe that there is a moral duty to obey the law is something like a moral blindness bred by privilege. So yeah, that’s all I say about that. But on the other end, so on the side of practitioners of civil disobedience, of activists, no, there is no endorsement of such a narrow and demanding theory of civil disobedience, especially in so far as it is kind of tailored to deter resistance and delegitimize dissent. And that’s part of what motivated the book, for me, it’s that what activists talk about when they engage in civil disobedience is their responsibility and their duty to disobey unjust law and to collectively organize and change the systems that support these laws. So they do not draw the lines that theorists have drawn. So for instance one that is taken very seriously, that tends to appear in all… Really in most accounts of civil disobedience, most recently Martha Nussbaum also made it part of her account it’s the idea that you must be willing to accept punishment.

07:29 Candice Delmas: And so, just to take that example, activists on the ground have all sorts of practical and tactical reasons to not try to evade arrest and to accept the legal sanctions that are brought onto them. But demonstrating respect for the system and their sincere endorsement of the duty to evade the law is not one such reason. And indeed when they are protesting and denouncing unjust conditions, there’s no reason for them to endorse the system or to express that endorsement. So, of course, it’s true that there are activists whose campaigns look muddled, a little bit, on that kind of account. So the Good Friday March and the Freedom Rights and the Lunch Counter Sit-ins, they do satisfy the outward signs of civility, and I say outward because, again, I don’t think that the agents involved in these displayed the internal attitudes that we think are a part of civil disobedience. So they don’t accept the narrowness and neither do they accept the duty to obey the law and the idea that civil disobedience could only be permissible under narrow circumstances, given the general duty.

08:52 Aaron Ross Powell: Should disobedience then always be civil?

09:00 Candice Delmas: Yeah. Not on my account. So let me say a little bit about how I understand uncivil disobedience. So, there’s a lot of critiques of the Rawlsian standard account and there are many theorists who have proposed much broader and inclusive concepts of civil disobedience, such that civility is reduced to basically communicativeness. Just a willingness to say something to the community, a sort of just political speech really. And they discard the requirements of publicity, of non-evasion of punishment, of non-violence and I believe that it’s not all that helpful to go that route, even if you wanna be able to justify many kinds of protest. So I kind of grant the standard account of civil disobedience just because I do believe that that’s the way people understand it. So I take out the internal attitude requirements, but I do keep this idea that publicity, non-evasion, non-violence, and [10:13] ____, of course, which is decorum. So this idea of dignified behavior in accordance with social norms of respect, or something like that. So that being civil obedience, I understand uncivil disobedience as acts of principled law breaking that violate these marks of civility. So by being either covert or anonymous or evasive, so where the agent really tries hard to escape law enforcement and punishment.

10:46 Candice Delmas: Violence, including some minimal damage to private property or public property or displays of force, and sometimes use of force as well, and or that are offensive and disrespectful, blasphemous, etcetera. So the concept of uncivil disobedience in the book is kind of this large umbrella cluster concept, which it’s appropriate to use for any act of principled law-breaking that would violate one of these marks of civility. And so, it really covers different kinds of things, some of which just don’t have very much in common because, to me, the work of… Members of the sanctuary movement will provide illegal aid to unauthorised migrants, government whistle-blowers, guerilla art, Femen and Suffragette and this kind of radical feminist protest. These are all examples, the anonymous distributed denial-of-service attacks, these are all examples of uncivil disobedience on my view. So, they are very different.

11:53 Candice Delmas: So yes, I think that sometimes uncivil disobedience is called for. And sometimes it’s called for because it’s really effective to doing the kinds of things it sets out to do, such as helping people. Say in the case of the sanctuary workers and doing it, or providing illegal abortions before Roe, that kind of thing. So it’s necessary for what you’re trying to achieve. So if you were to do it publicly and civilly, you would fail at what you’re trying to do. And if what you’re trying to do is called for, morally good, in pursuit of a principle worthy of public recognition or something like that, then you are to do it in this way, uncivilly, covertly, evasively, etcetera.

12:44 Candice Delmas: And then there’s also a very different non-instrumental defence, of civil… Of uncivil disobedience, which looks at uncivil disobedience being… At those types of uncivil disobedience that are communicative, that purport to express something. And the idea there is that, in some cases, it’s appropriate to express disrespect for the system. So a judgment that the society is failing you, that you are not treated as an equal member of the community and so on. And I think that there are all sort of types of uncivil disobedience that can do that better than civil disobedience. So even though in these cases, they were, champions of civil disobedience would still say, “Well you have to do it civilly.” I think that incivility in those cases just models and expresses better, an apt judgment, or an apt emotion like anger, or grief, or some such.

