Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 1 (3):1-8 (2005)
s the very existence of government morally problematic? Is government morally problematic, that is, in a way that a “state of nature” is not? Many political philosophers have thought so. I will argue that they are wrong. If that seems too easy, I also will argue that the modern welfare state is no more problematic, morally, than a minimal, “nightwatchman” state. (If all of this seems too easy, I hope to convince you that it is not as easy as you might think.) One vivid way of conveying the idea that government is prima facie wrongful is by employing a metaphor. Just as the gunman, who takes our money upon threat of violence, acts wrongfully, so also the state acts wrongfully by exacting its citizens’ obedience by threatening punishment; the state is simply the gunman writ large.1 Compare the following cases
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