Political obligations in a sea of tyranny and crushing poverty

Legal Theory 20 (3):186-209 (2014)
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Christopher Wellman is the strongest proponent of the natural-duty theory of political obligations and argues that his version of the theory can satisfy the key requirement of ; namely, justifying to members of a state the system of political obligations they share in. Critics argue that natural-duty theories like Wellman's actually require well-ordered states and/or their members to dedicate resources to providing the goods associated with political order to needy outsiders. The implication is that natural-duty approaches weaken the particularity requirement and cannot justify to citizens the systems of political obligation they share in. I argue that the critics’ diagnosis of natural-duty approaches is correct, whereas the proposed implication is false. I maintain that 1) only natural-duty approaches can justify political obligations, and that 2) weakening the particularity requirement contributes to the theory's ability to justify a range-limited system of political obligations among compatriots.

Author's Profile

Aaron Maltais
Stockholm Environment Institute


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