- Paperback: 365 pages
- Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; 1st edition (October 29, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1137281650
- ISBN-13: 978-1137281654
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 62 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #115,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey 1st Edition
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'Huemer has produced not just a brilliant work of political philosophy, but a gripping page-turner. With an engaging style and sharp wit, Huemer demolishes two entrenched dogmas: that we have a duty to obey the law, and the state has the right to force us to obey. Huemer's conclusions may be controversial, but he makes them seem like commonsense.' - Jason Brennan, Georgetown University, USA 'Michael Huemer is my favorite philosopher. The Problem of Political Authority is his best book yet. Using moral premises you probably already accept, and clear but subtle arguments, Huemer leads you step-by-step to a radical yet compelling conclusion: government as we know it is an unnecessary evil. If you're tired of political books that merely preach to the choir, prepare to be amazed.' - Bryan Caplan, George Mason University, USA
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I'd like to see Dr. Huemer create a webpage which lists all the questions he gets after this book and his responses.
There was nothing conceptually new in the argument - every anarchocapitalist / voluntaryist outreach session or discussion hits the question of "by what right? If the guy next door to you declared that he was king and started killing enemies and taxing you for it, would that be legitimate?". The first section of the book merely works this discussion out rigorously - it proposes various mechanisms by which this action might be moral, and dispenses with them one by one. I say "merely", but to do this rigorously is a great deal of work, and the result is a great work.
The second section of the book was (a) pragmatic, and (b) mostly an elaboration of topics already covered by David Friedman. However, if one has not yet read The Machinery of Freedom, the second part of the book is an excellent primer - an existence proof that a system at least as efficient and moral as our current statist one can be built on the non-aggression principle and will not immediately devolve into a State system.
Despite my feeling that the second section was less necessary than the first, I still recommend this book without reservation. It deserves to be on your bookshelf next to Anarchy, State, and Utopia; The Machinery of Freedom; Seeing like a State and other individualist anarchist classics.
In chapters 2-5, he attacks existing philosophical justifications of political authority, social contract, hypothetical social contract, democracy, consequentialism, etc. This discussion engaged me and fascinated me. I found it quite persuasive. In chapter 7 Huemer ties it together. 8-12 apparently describe how the world might work if Huemer's ideas about political authority took hold. (This topic has been covered in numerous other books, such as Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman, and I haven't read these chapters yet.) In chapter 13, Huemer sketches how the transition to such a world might happen.
I hope this book gets the attention it deserves. If so it should eclipse Nozick's Anarchy, State, and Utopia as the foremost work of libertarian political philosophy.
Huemer has a video on YouTube where he summarizes the major ideas from the book. He also did a fascinating TED talk about political irrationality.