Christopher Morris – Bleeding Heart Libertarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com Free Markets and Social Justice Wed, 15 Nov 2017 17:16:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/cropped-site-icon-BHL-32x32.png Christopher Morris – Bleeding Heart Libertarians http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com 32 32 22756168 Michael Huemer’s Defense of Anarchy http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/08/michael-huemers-defense-of-anarchy/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/08/michael-huemers-defense-of-anarchy/#comments Wed, 21 Aug 2013 14:43:48 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=6433 I said I’d hoped to have some thoughts about Part II of The Problem of Political Authority and I do have some reactions. I have a soft spot for anarchism,...

The post Michael Huemer’s Defense of Anarchy appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
I said I’d hoped to have some thoughts about Part II of The Problem of Political Authority and I do have some reactions. I have a soft spot for anarchism, and I suppose I was an anarchist for some time in my youth (New Left anarchist, quite individualistic). I think the fact that political philosophers don’t take it seriously is deplorable. At the same time, I find the case for anarchy rather weak, and the second part of MH’s book is no exception.

It’s easy to show that anarchy is possible. We can describe a possible world where there are no states, government, and legal systems (in something like Hart’s sense). And we can also tell a story about how such a world could emerge and maintain itself. Contemporary game theory even provides the elements of the story: in repeated games with large numbers of players there are multiple outcomes that are stable (i.e., Nash equilibria); indeed, just about any outcome can be stable. This is the folk theorem (potted version). So there should be such a story for anarchy. But are we seriously to believe that anarchist communities could emerge and sustain itself in our world? In either the last couple of centuries or the next fifty or hundred years? I am quite sceptical. MH does not claim that anarchy could come into existence in any or even many circumstances; he only wants to show that it is feasible under some realistic conditions, where most people are anarchists. He may be right, but I wonder whether some of the feasible and desirable forms of anarchy might not resemble some of our polities (e.g., small states with little coercion, medieval city-republics).

Concepts. I am a fussbudget about concepts. MH is not. “Semantic questions about the use of ‘government’ and ‘anarchy’ are of no great importance.” (p. 232) I complained earlier about conceptual problems, and Part II really worries me in this regard. Distinctions are needed if we are to assess the merits of anarchy (see the thoughtful comment by ScottA under my first post). We need to know what anarchy is. Voluntariness and competition (p. 232) are not quite enough; some small political societies might satisfy these conditions and still be state-like in some important respects. As I noted in my first post, a distinction between ‘state’ and ‘government’ is needed. The government in many systems can fall with a vote of confidence in parliament, but the state remains intact. The French and Iranian revolutions changed a lot, but they did not put an end to one state and give birth to another. Why are distinctions needed here? For one if a state like France can undergo a serious revolution and be in its fifth republic, then states may be much more durable than governments. They may also be the locus of legitimacy.

In addition, it’d be useful to distinguish between states and empires. The two aren’t the same, and empires are much older forms of political rule, preceding the emergence of states. And the longest-lived empires were much older than any state. Some empires were more tolerant of “diversity” than other polities of their time. In his discussion of war MH notes, with some hope, “The decolonization movement of the twentieth century shows it is particularly difficult for a foreign state to keep control of a territory in modern times.” (p. 294) The “modern times” had better be post-1918 if this statement is to be true. Note that the colonial empires referred to were ones where the “core” did not or could not integrate “foreign” peoples into its polity. Many European states did precisely that with the peoples inside their current state borders. With the exception of the Corsicans and the Basques, the French state stomped out regional languages and cultures; that’s an effective way of making possible rule by foreigners once the age of foreign monarchs was over (e.g., the European monarchies, the House of Hapsburg). How can we judge the effectiveness of states if we do not know whether Rome was a state, or whether China was a couple of centuries ago? (Neither were.) How can we take heart from learning that “Vatican City has never been at war.” (p. 296) Vatican City is just the remnant of one of the greatest empires of Europe – or perhaps two, if we include Rome. That’s a bit like saying that Saddam Hussein was peaceful once in chains.

MH needs distinctions, and they do slip in from time to time. In a discussion of recent events in Egypt he notes that “Mubarak was expelled from office as a result of a predominantly peaceful protest movement.” (p. 293) Mubarak is said to been part of a corrupt regime, his government to have many members, and his administration to collapse suddenly. It is hard to make sense of political events without these concepts. Note of course that the Egyptian state is still in existence. (I add a political comment: the expulsion of Mubarak could hardly be attributed to protest movements; it was a military coup d’état.)