13:46 Trevor Burrus: In the difference between principled and unprincipled civil, uncivil disobedience, does it matter what the principle is or what counts as a principle? So right now in Venezuela, there’s a lot of disobedience going on against a regime that has systematically, have been starving many people in Venezuela. And the people who are in the streets, they’re committing acts of vandalism and violence, but their principle might be that they’re starving as opposed to some philosophical principle against the ideals of the government. Does that count as a principle, being starved by your government, I guess?

14:22 Candice Delmas: Yeah, that is. I thought you’re gonna ask whether they have to really think of themselves as engaged in resistance. You just mean, like it’s this straightforward, kind of, claim of necessity, right? Like, I am starving. I am dying. The government is oppressing us and this cannot go on any longer. Is that right?

14:41 Trevor Burrus: Yeah, exactly. But is that a principle?

14:45 Candice Delmas: Yes, that sounds like a principle. So, yes, I use four liberal grounds. So four grounds that are commonly used to support the duty to obey the law, to defend the civil and uncivil disobedience in the book. And so, that’s one that would fit well, like the Samaritan duty, right? So this idea of… So extreme oppression, I think, is a good fit for Samaritan accounts of resistance because they’re about this duty of rescue and so duty to protest against this constant endangerment of people, right? So, for a government that starves its people or things of that nature.

15:34 Trevor Burrus: Do you have to have a… Is there a duty… To make sure that you’re correct, it would seem that someone who just has an idea one day that the government is oppressing them, in order to be justified in your uncivil disobedience, you should be at least correct in that they are in fact oppressing you, and that it is wrong what they’re doing. So how… Do people then have a corollary duty to investigate the questions of whether or not the government is actually oppressing them, and whether or not it’s immoral?

16:06 Candice Delmas: Yeah, I think they do. I think that if you take seriously these political obligations of resistance to injustice, you do have to also think about… So I think this creates second-order duties to exercise due diligence in one’s reasoning, to be informed, to be careful, and to work with others. So the zealot individuals, is not exactly where this is supposed to go. So, I think that vigilance and ambivalence, are good kinds of epistemic virtues to showing disrespect, and always seeking information. Although, all of these are obviously not easily discharged, but there’s definitely duties to exercise prudent deliberation when one is looking at, Well, the more collateral harms could be produced, the weightier the duty to exercise, due care and deliberation.

17:21 Aaron Ross Powell: So, it seems relatively straightforward and, at least in these parts, somewhat non-controversial to say that we have, in certain circumstances, a right to disobey. But that’s a rather different thing from saying that we actually have a duty to disobey. And so, what do you mean by us having a duty, and is this… What kind of duty is it? Is it like a perfect duty? Like, we absolutely have to do it. It’s a moral wrong to not do it. Or is it like an imperfect duty in the sense that it would be good if you did it, but we’re not gonna condemn you for not.

17:58 Candice Delmas: So, let me just say something about what the right to disobey is usually understood as. And it could be understood a little differently… Excuse me. Depending on the theorist. So, early on, people like Ronald Dworkin’s thought that there was something like a right to civilly disobey and that right was grounded in political participation rights, and the privilege and right to follow one’s own judgment and not be forced into obeying a law that really violates our deepest conscience. But he didn’t think that that right granted a right against state interference.

18:46 Candice Delmas: So it was just that., yeah, you could do the right… Because in certain cases, disobeying is the right thing because you have other duties than your duties to your state, then you are permitted to disobey but certainly that doesn’t mean that the state cannot prosecute and punish you, although it should be lenient when it does that. But more recently, some series of civil disobedience like David Lefkowitz and Kimberley Brownlee, and William Smith have defended a moral right to civil disobedience, which actually grants a claim right against the government interference so that you shouldn’t be punished or penalized. Well, at least not punished by the state.

19:31 Candice Delmas: And so that’s what they mean by right there. In one case it’s a permission, in this latter case it’s stronger claim rights. And I need to say that so, I don’t believe there’s a claim right to uncivil disobedience given this broad concept I just laid out, which includes all sorts of impermissible and harmful and violent kind of actions. So, I’m not interested in defending such thing at this point. But what do I mean by the duty?

