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What's Special about the State?




Many of us think that we have duties of distributive justice towards our fellow citizens that we do not have towards foreigners. Is that thought justified? This article considers the nature of the state's relationship to distributive justice from the perspective of utilitarianism, a theory that is barely represented in contemporary philosophical debates on this question. My strategy is to mount a utilitarian case for state-specific duties of distributive justice that is similar in its basic structure to the one that is standardly mounted for special duties towards the near and dear. I begin with a discussion of whether or not the co-citizen relationship can be justified in terms of its welfare consequences. I then consider what the answer to that first question implies concerning the duties of distributive justice that arise within that relationship.

Suggested Citation

  • De Bres, Helena, 2011. "What's Special about the State?," Utilitas, Cambridge University Press, vol. 23(02), pages 140-160, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:utilit:v:23:y:2011:i:02:p:140-160_00

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