Civil disobedience helps democracy because it provides a means to insure that which is just and that which is right will prevail. Democracy, founded on the principle of rule of the majority, cannot always insure that justice and rightness are maintained in the laws which guide it. As Thoreau (1849) assessed “law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of the respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents on injustice.” Furthermore, as Thoreau suggested, it is more important to do what is right at any given time than to develop a sense of respect for the law. Laws do not insure that justice will be done nor are they always developed in the name of justice and that which is right.
At the time Thoreau argued for civil disobedience, he was rightly concerned about our democracy and our laws in a time in which slavery was tolerated and accepted, for the most part by our government. While issues such as slavery do not always challenge the American people, other issues of critical importance do. As Thoreau questioned, where are there men and women who are willing to be done with laws that are harmful, that are unjust, and that ultimately, tarnish the meaning of democracy for all? We become complacent and we believe that by casting our vote, we have made our voices heard. Some of us shrug our shoulders, wearing a sense of hopelessness and helplessness within our hearts, and as Thoreau indicated, wait for someone else to take a stand and right the wrong that is transpiring within our nation.
Civil disobedience provides us with the means to no longer feel that our hands are tied and that we can only wait on others who may be more capable of bringing about necessary change. Civil disobedience, as Thoreau expressed, gives us the opportunity to no longer leave the right to the mercy of mere chance (i.e., what will happen as a consequence of the vote of the majority). Through civil disobedience, our democracy can remain strong and true to the beliefs of those who founded our country as we refuse to no longer obey those laws that are unjust by refusing to wait for attempts to amend them. Amendment occurs as we step forward and refuse to follow the wrongs set forth by those laws which are unjust.