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Consequentialist justifications of the state

From Academic Kids

Consequentialist justifications of the state are philosophical arguments that contend that the state is justified by the good results it produces.

The justification of the state is a term that refers to the source of legitimate authority for the state or government. Typically, a justification of the state explains why the state should exist, and what a legitimate state should or should not be able to do. Consequentialist justifications of the state focus on the results that are achieved when certain institutions are put in place. They are based on consequentialist theories such as utilitarianism. Consequentialism is sometimes confused with utilitarianism, but utilitarianism is only one member of a broad family of consquentialist theories.

Consequentialist theories usually maintain that the rightness or wrongness of an action depends on whether or not the results of the action are desirable. They are frequently contrasted to deontological theories of morality, which typically hold that certain actions are either forbidden or wrong per se.

Justifications of state

In law and political theory, a state or sovereign is an institution that legitimates a particular government. Sometimes arguments about legitimacy have a mystical side to them, as when kings claim divine right or when republics are explained on the basis of a hypothetical social contract between citizens.

Different political philosophies have distinct opinions concerning the state as a domestic organization monopolizing force.

As an example, consequentialists might observe that the voters, as the state, create a government that then builds bridges. Consequentialists would ask whether those bridges would have been built in the absence of the state and whether those bridges are valued by those who use them. Consequentalists reason that if the bridges would not have otherwise been built and they are valuable to those who use them, then no further justification of the state is required.

A philosopher who doubts or denies the legitimacy of the state might respond by questioning the ethical premise. She might say that the workers who built that bridge were exploited by the government that ordered it built, and by the investors in the private contractors who profited. She might have a deontological theory of exploitation.

Alternatively, a skeptic might concede that the bridge is a good consequence but contend that even on consequentialist grounds the argument fails. He might argue that an even better bridge might have been built under anarchist conditions. This counter-argument raises the issue of opportunity cost and the whole argument becomes an exercise in economic reasoning.

See also

External links

  • Reason of State (http://www.filosofia.unina.it/ragiondistato/intro-e.html) An article on the historical thought regarding the justification of the state.
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