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If the state is not a voluntary organisation, how can one be under any obligation to obey its commands?

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Introduction

Q1 If the state is not a voluntary organisation, how can one be under any obligation to obey its commands? This is a question about justifying the state. What D. D. Raphael calls " the grounds of political obligation.1 If the state can be justified somehow then so can the commands it makes, whether it is voluntary or not. This would be a state built on individual consent; obligation to the commands of the state would flow from that consent. This essay will discuss the possibility of justifying of the state through the idea of a social contract. The state when it creates a law draws a line one cannot cross without consequences. For clarity I am talking about a serious law, specifically one that obviously has a moral base, the law against murder for example. An individualist might say 'I have no intention of crossing that line anyway because I believe it would be morally wrong to do so'. The law in his case may as well not exist. Just by not breaking a law it can appear as though he supports it. When what he might agree with is what the law defends/upholds /represents, and that is the moral principle behind it. This is one reason why some people appear to uphold the law when in fact all they may be doing is following a personal moral code. ...read more.

Middle

I may be against nuclear weapons or the military in general for moral reasons (pacifism for example) but my moral objection is sacrificed for the greater happiness. The problem political philosopher's face is finding ways to solve issues like the one above. Just how does one justify the state? One theory is the idea of 'the social contract.' Wolff here defines the 'project of the social contract theory.' "The project of showing that individuals consent to the state lies behind the idea of social contract theory. If, somehow or other, it can be shown that every individual has consented to the state, or formed a contract with the state, or made a contract with each other to create a state, then the problem appears to be solved."6 It is difficult to support the idea that the state, and thereby its commands and responding obligations, can be justified by the theory of a social contract. "The theory of a social contract tries to justify political obligation as being based on an implicit promise, like the obligation to obey the rules of a voluntary association."7 If there were such a contract (based on the idea that the state is a voluntary organisation) the problem of individual obligation to the state would be solved. ...read more.

Conclusion

For the purpose of this essay the idea of a 'veil of ignorance' which is subject to many conditions, is the device Rawls uses to argue for consent. If people can agree on what would be just, (which he argues is possible using the principles he suggests) from behind a 'veil of ignorance' the consent reached would be a voluntary contract. Again the problem remains, what principles really constitute a 'just society' are not clear. Objections to Rawls ideas include the 'libertarian critique.' Kukathas and Pettit13 argue that for principled libertarians like Nozick the state that would emerge from Rawls's theory "is bound to seem inherently evil."14 Nozick's objections are based on his libertarian view that "Individuals have rights, and there are things no person or group may do to them (without violating their rights)"15 To conclude is this essay is very difficult; the argument I have tried to demonstrate is that one cannot be under any obligation to obey the commands of the state using the social contract model. I have argued that the social contract fails because it is not consensual. I have also tried to show that the idea of hypothetical contract cannot work because the 'veil of ignorance' still does not produce consent because people cannot agree on what the principles of a just state are. One can only be obligated to obey the commands of the state (I think) when its principles are consensual. ...read more.

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