The Principle of Fairness, Political Duties, and the Benefits Proviso Mistake

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy
View More View Less
  • 1 1Visiting Assistant Professor, Amherst College dkoltonski@amherst.edu

Purchase instant access (PDF download and unlimited online access):

$30.00

Recent debate in the literature on political obligation about the principle of fairness rests on a mistake. Despite the widespread assumption to the contrary, a person can have a duty of fairness to share in the burdens of sustaining some cooperative scheme even though that scheme does not represent a net benefit to her. Recognizing this mistake allows for a resolution of the stalemate between those who argue that the mere receipt of some public good from a scheme can generate a duty of fairness and those who argue that only some voluntary action of consent or acceptance of the good can generate such a duty. I defend a version of the principle of fairness that holds that it is the person’s reliance on a scheme for the provision of some product or service that generates duties of fairness to share in the burdens of sustaining the scheme. And, on this version, the principle of fairness is politically significant: regardless of whether the citizen has a duty to obey the law, she will still have important political duties of fairness generated by her reliance on the various public goods provided by those society-wide cooperative schemes sustained by the sacrifices of her fellow citizens.

  • Arneson Richard (1982). “The Principle of Fairness and Free-Rider Problems.” Ethics, 92:4.

  • Boran Idil (2006). “Benefits, Intentions, and the Principle of Fairness.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 36:1.

  • Cullity, Garrett (1995). Philosophy and Public Affairs, 24:1.

  • Dagger Richard (1997). Civic Virtues: Rights, Citizenship and Republican Liberalism. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Dworkin Ronald (1986). Law’s Empire. Cambridge: Belknap Press.

  • Edmundson William, ed. (1999). The Duty to Obey the Law: Selected Philosophical Readings. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.

  • Green Leslie (1988). The Authority of the State. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Greenawalt Kent (1987). Conflicts of Law and Morality. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Hart H.L.A. (1955). “Are There Any Natural Rights?” The Philosophical Review, 64: 175191.

  • Kavka Gregory. Hobbesian Moral and Political Theory. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • Klosko George (1992). The Principle of Fairness and Political Obligation, 2nd Ed. Lanham, md: Rowman and Littlefield.

  • ——(2005). Political Obligations. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Nozick Robert (1974). Anarchy, State and Utopia. New York: Basic Books.

  • Rawls John (1999a). “Legal Obligation and the Duty of Fair Play.” Collected Papers. Samuel Freeman, ed. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 117129.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ——(1999b). A Theory of Justice. Revised Edition. Cambridge: Belknap Press.

  • Raz Joseph (1986). The Morality of Freedom. New York: Oxford University Press.

  • Scanlon Thomas (1976). “Nozick on Rights, Liberty and Property.” Philosophy and Public Affairs. 6: 325.

  • —— (1998). What We Owe to Each Other. Cambridge, ma: Belknap Press.

  • Shapiro Scott (2002). “Authority”. The Oxford Handbook of Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law. Jules Coleman and Scott Shapiro, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, 382439.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Simmons A. John (1979). Moral Principles and Political Obligation. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • ——(1993). On the Edge of Anarchy: Locke, Consent and the Limits of Society. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

  • ——(2001). Justification and Legitimacy: Essays on Rights and Obligations. New York: Cambridge University Press.

  • Soper Philip (2002). The Ethics of Deference. New York: Cambridge University Press.

  • 2

    Hart (1955), 185–6.

  • 3

    Cullity (1995), 22–23.

  • 4

    Rawls (1999a), 123.

  • 9

    Nozick (1974), 93–4. (The person’s name is my own addition.) That the scheme assigns each person a share of the burden is a complication that I intend to ignore in what follows, for it raises important questions about procedures for arriving at public determinations of persons’ fairness duties.

  • 11

    Klosko (1992), 39. See also Klosko (2005), 6.

  • 13

    Klosko (1992), 39.

  • 14

    Klosko (1992), 44. Emphasis added.

  • 15

    Klosko (1992), 44. Emphasis added.

  • 16

    Klosko (1992), 44.

  • 19

    Klosko (1992), 39, italics added. Also: “[B]ecause the benefits of national defense are presumptively beneficial, we can presume that Pickerel would pursue them (and bear the associated costs) if this were necessary for their receipt” (Klosko (1992), 42, first italics added). Klosko says similar things in Political Obligations: “[I]f a given benefit is indispensable to Smith’s welfare… then we can assume that she benefits from it, even if she has not sought to attain it” (Klosko (2005), 6).

  • 20

    Klosko (1992), 42.

  • 21

    Cullity (1995), 6. (The name is my own addition.)

  • 25

    Cullity (1995), 23.

  • 32

    Nozick (1974), 95; Simmons (2001), 15.

  • 34

    Rawls (1999b), 96. See also Rawls (1999b), 301–308.

  • 36

    Simmons (2001), 18.

  • 38

    Simmons (2001), 20. For additional discussion of the criteria for voluntary acceptance of public goods, see Simmons (1993), 252–7.

  • 45

    Simmons (2001), 34. The character’s name is my own addition.

  • 46

    Simmons (2001), 36. Of course, Simmons’ discussion does not concern the specific question of forced reliance but rather forced benefit via the preclusion of private provision of a good.

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 228 96 6
Full Text Views 218 10 0
PDF Downloads 37 8 1