Given what I have said, I don’t think that “state” (or “government”) and “anarchy” exhaust the possibilities. If that is the case, an argument against one does not establish the case for the other. MH does not quite do this, but of course early modern political thinkers often made the case for the state in that manner. The founding father of modern political philosophy, Thomas Hobbes, argued for the state by arguing against anarchy. He tried to define them so that the two logically exhausted the possibilities. MH says that “The standard solution in social philosophy begins by proposing a radical inequality: a single institution with power over all other individuals and organizations. For Hobbes, the solution ends there.” (p. 228) I agree this is a bad way of thinking about possible ways of organizing political life. But I think finding better ways require more distinctions; we need a clearer idea of the alternative forms of political organization. There may be more choices than “government” or “anarchy”.

Constitutions. I am a fan of the 9th and 10th amendments to the (second) American Constitution, and I am quite sad they have been ignored. But if we are to evaluate how successful the American constitution has been, we need to know what it is? For MH a constitution seems to be something like the American document that bears its name. The question then arises, “Who will enforce the constitution?” This question answers itself: “No other organization has the power to coerce the government. Therefore, we will have to rely upon the government to enforce constitutional restrictions against itself.” (p. 221; see also p. 335). Some questions: does a “constitution” need to be enforced? Is there no agent other than “the government” who could enforce it? And, of course, what is a constitution to begin with? Take the US Constitution: does it consists of the text approved or the text + the first ten amendments? The tradition says the latter. This document needs to be interpreted; are the interpretations in some way part of the constitution? Many think so. Can the ignored 9th be said to be part of the Constitution any more? I know that MH’s main point is that the constraints on government and federal power in the US Constitution have proved ineffective in a number of ways. I think he is largely right. But the idea of a constitution is not examined, and this has consequences for our understanding of state and anarchy.

The older idea of a constitution points to the structure of a polity. On Hart’s theory this might be something like the set of secondary rules, in particular the rule of recognition. I mention his account, as the important rule of recognition does not need to be enforced; it is essentially a convention among officials. Other accounts would have constitutions be self-enforcing or, more technically, coordinative equilibria (e.g., R. Hardin. B. Weingast). If a constitution, in the important sense of the structure of the polity, is self-enforcing, then that should have some implications for the project of evaluating anarchy. It might even be a fact that lends some support to the anarchist. And it might show that many states depend less on coercion than is thought.

The case for anarchy. The libertarian tradition has distinguished itself in pointing to and devising all kinds of ways of doing without states. And it is to be regretted that that this literature is not better known outside of libertarian circles. The first job of states is to provide security, and the biggest problem facing anarchy seems to be security (see David Friedman’s little book on anarchy). Robert Nozick’s book introduced many political philosophers to protective agencies, and we are now all familiar with competition between such agencies. MH thinks these agencies will be a more promising way of providing security than states. His arguments are not bad, but it is hard to evaluate the case for or against. On one hand the casualties of states are not negligible; in the twentieth century they are breathtaking. On the other it is hard to be optimistic about the prospects for anarchist communities. MH thinks that competition between protective agencies will have a moderating effect; he speculates that “it is unlikely that a protection agency would wish to staff itself with” murderers (p. 235). I note that many do in fact do just that. It’s not just that big law firms hire bullies with legal training; the mob employs murderers. If one’s business is predation – call it “protection” – then competition may not help us very much. In many part of the world, clans and their “protective agencies” battle away, none of much inspiration to lovers of liberty and the result horrific.

As I argued in my book on the state, the history of the world has been a running experiment regarding anarchy, with results hardly encouraging. (The short section is entitled “History of the World”, and I have just reread it and recommend it!) Thousands of years ago all humans lived in anarchist communities. Today the only thing close to them are semi-anarchist communities like kibbutzim, most of them sheltered by states. Forms of centralized governance replaced them, culminating in the modern state. The latter’s history is quite remarkable. In medieval Europe multiple forms of political rule co-existed, with overlapping authority. In early modern times the state started replacing these. Older “feudal’ structures, independent cities or city republic, leagues of cities, federations, empires were conquered or assimilated – and the Church, a power over kingdoms and other polities, was weaked. Today virtually the entire landmass of the globe is the territory of a state (or what is misleadingly called a “nation-state”). That’s as close as we can get to a controlled experiment. In fact, it’s better than a controlled experiment. We want to know how anarchy would fare in the world of humans, and we do know: anarchist communities get gobbled up. Americans should know this better than many, as we are well aware of the fate of the multiple communities that preceded us on this continent.

