Fairness, Political Obligation, and the Justificatory Gap

in Journal of Moral Philosophy
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The moral principle of fairness or fair play is widely believed to be a solid ground for political obligation, i.e., a general prima facie moral duty to obey the law qua law. In this article, I advance a new and, more importantly, principled objection to fairness theories of political obligation by revealing and defending a justificatory gap between the principle of fairness and political obligation: the duty of fairness on its own is incapable of preempting the citizen’s liberty to reciprocate fairly in ways other than obeying the law. This justificatory gap is unaffected by the ongoing debate between the voluntarist and the nonvoluntarist accounts of fairness, and it cannot be bridged by the two arguments that are perhaps implicit in Klosko’s account, namely the presumptive benefits argument and the democratic procedure argument.

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References
  • 2

    A. John SimmonsJustification and Legitimacy: Essays on Rights and Obligations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press2001) p. 10.

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  • 4

    DaggerCivic Virtues p. 69. For a similar point also see Simmons Justification and Legitimacy p. 10.

  • 5

    Robert NozickAnarchy State and Utopia (New York: Basic Books1974) p. 93.

  • 8

    SimmonsJustification and Legitimacy pp. 18–20.

  • 10

    SimmonsJustification and Legitimacy p. 25.

  • 11

    Ibid. pp. 27–42.

  • 13

     See DaggerCivic Virtues pp. 73–5; Edward Song “Acceptance Fairness and Political Obligation” Legal Theory 18 no. 2 (2012): 209–29.

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  • 16

    Richard J. Arneson“The Principle of Fairness and Free-Rider Problems,” Ethics 92 no. 4 (1982) p. 633.

  • 17

    KloskoThe Principle of Fairness and Political Obligation p. 34.

  • 20

    SimmonsJustification and Legitimacy pp. 16–7.

  • 21

    Ibid. p. 17.

  • 22

    Garrett Cullity“Moral Free Riding,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 24 no. 1 (1995) p. 6.

  • 24

     See Cullity“Moral Free Riding” p. 12 note 24. I change his wording by substituting “openness/closedness” for “nonexcludability/excludability” to describe the characteristic of a benefit-conferring scheme.

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  • 29

    Hart“Are There Any Natural Rights?” p. 185 my emphasis.

  • 30

    Rawls“Legal Obligation and the Duty of Fair Play” p. 10 my emphasis.

  • 31

    DaggerCivic Virtues p. 68 my emphasis.

  • 32

    Ibid. p. 70 my emphasis.

  • 33

    Ibid. p. 75.

  • 34

    George Klosko“Fixed Content of Political Obligations,” Political Studies 46 no. 1 (1998): 53–67p. 62 emphasis in the original.

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  • 35

    Ibid. p. 63.

  • 37

    KloskoThe Principle of Fairness and Political Obligation p. 34.

  • 38

    Ibid. p. 39.

  • 39

    Ibid. p. 44.

  • 40

    Ibid. p. 43.

  • 42

    KloskoThe Principle of Fairness and Political Obligation p. 42.

  • 44

    KloskoThe Principle of Fairness and Political Obligation p. 43 my emphasis.

  • 45

    Ibid. p. 42.

  • 46

    Thomas D. Senor“What If There Are No Political Obligations? A Reply to A. J. Simmons,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 16 no. 3 (1987): 260–68pp. 261–62.

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  • 48

    A. John Simmons“The Anarchist Position: A Reply to Klosko and Senor,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 16 no. 3 (1987): 269–79p. 278.

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  • 50

    KloskoThe Principle of Fairness and Political Obligation p. 34. p. 63.

  • 51

    Ibid. p. 64.

  • 52

    Ibid. p. 64 65.

  • 53

    Ibid. p. 72.

  • 56

     See David Lefkowitz“The Nature of Fairness and Political Obligation: A Response to Carr,” Social Theory & Practice 30 no. 1 (2004) p. 27 and p. 30. For Lefkowitz’s account of democratic justification of political obligation see his “A Contractualist Defense of Democratic Authority” Ratio Juris 18 no. 3(2005): 346–64.

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