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:
- Wiki’s “Legitimate Political Authority,” entry, a short rundown of concepts.
- “Political Obligation,” from the on-line Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, so it’s heavier-lifting.
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)