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

by Michael Huemer


Michael Huemer starts his thinking in political authority in a good, but uncommon, spot: by asking whether the very idea of political authority has anything to be said for it. Most political philosophy either bypasses the entire question of whether political authority is justified (by asking.

Michael Huemer starts his thinking in political authority in a good, but uncommon, spot: by asking whether the very idea of political authority has anything to be said for it. Most political philosophy either bypasses the entire question of whether political authority is justified (by asking what government is best), or by asking where political authority comes from (assuming that there is such thing as political authority)

Ultimately, no theory of authority succeeds, and thus no government has the kind of authority often ascribed to governments.

The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey is a book by University of Colorado philosophy professor Michael Huemer released in January 2013.

Michael Huemer is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA, where he has worked since . Table of contents (13 chapters). The Problem of Political Authority.

Michael Huemer is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder, USA, where he has worked since 1998. He is the author of Skepticism and the Veil of Perception and Ethical Intuitionism, as well as more than 40 articles in ethics, epistemology, political philosophy, and metaphysics. Show all.

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The results strongly support the notion that lack of political rights and civil liberties indeed contribute to the deviation of the PPP from the equilibrium exchange rate in developing countries.

To have authority is to have a right to create moral obligations in others simply by issuing commands, and a corresponding right to coerce compliance when others fail to obey one’s commands.

This book argues that this notion is a moral illusion: no one has ever possessed that sort of authority.

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.

In my view, Michael Huemer’s new The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey is the best book in the genre. There’s no question begging, no obscurantism, and no bullet biting. The book begins by pointing out that if a private individual acted like a government, almost everyone would consider his behavior immoral. He then charitably considers all the major attempts to defend this asymmetry.

Modern states commonly deploy coercion in a wide array of circumstances in which the resort to force would clearly be wrong for any private agent. What entitles the state to behave in this manner? And why should citizens obey its commands? This book examines theories of political authority, from the social contract theory, to theories of democratic authorization, to fairness- and consequence-based theories. Ultimately, no theory of authority succeeds, and thus no government has the kind of authority often ascribed to governments.The author goes on to discuss how voluntary and competitive institutions could provide the central goods for the sake of which the state is often deemed necessary, including law, protection from private criminals, and national security. An orderly and livable society thus does not require acquiescence in the illusion of political authority.

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

ISBN13: 978-1137281647

ISBN: 1137281642

Author: Michael Huemer

Category: Other

Subcategory: Social Sciences

Language: English

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 1st edition (2013)

Pages: 394 pages

ePUB size: 1709 kb

FB2 size: 1445 kb

Rating: 4.6

Votes: 507

Other Formats: lit lrf mbr azw

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Hugighma
The book is a gem, destined to become a classic, and any serious student of the field should have it on their shelf. They should even, dare I say, read it.

The topic that Humer’s astonishing tour de force concerns itself with is the moral and ethical underpinnings of state power, an area known in political philosophy as the "problem of political authority".

In considering the justification for the state, a nagging question naturally arises. Most people would claim it is morally impermissible for your neighbor to force you to give money to a charity of his choice at gunpoint. However, in stark contrast, most people would claim it is permissible for the state to do essentially the same thing, that is, to extort taxes from you using the threat of force in order to spend those funds on projects other than your own.

Most people appear to claim there is an important difference between these cases — otherwise, they would not believe in the legitimacy of the state.

The eponymous problem of political authority is the question of what the distinction between these cases might be — on what basis, if any, might we justify this difference in treatment between the behavior we consider ethically justified from individual actors versus the power we accord to the state.

Huemer systematically addresses the justifications that have been articulated for political authority over the centuries, from hypothetical social contract theory to consequentialism and everything in between. I will give away the punchline by noting that his arguments would appear to fatally damage all of them.

Political philosophers often start by attempting to construct a complete moral framework within which they justify their positions. Huemer takes an entirely different approach. He does not assume that we all agree on a single universal moral framework. He only assumes that most of us generally share similar moral intuitions about certain sorts of situations in the average case. (The strongest sort of assumption he demands is that his reader agree that beating people up without provocation is usually bad.)

Because he demands that the reader agree with him on so few things and so weakly, Huemer’s argument gains enormous strength, since there is no need to accept an all-encompassing ethical theory to believe the rest of his arguments.

