Two Custodians: On the Purpose of the State

Traditionally, there are two great debates at the core of political philosophy. The first is what justifies political authority, and the second is what should be the form of the institution that assumes that authority. The first debate includes questions of fundamental justice. Issues like what the state owes to its subjects, and what the subjects owe to each other, are central to the debate. The second debate depends somewhat on the answer to the first, in that it seeks to answer how the duties, obligations, rights, and responsibilities of the first debate are to be enacted and enforced.

Two Kinds of Legitimacy

It seems to me, there are two kinds of state authority. The first, is what I have already talked about yesterday. Philosophical legitimacy - a rational grounding for the moral claim to the privileged use of force. But there is a second kind of state authority, that emerges only in the actual exercise (or restraint of exercise) of power. Psychological legitimacy - the confidence that subjects and citizens have in the state’s exercise of its privilege.

Musings on the Problem of the State

Socrates, in The Republic, argues that a society must be ordered, and that the just and ordered polity requires a just and well ordered soul. But, not all souls will achieve the rational ideal, says the anarchist. He has a point. However, this leaves both the advocate of a state and the political anarchist with a problem. An anarchy of disordered souls is pure chaos. A state of disordered souls is a tyranny.