Do people have the right to rebel in a democracy? Is it just?

What makes this issue tricky is that the question seems to equivocate on the notions of "right" and "just."

Suppose (as seems likely) that rebelling against a democratic government involves conduct that the government in question has declared illegal. It seems clear that such rebellious conduct can't be "right" or "just" in the sense of of being legally permissible. It would, after all, threaten incoherence if a code of law has an 'out clause' permitting rebellion, akin to "here are the laws, but you can rebel against them without penalty." That would render that system of law toothless with respect to its authority.

So if there is right to rebel, the right can't be a legal or political one. It would have to be a moral or "natural" right. Indeed, this seems to be what political theorists such as Locke (and the framers of the U.S. Constitution he inspired) had in mind when they referenced a right to rebel against unjust governments. I won't take on the big project of defending the existence of such a right. But I hope you can see that your question has a complex answer: in a political or legal sense, no; in a moral sense, perhaps.

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