On the basis of very pedestrian ethical assumptions, Huemer manages to build a case against any moral justification for political authority whatsoever. He engages, attacks and destroys arguments of all sorts with panache. Even John Rawls famous “A Theory of Justice” (perhaps the most cited work written in philosophy in the last century) is mercilessly examined under bright lights and staked through the heart.

One of the book’s greatest strengths is the simplicity and lucidity of his prose. Unlike many of his academic peers, Huemer’s writing is crystal clear and (nearly) jargon free. A bright ten year old would have no difficulty with the language. He does not seek to conceal weakness beneath an avalanche of polysyllabic words and mile long sentences. Instead, he makes his arguments so straightforward to understand that there is little or no room to disagree with him.

I am uncertain as to whether Huemer will persuade many people. As Swift once observed, “it is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.” Most people hold their political positions not as a result of rational contemplation but because they were exposed to a set of ideas at an early age and have an emotional attachment to them that is not easily altered. The fact that Huemer is arguing for unfamiliar idea that goes against most conventional wisdom is probably more important to the average reader than the razor sharp edge to which he has honed his arguments.

Never the less, in a hypothetical world in which all chose their views on the basis of rational consideration, Huemer would be changing hearts and minds by the trainload.
Hugighma
The book is a gem, destined to become a classic, and any serious student of the field should have it on their shelf. They should even, dare I say, read it.

The topic that Humer’s astonishing tour de force concerns itself with is the moral and ethical underpinnings of state power, an area known in political philosophy as the "problem of political authority".

In considering the justification for the state, a nagging question naturally arises. Most people would claim it is morally impermissible for your neighbor to force you to give money to a charity of his choice at gunpoint. However, in stark contrast, most people would claim it is permissible for the state to do essentially the same thing, that is, to extort taxes from you using the threat of force in order to spend those funds on projects other than your own.

Most people appear to claim there is an important difference between these cases — otherwise, they would not believe in the legitimacy of the state.

The eponymous problem of political authority is the question of what the distinction between these cases might be — on what basis, if any, might we justify this difference in treatment between the behavior we consider ethically justified from individual actors versus the power we accord to the state.

Huemer systematically addresses the justifications that have been articulated for political authority over the centuries, from hypothetical social contract theory to consequentialism and everything in between. I will give away the punchline by noting that his arguments would appear to fatally damage all of them.

Political philosophers often start by attempting to construct a complete moral framework within which they justify their positions. Huemer takes an entirely different approach. He does not assume that we all agree on a single universal moral framework. He only assumes that most of us generally share similar moral intuitions about certain sorts of situations in the average case. (The strongest sort of assumption he demands is that his reader agree that beating people up without provocation is usually bad.)

Because he demands that the reader agree with him on so few things and so weakly, Huemer’s argument gains enormous strength, since there is no need to accept an all-encompassing ethical theory to believe the rest of his arguments.

On the basis of very pedestrian ethical assumptions, Huemer manages to build a case against any moral justification for political authority whatsoever. He engages, attacks and destroys arguments of all sorts with panache. Even John Rawls famous “A Theory of Justice” (perhaps the most cited work written in philosophy in the last century) is mercilessly examined under bright lights and staked through the heart.

One of the book’s greatest strengths is the simplicity and lucidity of his prose. Unlike many of his academic peers, Huemer’s writing is crystal clear and (nearly) jargon free. A bright ten year old would have no difficulty with the language. He does not seek to conceal weakness beneath an avalanche of polysyllabic words and mile long sentences. Instead, he makes his arguments so straightforward to understand that there is little or no room to disagree with him.

I am uncertain as to whether Huemer will persuade many people. As Swift once observed, “it is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.” Most people hold their political positions not as a result of rational contemplation but because they were exposed to a set of ideas at an early age and have an emotional attachment to them that is not easily altered. The fact that Huemer is arguing for unfamiliar idea that goes against most conventional wisdom is probably more important to the average reader than the razor sharp edge to which he has honed his arguments.