20:08 Candice Delmas: So again, and I try to shift the focus on duty to obey the law, occasional permission to disobey, to this… Now if you think that there’s a duty to obey the law, the very grounds on which you base this duty actually yield obligations to resist injustice under a certain unjust political conditions. So this duty, it’s usually… It’s an imperfect duty that you can discharge at your discretion. So you are not necessarily to devote your life to doing that, but you can’t also do nothing. And so it’s, depending on the arguments that generate the duty to resist, some of them actually really, really demand action and really prohibit inaction.

21:06 Candice Delmas: So for instance, the argument based on fairness says that you just cannot benefit and continue to benefit from an unjust discriminatory or exploitative legal system. So it’s somewhat up to you how you’re going to discharge that but you just cannot continue to enjoy the benefits. They all have different kinds of ways. Same with the Samaritan duty. There could be immediate and really weighty obligations to do something to rescue someone even if it’s illegal. And then when it comes to a more general duty to do something to reform the system that generates grave injustices that imperil people, then I think there it could be a matter of joining an existing movement. So there are different degrees and natures of the duty, but, yeah, I hope that helps a little bit.

22:00 Aaron Ross Powell: Yeah, and I think that provides a good opportunity to turn to the heart of the book, and I’ll say, this was the part of the book that was… Drew my attention initially because I… The question of political obligation, political authority has… I’ve been fascinated by it for quite a long time and give… Every year I give talks to every Cato intern class about the problem of political obligation. And the theories that you discuss are the theories that I talk to the interns about, but I like, I think, most people who do stuff on this topic, it’s assessing whether these theories actually ground political obligations or political authority.

22:41 Aaron Ross Powell: And so does this particular theory give rise to an obligation to obey the law and by arguing most of them don’t, but you take this, I think, really interesting alternative approach, which is to say, if these actually work as grounding political obligations, they in fact create obligations not just to obey in some instances, but in some, and in fact, it seems like in many, a positive duty, as you’ve just described, to disobey based on the same underlying principles, which is a super interesting way to approach this.

23:17 Aaron Ross Powell: And so I thought maybe we could just walk through the four theories that you talk about in the book and maybe you can just tell us… Give us the brief thumbnail sketch of what the theory is, and how it’s used to justify an obligation to obey the law and then that pivot into how it can be used to justify an obligation to disobey and what sort of obligations those are. So maybe we start with the duty of justice, the duty to support just institutions.

23:47 Candice Delmas: Yeah, sure. Can I say something first?

23:48 Aaron Ross Powell: Sure.

23:50 Candice Delmas: I’m hoping that the argument convinces not just proponents of political obligation, so people who hold one of those theories, but also anarchists and other kinds of skeptics about political obligation, right? ‘Cause it’s not about endorsing the theories it’s about just finding the ground it’s based on compelling enough to do some work. So yeah, I hope [chuckle], I hope…

24:17 Trevor Burrus: Well, I imagine the anarchists are already all for uncivil disobedience so…


24:22 Candice Delmas: Yeah, this shouldn’t be a problem to overcome in the first place, right. [laughter] Alright, so the natural duty of justice… So it may be at this point one of the most prominent theory to explain the duty to obey the law, so according to Rawls the duty of justice has two parts. It requires supporting just institutions by complying with those that exist and apply to us, and it also requires assisting in the establishment of just institutions where there are none. And it’s used by different theorists in different ways but all champions of a duty of justice-based political obligation kinda agreed that the point of the duty of justice is to address individuals as free and equal citizens and so it cannot obligate them to maintain legal and socio-political conditions that deny people that free and equal status.

25:24 Candice Delmas: So it’s tied to democratic legitimacy, at least in this way and it requires… So not just equal right but it kind of also prohibits unequal power advantages. And so, so the idea was, well if you like the duty of justice you have this pretty demanding standard of democratic legitimacy. And you do think that like injustices or serious violations of this free and equal status and of the demand for equal power advantages are not too problematic and equal power advantages does solve the duty to obey.

26:01 Candice Delmas: So the idea is, my account comes at this point in the lapses, right, of… Well, at least where the duty to obey is flimsy or hasn’t… Has lapsed entirely, you can see that the duty of justice in part because of the second part that requires establishing just arrangements, permits or even requires you, right, because it’s about discharging this duty of justice. It requires you to do something to halt or prevent the ongoing rights violation or democratic deficits that characterize the current system and work hard to reform those and put in place some institutions that would truly respect everyone’s free and equal status.