This is all to say that I did not find Part II entirely convincing. MH makes a good attempt to show the feasibility of anarchy under favorable conditions. Appealing as the picture may be, it’s not clear it has much importance for our world, where anarchist communities can’t last long. More importantly, we need to know what sorts of forms of political organization are both reasonably favorable to liberty and possible for us. And this task requires more analysis than that provided.

The post Michael Huemer’s Defense of Anarchy appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/08/michael-huemers-defense-of-anarchy/feed/ 24 6433
Michael Huemer on the State’s Political Authority http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/08/michael-huemer-on-the-states-political-authority/ http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/08/michael-huemer-on-the-states-political-authority/#comments Wed, 14 Aug 2013 13:00:47 +0000 http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/?p=6412 Michael Huemer’s new book, The Problem of Political Authority, defends two big theses. The first is that states lack political authority, and the second is that anarchy is preferable to...

The post Michael Huemer on the State’s Political Authority appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
Michael Huemer’s new book, The Problem of Political Authority, defends two big theses. The first is that states lack political authority, and the second is that anarchy is preferable to the state. There is a lot here to consider. I have not digested it all, and I expect that some of my reactions are too hasty or based on misreadings. The book is thoughtful, smart, well-argued, and much of it is correct. It is also well-written, and it could be used in upper-division undergraduate courses, as well as graduate seminars. As I said, my remarks are based on a first impression, so much that I say may need to be modified or retracted.

I’ll focus on the things with which I disagree, even if I agree with a lot and have, in fact, defended versions of some of MH’s theses (see my Essay on the Modern State, CUP 1998). The errors I think MH makes are common to contemporary Anglo-American political philosophy. States and governments are not characterized well, and the discussion is rather ahistorical. It also seems as if state (or government) and anarchy are thought together to exhaust all forms of political organization. I’ll start my critical remarks by examining MH’s framing of the important questions, concentrating on Part I of the book. I haven’t finished reading Part II, so I shan’t say much about it yet – except that it can’t be right! (I’ll say more later this week.)

“Modern states stand in need of an account of political legitimacy because modern states commonly coerce and harm individuals for reasons that woul d be viewed as inadequate for any nongovernmental agent.” (pp. 10-11)

I largely agree, though as we shall see, I think MH’s preoccupation with coercion –with a particular conception of “coercion” – blinds him to certain aspects of states that call for a more careful treatment.

MH says in the opening sentence of the Preface that “the foundational problem of political philosophy: the problem of accounting for the authority of government.” (p. xxvii) I don’t think this is what he thinks or what he ought to think as it is rather statist view of political philosophy. I think his real view ought to be that political philosophy is first of all the study and evaluation of how political society ought to be organized, a study which should pay careful attention to the constraints on the use of power.

Do states (or governments) have “political authority”? That depends on what that is. Quite surprisingly, MH’s analyses of concepts and his framing of the questions seem to be the weakest part of the book. “Political authority… is the hypothesized moral property in virtue of which governments may coerce people in certain ways not permitted to anyone else and in virtue of which citizens must obey governments in situations in which they would not be obligated to obey anyone else.” (p. 5) Readers familiar with classical thinkers like Hobbes and Kant, or contemporary thinkers like Hart and Raz will be surprised to see authority explicated mainly in terms of justified coercion. Hobbes’ conception of authority, for instance, is more complex. He says that “Law in generall, is not Counsell, but Command… addressed to one formerly obliged to obey him [who commands]”, where command is “where a man saith, Doe this, or Doe not this, without expecting other reason than the Will of him that sayeth it.” (Leviathan, ch. xxvi, and ch. xxv). So the fact that this is a genuine law issued by a legitimate ruler is a reason for me to obey. Raz’s view is that it is a preemptive reason (I assume readers are generally familiar with Raz’s work). Political and legal authority on these sorts of views consists in a power to create obligations and (preemptive) reasons. The power to coerce is supplementary. In my view a power to coerce is not essential to states. Something could be a state and not coerce. Image a state where all the laws are both good and just, and all the subjects of the laws informed and rational. Suppose the state has authority in the sense that Hobbes and Raz seek to explicate. The subjects, being informed and rational, comply with the laws. Sanctions for disobedience are not needed. Here is a state without coercion. (More of course needs to be said, and I say some of it in my “State Coercion and Force”, Social Philosophy & Policy 29 (January 2012).)