Never the less, in a hypothetical world in which all chose their views on the basis of rational consideration, Huemer would be changing hearts and minds by the trainload.
Heri
This book is awesome. The thing I like most about Huemer is how he takes a difficult subject for most people--anarchy, and philosophy in general--and explains it in professional terms, and then uses multiple, very basic analogies to communicate it to a mass audience. He straightforwardly hammers his points home. The major flaw of the book, in my opinion, is in the implementation of his principles in a hypothetical anarchist society. He will say there should be a police force paid for by private groups, but doesn't get into much detail--what do poor people opt for, how do you handle those that may be under the jurisdiction of your force but have opted out of it, healthcare, school, etc. Anarchism is just about the most difficult philosophical/social construct I can think of to implement, and this book doesn't satisfy in that regard, in my opinion.
Heri
This book is awesome. The thing I like most about Huemer is how he takes a difficult subject for most people--anarchy, and philosophy in general--and explains it in professional terms, and then uses multiple, very basic analogies to communicate it to a mass audience. He straightforwardly hammers his points home. The major flaw of the book, in my opinion, is in the implementation of his principles in a hypothetical anarchist society. He will say there should be a police force paid for by private groups, but doesn't get into much detail--what do poor people opt for, how do you handle those that may be under the jurisdiction of your force but have opted out of it, healthcare, school, etc. Anarchism is just about the most difficult philosophical/social construct I can think of to implement, and this book doesn't satisfy in that regard, in my opinion.
Fecage
Michael Huemer starts his thinking in political authority in a good, but uncommon, spot: by asking whether the very idea of political authority has anything to be said for it. Most political philosophy either bypasses the entire question of whether political authority is justified (by asking what government is best), or by asking where political authority comes from (assuming that there is such thing as political authority). Huemer's question: is there any good argument for the idea that some have the right to rule over or coerce others? His answer: no good reason exists to justify the idea of political authority.

Here's the question in a nutshell: is there anything government (of any kind) does that wouldn't be judged morally wrong if done by private actors? (For instance, can I decide that some of your property is mine because I decided to keep you safe, or promise to spend the money to do good for others, or because most of your community decided that way?) Huemer rehearses several commonly heard justifications of why government actors have the right too coerce (where privvate actors don't): namely, real social contracts, hypothetical social contracts, democratic legitimacy, and utilitarian legitimacy.

The idea that government literally began as a social contract is clearly wanting: not only do we have no record of any such social contracts ever taking place (yes, even in the United States), but real contracts have no power to bind anyone but the signers. Hypothetical contracts suffer from (a) the fact that they are completely hypothetical and depict people under very ideal (and dubious) conditions, and (b) suffer from some of the problems of postulating a real social contract (was anyone ever free to opt out or not sign without very difficult consequences, etc?). Appeal to good consequences as a justification for political legitimacy is strange because, among other things, it overlooks many of the bad consequences of government (or dubious ones, like distributing tax money to farmers via subsidies or banks via 'bailouts'), and assumes that these good things have to be done by government (in order for good consequences to justify x, you have to show that nothing but x can generate those consequences). Lastly, democratic authority suffers from such flaws as (like social contract theory) idealizing constituents (immpartial deliberators) and the results democracy often generates (lest we forget, many unjust and grossly non-egalitarian laws and regimes have been the product of democracy). Democratic theories of political authority also have to convincingly argue why it is that "has the consent of the majority of voters" implies "is appropriate to coerce onto those who morally object." (One can clearly see this by thought experiment: imagine that my fiends and I are fighting with a rival group, and we all vote that you should be thrown into the ring first. Why, you may ask, does that justify them coercing you into the ring when I am not voluntartily part of your group to begin with?)

Of course, assuming the reader buys Huemer's arguments (and they are very solid), what then? Does that mean no authority exists and disorder reigns? Yes to the first part, and no to the second part. The later part of Huemer's book argues a positive case for "anarcho-capitalism" or "market anarchism." Essentially, things like police protection, "national" security, and help for the poor can be more effectively administered via a voluntary "pay for service" market system. Huemer's arguments, quite often, rest on the quite solid idea that any problem that markets will generate (potential for justice to go to the 'highest bidder,' for "protection companies" to become corrupt or to cheat customers, etc) are much more likely to exist in governments, largely because of governments' monopoly status. (If a private arbitrator becomes corrupt, taking bribes in exchange for favorable rulings, they have the chance of going out of business because of people's refusal to use them. Corrupt government judges literally have no competition and people HAVE to use them.) For Huemer, markets may have problems, but they have far fewer problems that monopoly governments, and competition often breeds innovation, cost efficiency, and consumer choice.

