[This review of The Problem Of Political Authority by Perry Metzger was originally posted at Samizdata.]
The book is a gem, destined to become a classic, and any serious student of the field should have it on their shelf. They should even, dare I say, read it.
The topic that Huemer’s astonishing tour de force concerns itself with is the moral and ethical underpinnings of state power, an area known in political philosophy as the “problem of political authority”.
In considering the justification for the state, a nagging question naturally arises. Most people would claim it is morally impermissible for your neighbor to force you to give money to a charity of his choice at gunpoint. However, in stark contrast, most people would claim it is permissible for the state to do essentially the same thing, that is, to extort taxes from you using the threat of force in order to spend those funds on projects other than your own.
Most people appear to claim there is an important difference between these cases — otherwise, they would not believe in the legitimacy of the state.