The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey


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The state is often ascribed a special sort of authority, one that obliges citizens to obey its commands and entitles the state to enforce those commands through threats of violence. This book argues that this notion is a moral illusion: no one has ever possessed that sort of authority.

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Allen S

Nov 19, 2015

well-reasoned and very readable

The first half of this book shows that the most-used justifications of political authority -- explicit or hypothetical social contract, democracy, fairness and utility -- do not hold water. None of them succeeds in making a solid, non-circular case for the existence of a monopoly on coercion. The second half of the book considers how a society could conceivably function better without that monopoly power.

What is pretty much taken for granted without examination is private property: both ownership of produced goods, and exclusive license to non-produced things such as city lots, frequencies, mineral deposits, etc. I'd be delighted to see a new book giving an anarchist treatment of ownership relations.

This is real philosophy, and the book makes lots of clear points. I enjoyed it thoroughly.

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