This Week’s Mtg: Legitimate Authority – When Must We Obey?

Last week we talked about how to build consensus in a country where the idea of a common good is falling apart.  So, what if we can’t agree?  What is our responsibility as citizens to obey political authority we don’t like, or even hate?  If you think this is just an academic topic, you obviously haven’t been following the Tea Parties and their almost constant calls for “resistance” to the “tyranny” of lightly regulating the health insurance industry and Wall Street.

This was Chris’ idea and his meeting.  [UPDATE:  See below for his recommended links.  Skip mine].  In the meantime, here is a little bit of reading material:

I will leave you with a thought experiment:

  • It’s 2013.  An economic  depression caused by a failure to raise the debt ceiling swings the election to the Bachmann/Perry ticket.
  • President Bachmann declares war on Iran, Syria, and “Europa.”  A new law seals off the Mexican border with a moat and requires all Americans to perform citizens’ arrests of any suspected illegal immigrant.  Medicare is privatized and the EPA is abolished.
  • What are our moral and legal responsibilities to obey these laws and to support this government??

I await your answers.


UPDATE:  Links from Chris:

  • Crito, a relatively short Platonic Dialogue in which Socrates presents an
    argument for obeying the Laws. Probably the best starting point and what I’ll be
    touching on if I give a presentation:
  • Interesting look at a political scientist who’s doing research on the
    distinctions citizens make in obeying different laws around the world:
  • Book review of a history of Eugene Debs, which touches on a lot of
    these themes, particularly the right of citizens to oppose the government during
  • An interesting article about how difficult it is to “Watch the Watchmen” so
    to speak, as  well as the blatant politicizing of unfair laws (in this case, grandstanding
    politicians on sex offenders of every stripe)

2 responses

  1. Whoa! Get in the real world. You obviously lean left with your light regulation comment. Your suppositions about a conservative presidency is childishly boring and without ANY legitimate foundation. What is the moral obligation to contribute taxes to a government that buys allegiance with welfare payments and discourages business development with excessive and wasteful government spending, disguised as a stimulus that has demonstrably never worked. Is there a moral obligation to obey any federal law that oversteps constitutional authority. Open your mind beyond fear of conservatives and see that all lovers of government as the answer to social and economic problems are the real threats to our liberty. I assume you have the guts to desire real freedom and liberty with their accompanying moral responsibilities.

  2. I think you are a little harsh on tea party. Just think back to the ’60s. The resistance to the political system then changed America and formed the Democrat party (ie. black power, feminism, equal rights etc.). i don’t see you criticizing that, do I?

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