The Duty to Obey the Law

Evan Fox-Decent

in Sovereignty's Promise

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199698318
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191732171 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Constitutional Theory

The Duty to Obey the Law

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In Chapter V I test the fiduciary theory of legal authority by asking whether it can support a defeasible duty to obey the law. The currently popular view is that there is no such duty, even if the law (or legal regime) in question is reasonably just. I argue in favour of a defeasible duty to obey on grounds that the state is a public agent of necessity whose mandate is to establish legal order on behalf of everyone subject to its powers. As an agent, the state is entitled to bind its principals by announcing law, always subject to fiduciary constraints. The state is an agent of necessity because its legal authority arises directly from law, from the fiduciary principle, rather than from the consent of the people. The state is a public agent of necessity because it possesses and exercises public powers that private parties are not entitled to exercise.

Keywords: agency; duty to obey; authority; parental obligation; agency of necessity; Simmons; Raz; consent

Chapter.  17820 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law

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