26:53 Trevor Burrus: So what an example of something that I would say violates this duty of justice or would give me a duty to disobey, the drug war and it’s of course racist classes history, seems to be one of these things that does not put people on equal footing, and is something that could be resisted even if you obeyed… Agreed with the duty of justice as a grounding for political obligation.

27:19 Candice Delmas: Yeah, that’s right. That’s a good example. So yeah, I actually identified five paradigmatic violations. So injustices that violate the duty of justice and some of which involve… So government wrong doing, official misconduct and things that are hidden from the public. But others have to do with just this disrespect of citizens free and equal status or of their…

27:51 Trevor Burrus: Of their rights too. Yeah.

27:51 Candice Delmas: Of their right, yes. So that would work there. And the kinds of disobedience that it would warrant… So I look there at like education, protest covert disobedience, vigilantism and whistle blowing. And so at a minimum, you know, yeah, education and protest of the current criminal justice system is warranted.

28:19 Trevor Burrus: Can I go break everyone out of jail and free them?


28:22 Candice Delmas: You know…

28:25 Trevor Burrus: I’ll put a batman suit on and make it look better. But can I do that? And will I be just… Would I be doing a just action under this theory if I did that?

28:35 Candice Delmas: I do think that mass incarceration is an egregious heart breaking injustice and so, I mean… So in some way I’m interested in political action and so I’m more interested in bringing about the change abolishing the three strikes rule and just basically re-assessing every one’s, every single prisoner’s sentence because the overwhelming majority of them are completely excessive and unreasonable and disproportionate to the crime. Many of them are given for crimes that shouldn’t have been crimes in the first place and so on. So yeah, the vigilantism I look at since you mentioned Batman breaking people out, breaking prisoners out of jail, is a self-defensive kind of vigilantism of something like the Deacons for Defense and Justice were engaged in. So they were on defense groups, that were established during Jim Crow to protect CORE and then other civil rights people from KKK violence, so. But, yes.

29:50 Trevor Burrus: Alright, good.


29:50 Candice Delmas: This yes no question does not make me unease but…


29:54 Aaron Ross Powell: So let me ask you then about another potential uncivil disobedience. At one point in the book I think you were discussing the Panama Papers or something like that. You mentioned that there’s an injustice in people avoiding paying the amount of taxes that ideally they are required to under the law. But it seems like, you know if, quite a lot of stuff that the government does is unjust. Quite a lot of especially blowing up people overseas or imprisoning people in the drug war or enforcing the kind of draconian rules on immigration and so on. And all of that is funded by taxes. And your taxes you can’t, when you cut the cheque, you can’t say, “I only wanna use this, I only wanna use this money for the just stuff.” And so, is it principled uncivil disobedience to just say like, “I’m going to try to avoid to the greatest extent possible, giving these people money that I know they’re gonna use for unjust activities?”

31:02 Candice Delmas: Right. So I don’t even think I look at much tax evasion but there were in the 60s numerous public campaigns of tax conscientious tax evasion, that were targeted at protesting the Vietnam War especially. And so I would basically I would favor a public kind of campaign for tax evasion for all the reasons you just mentioned for… Targeting the causes you’ve just mentioned. Because there is so much tax evasion that is done fraudulently and deceptively by people who put all their wealth in offshore banking accounts. I’m not sure what, I’m not sure what the Cato institute thinks about…


31:57 Candice Delmas: These kinds of crimes but I do think that’s a real problem and in part because it further… It further consolidates and worsens existing economic disparities which are important because they mean unequal political power. So, but… So yes, there’s all sorts of tax refusal that, especially in the US tradition, a recognized form of protest, right? So, the rich tax evasion that the Panama Papers were denouncing wasn’t principled, I don’t think. Although I can imagine someone else interpretively seeing it as something like a kind of resistance to a government that tax it, right? So, the…

32:57 Trevor Burrus: It’s feasible. I think sometimes… I don’t think… I think if you’re government, I mean for a lot of CATO people would say, most of what the US government does is bad. So maybe if it’s over 50% then withholding your taxes is at least keeping the government from doing bad things. Aside from the arguments about the specific things but I think withholding your taxes from Nazi Germany, even though Nazi Germany ran schools, is probably okay. Even doing it through Cayman Islands accounts.

