On Renzo’s Attempt to Ground State Legitimacy in a Right to Self-Defense

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Massimo Renzo has recently offered a theory of legitimacy that attempts to ground the state’s right to rule on the assumption that people in the state of nature pose an unjust threat to each other and can therefore, in self-defense, be forced to enter the state, that is, to become subject to its authority. I argue that depending on how “unjust threat” is interpreted in Renzo’s self-defense argument for the authority of the state, either his premise that “those who pose an unjust threat to others can be justifiably coerced in self-defense, at least when they are morally responsible for posing the threat,” or his premise that “would-be independents pose an unjust threat to those living next to them in the state of nature,” or both of them are wrong. I further argue that his premise that would-be independents pose an unjust threat by refusing to enter the state is also mistaken. Refusing to enter the state, that is, refusing to be subject to the authority of the state, is no threat at all, and hence coercing people into entering the state is no means of self-defense and incapable of enhancing security. Renzo’s deduction of state authority from the right to self-defense fails.
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Archival date: 2015-11-21
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