The Subsidiarity of Law and the Obligation to Obey
(2005) 50 American Journal of Jurisprudence 233-248
13 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2019
Date Written: October 1, 2005
Law is a morally valuable institution, because every community with a legal system has valuable institutional facilities to coordinate the life of the community in a way that is general and systematic. In every legal system, the value of those facilities yields a moral obligation to obey some laws. But the law’s role in guiding conduct is subsidiary to the responsibility to act with a principled attention to the good of persons, and human law by nature is arbitrary in its application in some cases. The combination of its arbitrariness and its subsidiary role mean that there is no general obligation to obey the law.
Keywords: obligation to obey, subsidiarity, political obligation
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