In this essay I argue that citizens of a liberal-democratic state, one that I argue has a morally justified claim to political authority, enjoy a moral right to engage in acts of suitably constrained civil disobedience, or what I will call a moral right to public disobedience. Such a claim may well appear inconsistent with the duty usually thought to correlate to a legitimate state’s right to rule, namely, a moral duty to obey the law. If successful, however, the arguments that follow entail that the duty correlative to a liberal-democratic state’s justified claim to political authority is in fact a disjunctive one: either citizens of such a state must obey the law or they must publicly disobey it.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2007, University of Chicago Press. This article first appeared in Ethics: 117:2 (2007), 202-223.

Please note that downloads of the article are for private/personal use only.