This section, unfortunately, is where I do have a few problems with Huemer's arguments. I'll give a few examples. First, every time Huemer (or other anarchists) say "well, that problem x exists just as much in governments," I am a bit uneasy. Why? Because if the goal is to prove to me that anarchism is MORE just, MORE efficient and MORE fair than governments, the fact that the same problem exists in both anarchy and government rule doesn't get there at all. For instance, I am concerned that markets will leave justice to the highest bidder. You point out that governments do that too. Okay, but if we both agree that "justice to the highest bidder" is bad, then should we prefer a system where (anarchy) that policy is pretty explicit, or one (government rule) where the idea (even if it doesn't work in practice) is "the same level of justice for all?"

Two other concerns with Huemer's case. First, he admits that if we are postulating an anarchist society, we really have no idea how x (security, justice system, aid to the poor) will be delivered. After all, the market will generate the plans it generates - the plans that people create and support. But, that also opens a fairly large potential for an anarchist order to be quite a bit worse than governments, too. Even if political authority doesn't have good reasons behind it, could it be that at the end of the day, improving the devil you know may be better strategy than jumping into the great unknown? Second, Huemer's final chapter is an optimistic argument as to why anarchy is achievable; if people gradually start to realize that political authority rests on faulty arguments, they may start reducing the size of governments ("outsourcing" some of them to industry, as already happens), and gradually realizing that political authority is not necessary. However, an earlier chapter spends time rehearsing the plethora of data showing that people almost naturally defer to authority. My concern is that, however justified an anarchic order is, do these two chapters ultimately contradict each other?

In the end, I took off only one star for the book; despite my disagreements, this book is a VERY interesting and well-argued case for something that isn't often argued. We often think as if government authority is just a given, and the only question is how we decide who gets to coerce who. But the problem of coercion is a very serious one, and coercion should only be employed if there is really solid reason to justify it. In The Problem of Political Authority, Michael Huemer levels a mighty challenge to the idea of political authority and what could take place in its stead. This book should not be missed by anyone interested in political philosophy.
Fecage
Michael Huemer starts his thinking in political authority in a good, but uncommon, spot: by asking whether the very idea of political authority has anything to be said for it. Most political philosophy either bypasses the entire question of whether political authority is justified (by asking what government is best), or by asking where political authority comes from (assuming that there is such thing as political authority). Huemer's question: is there any good argument for the idea that some have the right to rule over or coerce others? His answer: no good reason exists to justify the idea of political authority.

Here's the question in a nutshell: is there anything government (of any kind) does that wouldn't be judged morally wrong if done by private actors? (For instance, can I decide that some of your property is mine because I decided to keep you safe, or promise to spend the money to do good for others, or because most of your community decided that way?) Huemer rehearses several commonly heard justifications of why government actors have the right too coerce (where privvate actors don't): namely, real social contracts, hypothetical social contracts, democratic legitimacy, and utilitarian legitimacy.

The idea that government literally began as a social contract is clearly wanting: not only do we have no record of any such social contracts ever taking place (yes, even in the United States), but real contracts have no power to bind anyone but the signers. Hypothetical contracts suffer from (a) the fact that they are completely hypothetical and depict people under very ideal (and dubious) conditions, and (b) suffer from some of the problems of postulating a real social contract (was anyone ever free to opt out or not sign without very difficult consequences, etc?). Appeal to good consequences as a justification for political legitimacy is strange because, among other things, it overlooks many of the bad consequences of government (or dubious ones, like distributing tax money to farmers via subsidies or banks via 'bailouts'), and assumes that these good things have to be done by government (in order for good consequences to justify x, you have to show that nothing but x can generate those consequences). Lastly, democratic authority suffers from such flaws as (like social contract theory) idealizing constituents (immpartial deliberators) and the results democracy often generates (lest we forget, many unjust and grossly non-egalitarian laws and regimes have been the product of democracy). Democratic theories of political authority also have to convincingly argue why it is that "has the consent of the majority of voters" implies "is appropriate to coerce onto those who morally object." (One can clearly see this by thought experiment: imagine that my fiends and I are fighting with a rival group, and we all vote that you should be thrown into the ring first. Why, you may ask, does that justify them coercing you into the ring when I am not voluntartily part of your group to begin with?)

