Responsive Government and Duties of Conscience

Jurisprudence 5 (2):244-264 (2014)
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This paper defends a new argument for enabling citizen participation in government: individuals must have genuine opportunities to try to change the law in order to be able to satisfy duties of conscience. Without such opportunities, citizens who regard systems of related laws as partially unjust face a moral dilemma. If they comply with these laws willingly without also trying to change them, they commit a pro tanto wrong by willingly participating in injustice . If they disobey, or if they obey only to avoid sanction, they respond inadequately to the morally important purposes that the laws advance despite their injustice. Government should help citizens avoid this dilemma. This argument bolsters the non-instrumentalist view that responsiveness in the political process is desirable even if it does not promote just legislative outcomes. It also helps to explain what governments owe to citizens with minority political views.

Author's Profile

Robert C. Hughes
Rutgers Business School–Newark and New Brunswick


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