Today in many places in the world, demonstrations and protests are considered very effective methods to communicate opposition to acts of the government that are believed to be violations of civil rights. However, in 399 BCE, Socrates argued that civil disobedience is never appropriate, and was so convinced that his philosophy, or social contract theory, was completely justified that he chose a to die rather than to live in order to become an example for others who would be faced with the same situation. While the relationship between "lawbreaking" and "civil disobedience" can be difficult to establish, there are several key characteristics of each concept that make it easier to do so. In exploring the causes and the objective of an act of protest or lawbreaking the distinction between the two becomes far more evident. .
While Socrates is imprisoned after being convicted of atheism and corruption of the young and sentenced to death by poison he is visited by Crito, his student and wealthy friend. Since Socrates' trial and sentencing his followers had unsuccessfully been trying to convince him to allow them to intervene on his behalf, and when Crito implores Socrates to escape from prison to avoid death Socrates refuses once again. Confused, Crito asks his teacher why he would prefer death to life. Socrates explains that in his eyes, the situation was not one of life and death, but rather justice and injustice. According to Socrates, although he did not agree with it, the judicial system of his city had tried and convicted him of a crime and he is obligated to accept their ruling. He believes that by living in a society and accepting its benefits (such as protection, schools, markets and roads), one must also accept the burdens, and by receiving services from the government, an individual owes service to the government in return. He believes that being wronged (suffering a miscarriage of justice) is always preferable to doing wrong in return.