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Abstract

In the first section the problem of political obligation is motivated, and in Section 2 the core structure of the problem is laid bare. A recognition of this structure prompts reflection that the problem will appear very different to different thinkers, depending on their moral theories. It also invites the speculation that the problem will be incapable of solution on some moral theories while trivial on others. This polarity does reflect the state of much of the literature until fairly recently. However this picture is seen to be too crude, and in the third section it is shown how an interesting solution has been proposed by advocates of the ‘theory of fairness’. In Section 4 this theory is evaluated, concentrating particularly on George Klosko's version, which is, in part, rejected. However it is argued that no version of the theory is able to guarantee universal political obligations. In Section 5 it is argued that this is an unnoticed advantage of the theory, for it may well be that, morally at least, we should allow those who do not benefit from the existence of the state to escape political obligations. The consequences of this view are examined and found not to be as threatening as they might first have appeared.