33:24 Candice Delmas: That’s right.

33:25 Aaron Ross Powell: So, let’s…

33:26 Candice Delmas: Yeah. That’s another… I mean it would be good to have the breakdown of the way the… Which you know, many countries do, breaking down how your dollars are used when you pay your taxes.

33:35 Trevor Burrus: I want a receipt. Yeah, no, I want a receipt. I wanna know how much of those bombs I paid for and go and ask for it back.


33:42 Aaron Ross Powell: So let’s now, I guess, turn to the fairness account. So, what is that?

33:47 Candice Delmas: Okay. So, the duty of fair play, again another pretty common ground for the duty to obey the law. So the duty of fair play requires reciprocating for benefits received or doing one’s share in producing mutual benefits. And so, fair play theorists of political obligation, usually understand citizens as participating in this mutually beneficial co-operative scheme, right? So everyone has to do their share. The benefits that are produced are supposed to be, well stability, peace, rights protection, safe roads, clean water, military security and that sort of thing. But the idea is that in order to provide these goods, it must be the case that citizens comply with the law, pay their share of taxes and so on. So producing the goods means sharing some of the burdens involved in the production of these goods. And for fair play theorists, if these costs are reasonable and fairly distributed, everyone is morally bound to do their part in sustaining the state.

34:57 Candice Delmas: So that’s the theory and the moral duty is owed to fellow citizens and not to the state because of this norm of reciprocity at the heart of fairness. And I use fairness and fair play inter-changeably. And so, the way I used it is… So fairness doesn’t bind citizens to cooperate with exploitative or harmful scheme of co-ordination. So if the co-operative scheme that society doesn’t distribute the burdens and benefits fairly or imposes undue harms even on non-members in my view but you can also just look at unfair distribution of burdens and benefits within the society. So it won’t trigger the duty to obey. Or if you’re… Yeah, it wouldn’t trigger the duty. So that’s something that fair play theorists should agree on, right? So that it would only work when the distributes and burdens are… When the burdens are reasonable and burdens and benefits are fairly distributed. But I go further and argue that under certain circumstances, fairness in fact, prohibits beneficiaries of exploitative or harmful schemes to cooperate.

36:16 Candice Delmas: So the idea is that… So the argument rests on an analysis of fairness, prohibition of free riding, right? So fairness, prohibits you to a free ride because you have to do your share and shoulder the burdens involved in the production of the goods that are mutually beneficial. And what I argue is that benefiting from an exploitative or harmful scheme, involves the same deontic wrong as free riding. And it’s something like an objectionable arrogation of privilege or wrongful exploitation depending on how you cash out free riding. And then the next step is to say, “Well, so how does one cease benefiting from an unjust scheme of coordination?” And so, I have an argument by elimination where I look at exits, or restitution and I settle on resistance for the sake of reform. So you have to change that system, not just exit it, though it’s a possibility. Though not a desirable one, but it’s a possibility. Restitution is insufficient or if it’s really sufficient that means you reformed it. So basically it’s all about radically reforming the unjust scheme to make it so that you’re no longer objectionably privileged under that system. So it applies to the beneficiaries, right? And so, yeah, resistance is then instrumental in this radical reform effort and it’s a duty there.

37:52 Trevor Burrus: Well there are a lot of people… You know, as a white male, who grew up in a middle class life, there’s a lot of people like me who, I’ve benefited from a lot of unfair un-justices, which would be hard to… Some of these… To just stop being a beneficiary, you can imagine someone like William Peter Kensington VI, who’s entire wealth is based off of a family that maybe was involved in the slave trade and that that person should maybe stop benefiting from his family’s wealth but if you’re more of a general beneficiary, how do you stop doing that?

38:30 Candice Delmas: Yeah. You wanted me to tell you everything you have to do now? Alright?


38:33 Trevor Burrus: Yeah, right, just tell me everything.

