Version of Record online: 28 MAY 2004
Volume 52, Issue 2, pages 216–232, June 2004
How to Cite
McDermott, D. (2004), Fair-Play Obligations. Political Studies, 52: 216–232. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9248.2004.00476.x
- Issue online: 28 MAY 2004
- Version of Record online: 28 MAY 2004
- (Accepted: 5 November 2002)
The fair-play theory of political obligation holds that citizens incur obligations to obey the law as a result of gaining important benefits from their political communities. In this essay, I argue that the fair-play theory fails in large part because it relies on a flawed understanding of the way in which free-riding is morally wrong. Starting with the assumption that those who benefit from the efforts of others have a moral reason to reciprocate, at least under some circumstances, I show that the fair-play theorists’ claim that this reason is grounded in a right to reciprocation, which the providers gain, does not succeed. Therefore this theory cannot provide an adequate explanation of how citizens incur political obligations.