State and Morality: The Necessity of Injustice

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Governing ourselves is an important issue that has been discussed since the beginning of History. With Aristotle came the idea that we are “political animals” and that we are therefore forced to form a society. That is how we came to form states that need to be governed according to laws. The aim of these laws is problematic: for classical philosophers, the aim of the laws is and must be the Common Good: happiness for everyone in the state, which is regarded as a perfect community. This conception puts the benefit of all above the benefit of each and gives to the state the responsibility to be rational and moral.
Nevertheless, often, states are seen as aggressive immoral entities, for example when they collect taxes, repress certain behaviors, etc.
So states behave non morally vis-à-vis particular interests to achieve their higher goal, the common good: paying taxes hurt people on the short term but is supposed to benefit the society on the longer one for example. I will here argue that states have to be unjust.
In Aquinas’ conception of a state, people within would raise oppositions, because particular interests necessarily clash with the common good. Based on this idea that individual freedom is the highest aim, Nozick develops his theory of libertarianism. But we morally need sort of a fair state, position that Rawls adopts. However, here also one has to give up individual interests, and thus liberties. Therefore, we might have to accept the loosening of some of our freedom, as argued by Hobbes, to live together and the state has to commit “necessary injustices”.

In his treaty On Law, Thomas Aquinas defends the position that “the law is always something directed to the common good”. Laws are thus directed toward a comm...

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...o live with the “necessary injustice” of the state.

Works Cited

- Aquinas, Thomas. ‘First Part of the Second Part: On Law’, Summa Theologica.
- Hobbes, Thomas. 1651. Leviathan, ed. by Edwin Curley (Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Co., 1994)
- Libertarian Party 1971. The Party of Principle. Minimum Government, Maximum Freedom.’s website.
- Rawls, John. 1971. A Theory of Justice (Harvard University Press, 1999).
- Arrington, Robert L., Western Ethics. An Historical Introduction (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998).
- Feser, Edward, ‘Robert Nozick (1938-2002)’, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
- Lloyd, Sharon A. and Sreedhar, Susanne, "Hobbes's Moral and Political Philosophy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. by Edward N. Zalta (2014).
- Wenar, Leif, ‘John Rawls’, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. by Edward N. Zalta (2013).
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