Waldron attempts to show that the natural duty of justice can withstand Simmon’s objections.
Waldron’s argument relies on three steps.
Step 1: assume that there are range limited principles of justice. For example, “one person, one vote” is a principle of justice that is limited to a range of people, namely, the citizens who can vote.1
Step 2: argue that states are needed to administer range limited principles of justice. I think there are at least three examples of “administration” in this article.
Interpretation of the principle and arbitration of disputes about its meaning (see Waldron 1993, 16). This is similar to Locke: even if there are natural laws that are unambiguous in themselves, people will have different interpretations of them that can only be resolved by having the state as a neutral arbitrator.
Concrete specification of abstract principles (see Waldron 1993, 23–24). Even if you know that everyone has a right to vote, you still need to decide what the rules for voting are.
Enforcement when the rules are broken. Waldron doesn’t mention this in the theoretical parts of his article, but it is what the Rainbow Warrior case is all about (see Waldron 1993, 9–11).
Step three: argue that the institutions that administer range limited principles of justice will make different demands of insiders and outsiders. Insiders, that is, people in the range of the range limited principles, have to accept the state’s interpretations, concrete applications, and enforcement of the limited principles. They have to accept that the state determines their rights and duties under those principles. Outsiders, by contrast, only have to refrain from undermining the state’s administration of the range limited principles.
The natural duty of justice tells individuals to comply with the states whose legal rules apply to them. Now we know what “apply” means. Legal rules apply to you when you are an insider, that is, within the range of the range limited principles of justice that those legal rules administer.
If you are an outsider, you still have duties, but they are different. The natural duty of justice requires outsiders not to interfere with a state’s administration of its range limited principles. Outsiders do not have to accept what the state says, since it has no bearing on their own rights and duties. They just have to abstain from undermining the state.
If all that makes sense, then Waldron thinks he has shown how the particularity requirement could be met.
OK, but is the particularity requirement actually met? The first two steps assumed that there is such a thing as range limited principles of justice and that states are necessary to administer those principles. Is that actually true in the real world? What distinguishes a state from Simmons’s Institution for the Advancement of Philosophy?
Waldron proposes two tests. First, a would-be state has to be effective in administering justice. It has to be capable of administering the rules that govern things like ownership of property, personal security, and political power. Second, the would-be state has to be legitimate, meaning it is accepted by some kind of majority of people within its territory.
Note that this brings consent back into the picture. Only in this case majority consent can bind even dissenters. If the majority agrees to be governed by a particular state, then the natural duty of justice will require everyone under that state to comply with its rules, whether they consented themselves or not. If consent were being used to establish political obligations directly, it could not work like this.
So if you are an insider with respect to some range limited principles of justice, the natural duty of justice requires you to obey the state that administers those principles provided that the state is just, effective, and legitimate.
Nico and Taylor asked about secession and conflicts between levels of legitimate governments. If California wanted to secede from the US, for instance, could it do so?
I think the natural duty account pulls in two directions. On the one hand, it says you are required to comply with the orders of the existing state. That cuts against secession, assuming those in charge of the existing state do not want it to break up. On the other hand, it says that the state has authority only if it is legitimate, meaning that most of those living under it accept it. That cuts in favor of secession, at least if a large enough block of people withdraw their support.
In short, I do not know what to say about that question.
In addition, it is not clear to me that Simmons’s particularity requirement has been met. If I were Simmons, I would say that this all looks circular. It depends on range limited principles, like “one person, one vote” applied only to citizens. But states are the ones that made those range limited principles in the first place. Having made the principles, states have a role for themselves: administering the principles that they made. To Simmons, that just sounds like the Institution for the Advancement of Philosophy: an institution makes a rule, announces it will administer the rule, and then tells everyone that they must comply with the rule. But why is compliance required?
Waldron, Jeremy. 1993. “Special Ties and Natural Duties.” Philosophy & Public Affairs 22: 3–30. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2265321.
Waldron talks about principles governing the distribution of resources but I find this example more straightforward. He also gives an argument for this step. I crossed it out in the article because I thought it was too sketchy. So, for practical purposes, I think it’s fair to call this an assumption.↩