MH says that authority has “two aspects”. The first is “political legitimacy”, which is the right to rule (the right to make and enforce laws). He recognizes (note 3) that his stipulated use of ‘authority’ and ‘legitimacy” differs from those of others, listing works by Simmons, Edmundson, and Estlund. The real list is much longer. When reading the book, it is very important to remember that ‘political legitimacy’ seems to mean that the bearer has the right to rule, that is, the power and right to make laws and enforce them, as this may not be what many understand by ‘political legitimacy’. Ordinarily we might say that if a state is legitimate, it has the right to rule; legitimacy is a status which confers certain rights. (My present understanding of legitimacy is different from that of my book and is presented here: “State Legitimacy and Social Order”, in Political Legitimization without Morality, ed. Jörg Kühnelt (Springer, 2008), pp. 15-32.) The second aspect of authority according to MH is “political obligation”, namely the obligation of citizens to obey their government. “If a government has ‘authority’, then… the government has the right to rule, and the citizens have the obligation to obey.” (p. 6)

Several pages later, these concepts are refined (pp. 12-3). A number of “principles” are said to be “implicit in the ordinary conception of the authority of government; this is what defenders of authority would like to defend. The additional claims will be familiar to students of contemporary political authority, especially of Hart, Raz, L. Green, and Simmons: generality, particularity, content-independence, comprehensiveness, supremacy. I think these claims are largely present at the founding of modern political philosophy, in the work of Hobbes.  This additional analysis is helpful. What MH wants to show is that states or government don’t have the expansive or sweeping kind of “political authority” which includes these five elements. And he is right; I agree with him, as do many contemporary political philosophers. My own view uses “principles” like these to provide an analysis of sovereignty, which I think is the form of authority claimed by modern states.

I think it a fault of the book that it does not take seriously the claims of state to authority (in Hobbes and Raz’s sense). When one seeks to understand a set of practices or institutions one usually looks at what they are thought or meant to be, to understand them in their own terms. States claim authority in the sense that their directives are meant to be, in Hobbes’ terms, commands that are (preemptive) reasons for obedience on the part of citizens and other subjects. We may find the claim implausible – libertarians and especially anarchists find it ludicrous – but the claim is essential to understanding what kind of organizations or institutions states are meant to be. More importantly perhaps, the best defenses of a state’s powers to coerce are likely to go through its authority. Suppose the (Hobbes-Raz) authority of a state is justified; then that state will normally be permitted to coerce those who do not comply with its directives; the power to coerce is justified through the authority. MH does not seem to consider this. Many other political thinkers don’t either. I suppose the Hobbes-Raz conception of authority is so implausible to them – “I have a (preemptive) reason to do something because the state told me to do so! What?!” – that it’s either not worth discussing or it is not even visible. Still, it is important to consider that coercion may be secondary to authority (in the Hobbes-Raz sense).

“The need for an account of political legitimacy [in MH’s sense] arises from the moral significance of coercion and from the coercive nature of government.” (p. 8) Yes, and I’d add, for other reasons too. MH and most libertarians are single-mindedly concerned with coercion. But what is coercion? Some concepts are more difficult to explicate or characterize than others. Artificial ones like Pareto-superiority are easy to define. Coercion, as is well known, is very hard to characterize precisely. MH says that coercion is “a person’s use of or threat to use physical force against another person.” (p. 8) So on his view if I threaten you with suspension from our club if you do not comply with the rules, I do not coerce you. I’d add another example: if a government threatens you with a fine if you don’t respect the parking rules it does not coerce you on MH’s view, but I need to wait to consider this important example.

MH adds, “I use ‘physical force’ and ‘violence’ interchangeably.” This is really odd. Suppose I want you to leave the room, and I both lack authority to command you to leave (in the Hobbes-Raz sense) and I am not a friend who can so request. I might threaten you with a fine if you don’t leave, I might push you out the door being considerably stronger than you, or I might punch you and throw out the door (or window). The last alone I consider violence; the second is a kind of force; and the first I think of coercion. Threatening force or violence is also coercion. I should have thought that these understandings were commonplace. I am not sure why ‘physical force” and ‘violence’ need to be used interchangeably when the phenomena are so different; in one case bones are broken, in the other not. And surely one can coerce without threatening to use force or violence. I’m missing something here. Note something rather odd. If we accept MH’s peculiar understanding of coercion, many acts of threatening bad consequences for disobedience cease to be coercive. I’d have thought that much that governments do (e.g., threatening fines) was coercive. If this analysis is accepted, states are considerably less coercive than we had thought, a surprising result for an anti-statist tract! As we’ll see in a minute, MH does not think that his analysis will render the government’s threat of fines non-coercive.

