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2: Nature and Purpose of the State - Obligations to and From the State

  • Page ID
    29678
  • Living in a civilized society means that we must interact with many other individuals and organizations. All of these relationships vary in their nature, and what we must do for and expect from others will vary greatly. We expect that parents will be responsible for their children, and if they fail them, we expect that society will help these children that can’t help themselves. All of these expectations and responsibilities are there because we expect that certain people or groups have obligations towards others. A political obligation specifically is the sort of obligation citizens have to obey the state, but this is not a one-way street: in exchange for the obligations the state expects from its citizens, the citizens enjoy a set of obligations from the state as well. Citizens are obligated to follow the laws and accept the consequences if they violate them, and the state is obligated to protect its citizens and enforce the laws as they ought to be enforced. Exactly which obligations, if any, exist has been be debated for mellenia, as well as the nature of these obligations. Is the state obligated to provide food for its citizens? Is a citizen obligated to serve in the army? Are citizens obligated to refrain from hate speech? To pay taxes? Is it a moral duty to maintain these obligations or is it merely a part of a practical contract that everyone enters into? All of these issues will be discussed in this Unit, through the viewpoints of many classical considerations on what the very purpose and nature of the state is, for if we can understand that, then the obligations become more lucid.

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