Two Failed Accounts of Citizen Responsibility for State Action: On Stilz and Pasternak

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Anna Stilz claims that citizens of democratic states bear “task responsibility” to repair unjust harms done by their states. I will argue that the only situation in which Stilz’s argument for such “task responsibility” is not redundant, given her own premises, is a situation where the state leaves it up to the citizens whether to indemnify others for the harms done by the state. I will also show that Stilz’s “authorization view” rests on an unwarranted and implausible assumption (which I call “the authorization principle”) about authorization and political obligation, and that this problem cannot be remedied by limiting the account to democratic states. I will then briefly turn to Pasternak’s account of citizen responsibility for state action and argue that it suffers from two deficiencies: first, she equates group membership with collective action, and second, she does not provide any explanation as to why citizens should incur liability for the acts of their state under the four conditions she highlights. I conclude that neither Stilz nor Pasternak succeed in showing that at least citizens of democratic states are liable (barring very special circumstances) for the acts of their states.
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Archival date: 2015-11-21
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