38:34 Candice Delmas: So yeah, as a man you’re benefiting from patriarchy. As a middle class person, you’re benefiting from the economic system. As a white person, you’re benefiting from a racist system and so on. So you… Being aware of the kinds of benefits you have under the system and being aware that these benefits on are unearned and being aware that others are unduly suffering and not getting the goods that you’re getting is already important. And I say it matters because if you really had no clue, then you may not be bound. So… But if you know, and they’re… So you might say, “Well, but even if I know if I have no way of refusing these privileges, I’m not a willing recipient of this, so does that still make me duty bound?” And, I think, it does, because you’re still a knowing beneficiary and just in so far as there are things you could do to at least… So even the little things of… Yes, so of like, calling out racist and sexist jokes and that sort of thing. So to kind of everyday resistance that feminists have been talking about for decades, is already important. And how you raise your children and all that. So there’s actually a variety of things you can do, even sort of abolishing these big structures that are supposed to give you the privileges. So, yeah, that’s the gist there…

40:22 Trevor Burrus: Alright. [chuckle]

40:24 Aaron Ross Powell: When you’re discussing this in the book, you talk about one of the ways that we can address this unfairness is through solidarity, which then you distinguish from being an ally. And seem to say that solidarity is better than being an ally. What’s the difference between those two?

40:41 Candice Delmas: Yeah, so first, I told you that reciprocity is at the heart of fairness and this prohibition on free riding. So the idea is that the reciprocity, at the core of fairness supports obligations of solidarity, because it’s about these mutual benefits. And furthermore, if there’s an existing movement from which you will benefit, right. So, if that movement is successful, you will benefit whether you’re a beneficiary or a victim of that unjust system, you will benefit because you would know, if you’re the beneficiary, you would no longer be in a morally dubious position. If you’re a victim, you would have better prospects of life and so on.

41:21 Candice Delmas: So in that sense, it’s something like, its own cooperative scheme that produces goods and so you can’t free ride on that. It’s still anti-scab argument in strikes. So that’s what the solidarity argument looks like. And yeah, so I just, I drew this distinction… As I drew this distinction, I’m following some trans feminists who have denounced the kind of theater of ally-hood that goes on and that’s especially visible in social media, according to which people declare their… They profess their faith and their social justice warrior cred. But actually don’t do the right thing with the people they’re purporting to be allies of. And so the distinction is one between doing and identifying as. So that’s what it’s meant to capture. I mean, being an ally is great, but the idea was this, “I am an ally,” can be meaningless and may not be followed by actually doing the right thing and engaging in a social movement and activism and so on. That was the critique I was presenting.

42:50 Aaron Ross Powell: Okay, well let’s then, I guess, we’ll turn to Samaritanism.

42:55 Candice Delmas: Okay. So that is not a prominent theory of political obligation. It’s a… So Kit Wellman had first put it forward as far as I can tell. And it’s a kind of a mix of the Hobbesian state of nature meets fair-play theory. So his idea is that, it’s the Samaritan duty that binds us to obey the law, because being in the state… So by obeying the law, we are rescuing others who in peril or dire need. And those people… So, sorry. The idea is that by achieving political stability and getting us out of the state of nature, the state has rescued everyone from this violence and chaos, with which we would otherwise live under. And so the state has a right to coerce me because it’s saving everyone. But my compliance with the law must be necessary for the success of the state… So everyone’s compliance with the law should be necessary to the success of the state’s Samaritan mission.

44:06 Candice Delmas: But given that any particular individual’s compliance with the law is not in fact necessary, it brings in considerations of fairness. So non-consequentialist considerations of fairness, to say that everyone as a duty to do their fair share of what he calls the communal Samaritan chore of rescuing others from the perils of the state of nature. So that’s the theory, it’s a rescue from the state of nature. And the Samaritan rescue, plus fairness gets the duty to obey the law.

44:42 Trevor Burrus: So in this one, it seems like if the state is failing to rescue you from the state of nature in some way, that might give you the duty to disobey in that situation?

44:52 Candice Delmas: Right so, and that was… Yes so there’s that. But injustices don’t necessarily amount to a fall back into the “state of nature,” right? But what I was interested in was, one: So some Samaritan arguments for obligations of disobedience when laws prohibit Samaritan rescue. So, of course the [45:19] ____ case I had in mind was the 1850 fugitive slave law act. Which I think, you have a duty to to disobey, even if it’s the law of the land. And then I was also interested in current Anti Immigration Policies, some of which use exactly the same language as the fugitive slave law Act, actually. It was like, prohibitions on concealing, harboring, shielding or attempting to conceal, shield or harbor unauthorized aliens that sort of language.

