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Is Government’s Coercion Justified?

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DOI: 10.38007/Proceedings.0001539


Zichong Yuan

Corresponding Author

Zichong Yuan


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