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Political Legitimacy

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Political legitimacy fundamentally concerns why a government has the right to coercively impose and enforce laws. Usually, this complex right enjoyed by the government is related to why individuals have an obligation to abide by the laws of a particular government. The fact that a law is just or effective may give us some reason to abide by it, but neither of these reasons – in itself – justifies a government in coercively enforcing its citizens to follow it. Consider the United States’ and Iraqi constitutions. Both secure certain basic rights, but the Iraqi constitution affords a right to unionize that the United States’s does not. Even if each country’s set of rights is just, both constitutions cannot simultaneously apply to a particular individual. Determining that the constitutions are just does not address to whom each constitution applies. Political legitimacy addresses the question of why the laws of the United States apply to Americans and not to Iraqis. Or, in the context of...

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© 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.

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Paletta, D. (2011). Political Legitimacy. In: Chatterjee, D.K. (eds) Encyclopedia of Global Justice. Springer, Dordrecht.

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