Autumn 1986 Number 77 (Vol 19 No.3)


By Bob Lane

It might be useful to consider the questions of political theory, and the language used in the answers offered over the centuries. “How can we explain why it is that the great majority of people seem to voluntarily accept their inequality?” is the central or crucial question in the field of political theory. This question, as Hume noted, comes from the observation that, in fact, it is so easy for the few to rule over the many.

Why is this the case?

Sometimes the answer is offered that we have an obligation to obey the State. What is the nature of this obligation? Where does it come from? Can we reduce all political obligation to the application of a formula?

As Thomas McPherson puts it in his book Political Obligation: “The philosopher’s interest in political obligation has been mainly in the problem of the grounds of political obligation — that is, in the questions: “Why ought we to obey the government?”(p. 4) And, if we cannot find a ground in political obligation then we have anarchy.

First, notice the difference between:

(1) Why ought we obey the government? and

(2) Why do we obey the government?

. . .

Read more? Oh, yes, please!!

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