What Role for the State? (And a Comment on the Common Good)

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In his Natural Law and the Nature of Law, Jonathan Crowe has written an important and interesting book, one that should be read by people interested in jurisprudence, ethics, and political philosophy. Its distinctive strength is in the way Crowe shows how much can be done within a natural law framework that does not assume a theological background. A distinctive feature of Crowe's approach to natural law, one that distinguishes it from other well-known approaches, is its argument that only a minimal state, if any state at all, is required by or even compatible with natural law. It is this claim that I focus on in this paper. I show that these anti-state arguments do not work, and that a much more robust, largely state-like, type of political society is necessary if the requirements of natural law that Crowe accepts are to be met. In doing this, I also draw some related conclusions about the proper understanding and reach of the common good. In arguing for this conclusion I do not attack Crowe's general approach, but rather make what I hope to be an internal critique of the argument. If I am successful in this, then there will be reason for people who are sympathetic to the overall project to reject some of Crowe’s sub-conclusions, even if they wish to remain working in the natural law tradition overall. And, there will be reason to accept that something like the modern state will be necessary - at least for some time and for people like us - if we are to live good lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)124-132
Number of pages9
JournalAustralasian Journal of Legal Philosophy
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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