Is Government’s Coercion Justified?
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This essay examines the question whether many coercive activities of the government, such as taxation and drafting people into the military, can be justified. In the first section, I define justification for an action in two senses: 1) if the action has acceptable moral and rational reasons or 2) if the actor has the moral right or legitimacy to act. I argue that the coercive actions of the government are justified in the first sense but not the second sense as defined above. In part two, I explain why government’s coercion has rational and moral reasons, such as solving collective action problems and externalities, upholding justice, and maintaining peace. In the final section, I illustrate why government does not have the moral right or legitimacy to coerce. My analysis focuses mainly on the Lockean and the Kantian accounts of political legitimacy.
Political Legitimacy; Justification Of The State; Political Philosophy