Of course, assuming the reader buys Huemer's arguments (and they are very solid), what then? Does that mean no authority exists and disorder reigns? Yes to the first part, and no to the second part. The later part of Huemer's book argues a positive case for "anarcho-capitalism" or "market anarchism." Essentially, things like police protection, "national" security, and help for the poor can be more effectively administered via a voluntary "pay for service" market system. Huemer's arguments, quite often, rest on the quite solid idea that any problem that markets will generate (potential for justice to go to the 'highest bidder,' for "protection companies" to become corrupt or to cheat customers, etc) are much more likely to exist in governments, largely because of governments' monopoly status. (If a private arbitrator becomes corrupt, taking bribes in exchange for favorable rulings, they have the chance of going out of business because of people's refusal to use them. Corrupt government judges literally have no competition and people HAVE to use them.) For Huemer, markets may have problems, but they have far fewer problems that monopoly governments, and competition often breeds innovation, cost efficiency, and consumer choice.

This section, unfortunately, is where I do have a few problems with Huemer's arguments. I'll give a few examples. First, every time Huemer (or other anarchists) say "well, that problem x exists just as much in governments," I am a bit uneasy. Why? Because if the goal is to prove to me that anarchism is MORE just, MORE efficient and MORE fair than governments, the fact that the same problem exists in both anarchy and government rule doesn't get there at all. For instance, I am concerned that markets will leave justice to the highest bidder. You point out that governments do that too. Okay, but if we both agree that "justice to the highest bidder" is bad, then should we prefer a system where (anarchy) that policy is pretty explicit, or one (government rule) where the idea (even if it doesn't work in practice) is "the same level of justice for all?"

Two other concerns with Huemer's case. First, he admits that if we are postulating an anarchist society, we really have no idea how x (security, justice system, aid to the poor) will be delivered. After all, the market will generate the plans it generates - the plans that people create and support. But, that also opens a fairly large potential for an anarchist order to be quite a bit worse than governments, too. Even if political authority doesn't have good reasons behind it, could it be that at the end of the day, improving the devil you know may be better strategy than jumping into the great unknown? Second, Huemer's final chapter is an optimistic argument as to why anarchy is achievable; if people gradually start to realize that political authority rests on faulty arguments, they may start reducing the size of governments ("outsourcing" some of them to industry, as already happens), and gradually realizing that political authority is not necessary. However, an earlier chapter spends time rehearsing the plethora of data showing that people almost naturally defer to authority. My concern is that, however justified an anarchic order is, do these two chapters ultimately contradict each other?

In the end, I took off only one star for the book; despite my disagreements, this book is a VERY interesting and well-argued case for something that isn't often argued. We often think as if government authority is just a given, and the only question is how we decide who gets to coerce who. But the problem of coercion is a very serious one, and coercion should only be employed if there is really solid reason to justify it. In The Problem of Political Authority, Michael Huemer levels a mighty challenge to the idea of political authority and what could take place in its stead. This book should not be missed by anyone interested in political philosophy.
Delan
This is an anti-government, pro-anarchy work in two parts. First, it takes a political philosophy approach to the problem of government: why do we obey; what is the moral basis of political authority? Starting from simple moral propositions, the author investigates political authority and finds it has no moral basis. Philosophically, it does not exist. Second, the author examines the practical case for anarchy - no government, the absence of political authority. He takes the optimistic viewpoint that all the incentive structures in society will tend to extend and strengthen an anarchist movement, if only it can be started. He takes the long view. It took thousands of years for humans to evolve the current political institutions that govern us; surely, in a few hundred years more, we can render them obsolete.
Delan
This is an anti-government, pro-anarchy work in two parts. First, it takes a political philosophy approach to the problem of government: why do we obey; what is the moral basis of political authority? Starting from simple moral propositions, the author investigates political authority and finds it has no moral basis. Philosophically, it does not exist. Second, the author examines the practical case for anarchy - no government, the absence of political authority. He takes the optimistic viewpoint that all the incentive structures in society will tend to extend and strengthen an anarchist movement, if only it can be started. He takes the long view. It took thousands of years for humans to evolve the current political institutions that govern us; surely, in a few hundred years more, we can render them obsolete.