The notion of coercion is pulled even further away from our ordinary understandings: “in my sense, A might coerce B by physically injuring B, whether or not A influences B’s behavior.” This is odd. I break your bones for the fun of it, and I have coerced you. (Surely unintentional harms are not meant to be categorized as coercive, so we should be careful of reading too much into this possibly casual statement.)  “Coercion” here is being fashioned in unusual ways, and one has to read the book reminding oneself of this.

What is the motivation for this peculiar regimenting of one of the most important concepts of the book? “The ordinary concept of coercion is useful in many contexts; nevertheless, I have introduced a stipulative definition because doing so enables consideration of some important and interesting arguments regarding political authority while avoiding unnecessary semantic debates.” (p. 9) In a revealing note to this sentence MH refers to a well-known argument by Bill Edmundson “that law is not coercive in the ordinary sense.” MH adds that his “technical usage of ‘coercion’ is designed to avoid Edmundson’s argument while retaining the moral presumption against coercion.” It’s not clear this is the way one should want to “avoid” the arguments of one’s opponents! I can’t understand why stretching an ordinary concept, one central to the subject of the book, is helpful. Readers not only have to remember that coercion in MH’s sense involves the threat of force or violence (which are interchangeable), but that injuring someone is coercion even if no threat is made. There are important differences between threatening a fine, deploying force, and breaking people’s bones. I don’t see what is lost by acknowledging these distinctions or what is gained by extinguishing them.

I may be making too big a deal here of MH’s stipulative characterizations, for it is clear what picture is motivating him. “Government is a coercive institution.” (p. 9) This is the most important fact about government (or the state). It commands (so to speak) all of our attention. MH does not adopt a theory of law like that of John Austin, who made the existence of a sanction part one of the existence condition of a law. However, he thinks that coercion is central to states. MH says that “Generally speaking, when the state makes a law, the law carries with it a punishment to be imposed upon violators.” He recognizes some of the many exceptions to this generalization and does not claim that all violations need be sanctioned. But sanctions – he uses the term ‘punishments’ – are crucial. This is a common view in contemporary Anglo-American political philosophy, shared not only by most libertarians but also by Rawls, Dworkin, Nagel, and many others. (My essay, cited above, is an attack on this general view. One of the cited exceptions to this view of sanctions are constitutions which are not enforced by sanctions. Anarchists obsessed by coercion should spend more time reflecting on constitutions, or Hart’s rule of recognition for that matter.)

Suppose we agree with this claim? I don’t think that states necessarily are coercive, and the quick argument I gave above in a parenthetical comment explains why. But suppose we agree with MH. Why equate force and violence? MH tells us: “Direct physical violence is rarely used as a punishment [any more?]. Nevertheless, violence plays a crucial role in the system, because without the threat of violence, lawbreakers could simply choose not to suffer punishment.” This is a crucial argument; without it states turn out to be much less “coercive” than we thought. How does it go? You violate a rule of the road and are convicted and ordered to pay a fine; you don’t pay and your disobedience triggers an additional sanction, perhaps revocation of your license to drive; you continue to drive and are ordered to prison. “As these examples illustrate, commands are often enforced with threats to issue further commands, yet that cannot be all there is to it. At the end of the chain must come a threat that the violator literally cannot defy. The system as a whole must be anchored by a nonvoluntary intervention, a harm that the state can impose regardless of the individual’s choices… The anchor is provided by physical force… Thus, the system is founded on intentional, harmful coercion.” (pp. 9-10)

