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April 2011

How Is Government “Special”?

Philosophy professor Mark LeBar asks some provoking questions: how is government special? Why can government morally obligate people to do things, when ordinary people can’t? Why does the government claim to have not only power, but authority? Why do we consider some government authority more legitimate than others?

Two common arguments are that legitimate government authority is derived through democracy, or through the consent of the governed. But LeBar argues that both of these positions are problematic, and explains why.

In conclusion, LeBar notes that we have to ask these questions, because in asking ourselves how we think government is or isn’t morally special, we can gain insight into what the limits of government authority should be.

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