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Justifying the State Lecture

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Western University
Political Science
Political Science 1020E
Charles Jones

Justifying the State: The State and Political Obligation Negative Argument: the state is the only alternative to the state of nature Is there a positive argument for a moral duty to obey the state? What can be said in favour to obey law? Why Political Authority is Morally Problematic  People are naturally free, equal, and independent o Locke’s claim  Legitimate power is created by us o Not handed down by God, ect  Authority requires my consent o If we don’t consent to it, no obligation to listen because it is not legitimate Key Features of the State  Claims a Monopoly of Legitimate Violence  In return, it is responsible for protecting us o If not enforcing law, cannot be legitimate o Hurricane Katrina showed political incompetence and failure to respond effectively (Bush at first did little to aid the problem until many people had already died) Universal Political Obligations  Justifying the state= showing that there are universal political obligations  Should we obey the law because it’s the law? Does the fact that a law was passed thru legitimate process give a reason to follow it even if you disagree o Cannot have significant population disagreeing with law or will lose social order The Parent Analogy  State is like your parents, citizens are to the state as children are to parents (Plato’s Crito)  Life and benefits generate gratitude and the duty to obey o Socrates says the state is even more important than your parents because they protect the whole society, allowing you to have life and families  Problem: Unreasonable orders and laws o Obedience to authority o If parents give some unreasonable orders, just the fact that they’ve done things for you doesn’t mean you feel obligated to follow their unreasonable orders Voluntarism and the Social Contract  Each of us is free and equal, if we are obligated to others it must stem from our will  Voluntarism: state’s political authority depends on my consent  Social contract: political obligation based on contract or agreement  Does everyone agree to obey? Was there an original contract?  Original contract= actual, historical deal to consent to the state  No evidence for it  Highly improbable Main Problem with Original Contract  A contract among Them, Back then, couldn’t obligate Us, Now Express consent  Has every individual actually consented to the state? o If you have actually consented they should have an obligation to obey o “I Do” at a wedding, you have an obligation  Only a minority actually consent  What counts as consent? The Social Contract Are there universal political obligations? Voluntarism: state’s political authority depends on my consent We consider three kinds of consent: 1) Express 2) Tacit 3) hypothetical Tacit Consent  Tacit= implicit or understood  Do we tacitly or implicitly consent to the state’s authority over us?  Is there something that is morally equivalent to consenting? Does residence count as consent?  Staying is morally equivalent to consenting, because dissatisfied people can leave  Obstacles to leaving: poverty, culture, language, other states  So, Staying is not morally equivalent to consenting, because leaving is difficult or impossible Hypothetical Consent: 1  Rational individuals would consent if they were in the state of nature  Objection: hypothetical consent is not actual consent  Non- Voluntarism: worthy of consent Hypothetical Consent: 2  Voluntarism: HC gets us to realize what we already consent to  First objection: not really consent o If it’s about what you would consent to, we’re talking some about other reasons  Second Objection: some still might refuse to consent Anarchism Revisited  I didn’t- and I wouldn’t- consent, so the state is illegitimate  Correct to reject blind obedience o In a situation where everyone is saying one thing and not allowing others to question  But, people disagree about the justice of laws o Anarchist wants to laws of no states enforcing laws, but people will disagree about what laws to obey, ect Locke’s Point Two options available:  A publicly agreed, shared set of laws or  Defer to private judgements about the content of laws (no state)- back to state of nature Locke’s Conclusion  Better to have shared laws than continued disagreement  The “inconveniences” of the state of nature defeat anarchism Utilitarianism  Theory people believe explains what makes rules right or wrong in the first place  The good an
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