The role of the state
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The Role of the State. Why should I care?. Most debates involve the state taking some new action In many of these debates, people may claim any of the following: The state is morally obliged to take this action This action is morally illegitimate

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Why should i care
Why should I care?

  • Most debates involve the state taking some new action

  • In many of these debates, people may claim any of the following:

    • The state is morally obliged to take this action

    • This action is morally illegitimate

    • Someone should take this action, but not the state

    • Or even all three of them

  • These claims obviously clash

  • You can win or lose debates by winning this argument – even if a policy has some benefits, you can win by showing that it is an unjust action


Moral duties
Moral Duties

  • These are things that we morally have to do

    • Most people would agree you have a moral duty to not go around murdering children

    • Donating all your money to charity would be a good thing to do but it is not necessarily something you have to do

    • Moral duties might come from philosophical arguments like

      • Utilitarianism

      • The ‘Veil of Ignorance’ argument

      • Intrinsic human rights

      • Etc.


The state s moral duties
The State’s moral duties

  • Does the state have different moral duties that individuals do not have?

    • Perhaps

      • It is more powerful than individuals (with great power, comes great responsibility)

      • We give up some rights to the state, in exchange it takes care of certain moral duties & looks after us

      • It is a way of avoiding the ‘collective action problem

    • Perhaps not –

      • The state is just a group of individuals, so how can it have duties that they don’t?

    • Do states have moral duties outside of their own borders?


What kind of things are we talking about
What kind of things are we talking about?

  • Public vs. Private sector

    • Does the government have a special duty to provide free healthcare?

    • Does the government have the right to control access to certain services?

  • Crime & Punishment

    • Do individuals have the right to cause harm to themselves?

    • When does the government have the right to punish people?

  • Human Rights

    • Can the government restrict the rights of some people to make other people better off, or safer?


Who is best at doing it
Who is best at doing it?

  • What kind of stuff is the state good at doing?

    • Police?

    • Justice?

  • What kind of stuff is it bad at doing?

  • Does the state have a special duty to do something just because it can do it the most efficiently?

    • Nationalise banks? Or transport?

  • Should the state force people to use/pay for its services?

    • BBC? State schools?

    • Wars you don’t agree with?


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