45:49 Candice Delmas: So, there’s that, but then I was interested in more general political obligations of resistance besides these one-off Samaritan rescues, that would involve breaking the law ‘cause I don’t think that these are extremely controversial anyway. And there, I looked at more complex situations in which social and political conditions produce… So not just laws that prevent rescue, but what I call persistent Samaritan perils and these are cases where injustice generates, enables or aggravates Samaritan perils. So making them pervasive and frequent. And so where the obligations that are generated on the part of citizens, who I think are passers-by, who witness these persistent Samaritan perils, is really to do something about the structural system. So the unjust institutions or unjust sets of the laws that generates these perils.

46:57 Candice Delmas: And I have in mind, Jim Crow, refugees, or I talk about women in India, in cities who fear greatly for their safety in public spaces. I talk about the urban ghettos, I talk a little bit about the prison. So the idea is that there you have unjust laws that are such that they always put to a certain kind of people at risk. And they are people… So citizens have not just one-off obligations of rescue, but should do something about it, politically, to halt and change the laws.

47:42 Aaron Ross Powell: So, we’re running a bit low on time but I wanted to make sure we got… We didn’t leave one of these theories off. So maybe we can quickly do the association or membership account as our final one.

47:54 Candice Delmas: Great, okay, yeah. So that’s the one I look at… There’s many associative series of political obligation, and I chose Ronald Dworkin’s latest argument for political obligation, which he exposed in “Justice for Hedgehogs” and which draws on dignity, and it has such great currency in politics and laws. So that made it, his account particularly attractive. So it’s associative and dignitarian account of obligations of resistance. And so, yeah, to be brief Dworkin argues that special obligations are all grounded. So the obligations, we have in virtue of our roles like other moral requirements, they’re all grounded in dignity. And dignity prohibits subordination and domination, and it’s especially important in the case of political association.

48:55 Candice Delmas: So he derives the duty to obey the law from the internal character of the political relationship which both forbids subordination and forbids domination. So, it requires this kind of equality, this moral and political equality, and it must be structured in this equal way, so as not to compromise dignity one way or another, right, through domination or through subordination. So the question I ask in that chapter is what does a person owe ourself and others, in the face of a policies failure to treat her or some others as an equal and valuable member. And the answer is that when… Is that political membership, in conjunction with dignity supports a general obligation to resist one’s and other’s violations of dignity.

49:53 Candice Delmas: So the scope and the content of this general obligation of resistance depends on the kind and the magnitude of indignity that is threatened and on the agents abilities, opportunities, and particular position relative to this indignity. But I looked at kind of four related purposes of resistance, which are rectification, communication, assertion and solidarity. So they don’t necessarily involve disobedience, but I think what’s distinctive in that chapter is that I look at what may be un-dignified conduct that seemed to not properly reflect the dignity of the agents engaging them like the Dirty Protests in the Northern Ireland. And I think that they can very well be justified on the basis of dignity and this affirmation of one’s dignity against violations thereof.

50:56 Trevor Burrus: So, we live in an interesting time where the term resist has been thrown about. And…

51:01 Aaron Ross Powell: And hash-tagged.

51:02 Trevor Burrus: It’s been hash-tagged. And as a libertarian who long had a problem with many things the government does. I’m in favor of people resisting the government on many things. But when someone reads your book, do you kind of hope that the citizens will decide to spend all their time fighting injustice in this modern time? Is that a goal of yours possibly or just clarifying when they are allowed to.

51:28 Candice Delmas: Oh yeah, I mean I don’t think it would be dangerous for people to read my book, no.

51:33 Trevor Burrus: No, it’s not going be dangerous but they might go out and start rioting in the streets or something.

51:38 Candice Delmas: Right. So the problem is… The problem, of course, is identifying the principle and the cause of resistance. So I believe that they are right causes and wrong causes. And of course I do care about respecting everyone’s individual agency, which is why I have this chapter on the second order of duties on exercising due care in deliberation and information and so on. So I would love for people to think that it’s their duty and not just an activity they might undertake once every four year, to have a say in the arrangement of their country. But certainly I don’t… I would want the… Especially the uncivil disobedience to be directed at the right cause and not undertaken for white nationalist purposes.


52:44 Aaron Ross Powell: Thanks for listening. Free Thoughts is produced by Tess Terrible. If you enjoy Free Thoughts, please subscribe to us on iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. If you’d like to learn more about Libertarianism, visit us on the web at www.libertarianism.org.