Civil disobedience is a slippery slope down into anarchy; it is thus utmost natural that, from the state's point of view, people cannot engage in it without consequences. Surely if people were allowed to decide what laws to follow and which to disregard, then human society, as we know it, would not be able to function.
In spite of this, however, opting for state-wide binding law is not an ideal without flaws, rather it is the lesser of two evils. The one we avoid is chaos, the one we accept is that some individuals are at times compelled, obligated, forced to take part in deeds they reject on moral grounds.
See, whilst I cannot speak for others, personally I am bothered day by day. I am bothered by the purchases I make, on which I, like everyone, pay VAT – thank god I don’t pay income tax yet. Part of this government revenue is spent on public services and welfare policies which I may cheerfully endorse, but other parts are spent on things I fervently denounce. To cite the two worst: protectionist policies, like agricultural subsidies, and military expenditure. The first I reject because it interferes with the free-market to the detriment of the world’s underprivileged, those who rely on the export of primary products. The second I equally condemn for, whilst I am not naïve – I do take classes in international relations – military expenditure wastes tremendous resources and is terribly counter-productive to the achievement of peace. I am not saying that we should not have militaries, but I myself wish not to contribute to their makings.
I wish not to because of moral considerations, because of my intuitive sense of right and wrong. Whilst that sense is not based upon any form of concrete reasoning, it is there and I cannot control it. Nobody can control what they feel to be right and wrong, it just is. When the feeling is strong – as is mine – acting in accordance to one’s sense of righteousness is not so much a choice as it is biological imperative. As such, although I very much understand that civil disobedience cannot be allowed, I am compelled to engage in it. And because I am so very much compelled to, can I legitimately be held accountable for it? (Similarly, can a man truly be convicted of crime if he steals to avoid starvation?)