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The Role of Government

The Role of Government

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The Role of Government

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  1. The Role of Government • Hobbes • Justice only exists though government • Life without government is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” • Thoreau: “That government is best which governs least”

  2. Political Philosophies • Justification of government • The nature of justice • The individual versus the state • Civil disobedience

  3. Anarchism • Naive anarchism: people can live in peace without government • Militant anarchism: government is unjustified and must be overthrown • Theoretical anarchism: government has no legitimate authority, but may be necessary

  4. Robert Paul Wolff's In Defense of Anarchism • Authority means the right to command and to be obeyed • An autonomous person makes moral decisions and lives by them • An autonomous person cannot recognize an outside authority, such as the state

  5. Social Contract Theory • Hobbes’ Leviathan • Human nature is warlike • Peace is achieved by forming contracts • Locke’s An Essay Concerning the True Original, Extent and End of Civil Government • Some rights are inalienable • Governments exist to protect our rights

  6. The Question of Justice • Retributive justice: the proper allotment of punishment proportionate to the severity of a crime • Distributive justice: the proper distribution of benefits and burdens

  7. Justice as Merit • Justice means people get what they are due according to their merit • Plato • Meritocracy: political power is proportional to merit • Democracy is equivalent to mob rule • Intellectual elite should rule society • The Republic

  8. Justice as Conformity to Natural Law • Natural law transcends human conventions • All morally aware people can recognize natural law • Aquinas’ Summa Theologica

  9. Justice as Social Utility: John Stuart Mill • Principle of utility: a just society will minimize social harms and maximize social benefits • Utilitarianism • People maintain many conflicting theories of justice • Utility should be the deciding factor

  10. Justice as Fairness: John Rawls • People possessing merit are just lucky and should not be rewarded • Criticism of utilitarianism: majority should not win at expense of minority • Justice is accepted only if it is seen as fair

  11. Rawls’ A Theory of Justice • Original Position: what if we could create our own society? • Veil of ignorance: no one would know one’s social position in advance • Principles of justice • Equal liberty • Fair equality of opportunity

  12. A Feminist Critique of Rawls • Susan Moller Okin • Justice, Gender, and the Family • Rawls fails to address gender inequality • What if those on the original position don’t know what sex they will be?

  13. The Individual and the State • Extreme positions • Anarchism • Absolute totalitarianism • Moderate positions • Individualism • Collectivism

  14. Classical Liberalism • Freedom of the individual • John Stuart Mill: On Liberty • Power is only justifiable when used to prevent harm to others • People must be free to seek happiness by their own methods

  15. Marxism • Economics is the root of human existence • Class struggle is constant through history • Capitalism exploits the workers • History is a dialectical process • Capitalism will undermine itself and lead to communism

  16. Marx’s Communist Manifesto • Society is based on the struggle of bourgeoisie and proletariat • Calls for abolition of private property • Philosophies are shaped by material existence • Proletariat must wrest all capital from the bourgeoisie

  17. Civil Disobedience • An illegal action performed for the purpose of making a moral protest • Must be public • Protesters generally should be willing to accept consequences • Generally nonviolent

  18. The Case against Civil Disobedience • A violation of the social contract • Majority rule • Ends that do not justify the means • Other alternatives

  19. Plato's Crito • Disobeying the law is exchanging evil for evil • A state cannot exist if the laws have no power • By living in a place we agree to abide by its laws

  20. The Case for Civil Disobedience • Preservation of moral integrity • The duty to combat immorality • A means of social progress • No practical alternative • Government may exceed its authority

  21. Mohandas K. Gandhi • Opposed discriminatory laws • Helped end British governance of India • Nonviolent resistance - satyagraha

  22. Gandhi’sYoung India • If a leader is unjust, the subjects have a duty to disobey • Imprisonment is better than freedom won through acceptance of injustice • Civil Disobedience must never descend into general lawlessness

  23. Martin Luther King Jr. • Helped overturn segregation laws and pass the Civil Rights Act • Letter from Birmingham Jail • Direct action is used to force negotiation • An unjust law violates the moral law or law of God