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Michael Huemer’s The Problem Of Political Authority

1380 words - 6 pages

In Huemer’s The Problem Of Political Authority an argument is made against the idea of political authority. Political authority is defined as the feature that the government has that makes it morally permissible for them to do things that ordinary citizens cannot. The idea in this argument is that the government should not have rights that citizens do not have. The purpose of this paper is to show that Huemer’s argument fails by arguing a consent-based response to Huemer’s criticisms, which shows that the government has politically authority because we have consented to it. The idea behind this is that we have actually consented to the government’s authority in several ways without being explicit, therefore showing that there is a difference between a government’s actions and a citizen’s actions even when they are identical.

1. Huemer’s Argument
Here is Huemer’s Argument: it is immoral for somebody to go around kidnapping people and to extort his neighbors. There is no morally significant difference between somebody doing this and how the government acts by going around imprisoning criminals and taxing the citizens. Therefore the government should not have the authority to act in the way they do. When the government kidnaps someone it is called imprisonment and okay to do. When the government extorts someone it is called taxation and okay do. How can the government have identical actions to something illegal and it is totally legal for the government to do it? Even if this person forces his neighbors at gunpoint this is not different from the government and the way they go about using coercion to obtain what they want. Logically there is something wrong with this person forcing his neighbors so should there not be something wrong with the government doing the same thing?
Huemer’s argument is shown through the following parable. Veronica is kidnapping criminals and locking them in her basement. She then forces her neighbors at gunpoint to pay her money for keeping her town safe, and if they disagree she labels them a criminal. Even if her actions are identical to those of a government, jury and all, does this make her right in doing what she does? Anyone could agree that Veronica should not be allowed to do this and that it should be illegal. The government’s actions are identical to Veronica’s actions so logically it should be illegal for the government to do those actions. So where does the government obtain this authority?

2. Argument Against Huemer’s Criticisms
I am arguing that we have tacitly consented to the government and that allows them to have political authority. Even though most of us have not explicitly agreed to these rights allotted to the government (unlike immigrants) we have come into an unspoken agreement that allows the government certain authorities. Here is the argument from tacit consent: The government can do certain things that would be illegal if citizens did the same actions. We have tacitly consented that the...

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