Is this argument sound? In the article cited above I spend some time analyzing arguments of this kind (“At the end of the chain…”, or more commonly, “Ultimately…” or “It all comes down to…”), and I refer the interested reader to that essay (as well as the works cited therein, including Edmundson’s book). Consider again my hypothetical case of a non-coercive state, one that uses no force or violence. It seems to be coherent, granting that it is wildly unrealistic. We are not the kind of being described in the example, and our institutions are quite different. Suppose instead we live in a state that is reasonably just, whose institutions are reasonably efficient, and one to which we are attached in various familiar ways (e.g., it is our homeland). It will be the case on MH’s view as well as my own that we won’t have (preemptive) reasons – he would say moral obligations – to obey each and every law that applies to us, and certainly not because each is a (genuine) law. Nevertheless, there will be a lot of compliance with the law. Now why would a state like this have to depend on “a threat the violator literally cannot defy”? Most people are obeying most laws. (MH concedes such a possibility later in the book: “There might still be good reasons to obey most laws”, p. 137.) So what if some don’t pay their parking fines or continue to drive when their license has been suspended? The system will collapse if a large enough number disobey and if this encourages greater disobedience. But suppose that the non-compliers don’t reach this threshold. Must every law still be backed up by a chain of directives the last of which “anchors” the system with “physical force”? I don’t see why. There seem to be foundationalist metaphors and models lurking here, and they should be exposed and imprisoned. It’s not clear why political or legal systems like states need to be “anchored” in violence. Some states are, but it’s not clear all states must be.

I agree with much that MH says. He claims “that one may break the law when what the law commands is not independently morally required and no serious negative consequence will result.” (p. 85) That will be true of many if not of most people in most states; officials will be obvious exceptions. Suppose states lack the authority they claim, that is, they don’t possess the right to make laws and to enforce them. “If there is no authority, does it follow that we ought to abolish all governments? No. The absence of authority means, roughly, that individuals are not obligated to obey the law merely because it is the law and/or that agents are not entitled to coerce others merely because they are agents of the state. There might still be good reasons to obey most laws, and agents of the state might still have adequate reasons for engaging in enough coercive action to maintain a state. If the arguments of the preceding chapters are correct, the circumstances and purposes that would justify coercion on the part on the part of the state are just the circumstances and purposes that would justify coercion on the part of private agents.” (p. 137) This is largely right. MH also concludes, “If there is no political authority, then the vast majority of laws are unjust, because they deploy coercion against individuals without justification.” (p. 138) This is too strong, but I’d have to consider the details of MH’s evaluation of a number of traditional defenses of state power to say why much state action might be justified even if states lacked the authority they claim. (But see the more moderate conclusion of ch. 5, p. 100.)

To summarize, I think the book suffers from a poor analysis of states or government (the two terms are in fact used interchangeably, something it is not possible to do in most non-American cultures). Anarchists, I should have thought, need a better appreciation of their adversary. Also needed is a better understanding of the multiple ways in which states maintain social control. It’s more than force and violence – it’s certainly not “force and violence all the way down”. Think of the sudden collapse of the repressive Ceausescu regime in Romania or the Shah of Iran’s regime. Think of the importance of “opinion” (cf. Hume); consensus and acquiescence can be crucial in maintaining a state. And in the years to come, we’ll come to appreciate the extraordinary new methods of surveillance now being developed and deployed in countries like ours (e.g., cameras and face-recognition software). Force and violence are only part of the story behind state dominance.

Attention to the multiple ways in which states seek control – and must seek control given that force and violence are not enough – will point to real limitations on state power. At any time there are many things that states, even the most powerful, cannot do. For instances, the American state is exceptional in that it cannot disarm its populace, as virtually every other state in the world has done. That is a serious limit on the power of the American state.

I don’t think MH takes states with the seriousness than he should given his ambitious project. I don’t think he engages with much of the literature, especially that coming out of the philosophy of law (e.g., Hart, Raz, Edmundson). These are reactions to Part I. I’ll have some reactions to Part II. Indeed I already “know” what it will be wrong (!), but I know that my expectations may well be mistaken. If the argument of Part II fails, and we are convinced that states are here to stay for a while longer, then we may look more kindly on them, even if we don’t believe the outlandish tales their defenders recount.

 

[A small note. I mentioned in passing that MH asks whether we have moral obligations to obey the law (because it is the law). By contrast, we might follow Hobbes and Raz in asking whether we have (preemptive) reasons to obey. Many if not most contemporary philosophers follow MH in focusing on moral obligations, so he is not an outlier on this matter. But if one thinks as I do that the law is meant to be efficacious, specifically action-guiding, then the fact that laws are or involve moral obligations may not be sufficient to move us to action if moral internalism is not true, if we do not always have reasons (or reasons of the right kind) to do as we are morally obligated to do. Hobbes focuses on reasons for action as he wants the law to move individuals, even those whose moral convictions leave them to disobey. The emphasis on reasons for action makes the case for the state harder.]

The post Michael Huemer on the State’s Political Authority appeared first on Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

]]>
http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2013/08/michael-huemer-on-the-states-political-authority/feed/ 28 6412