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An ethical responsibility to uphold one's nation's rules and legislation is known as the political obligation, sometimes known as the ethical obligation to respect the law. In order to follow the law for the "content-independent" rationale that it is the law, as distinguished to the substance of specific regulations, has historically been seen as a form of necessity. Scholars separate political obligation from legal duty by referring to this as an ethical necessity. Every legal system asserts to constrain those who are committed to them, and component of what people understand by a legitimate rule is that it must be obeyed by the pertinent populace. The majority of the time, compulsion is used to enforce this obligation, and those who disobey face consequences. However, these characteristics of legal responsibility raise more fundamental concerns regarding the state's legitimacy for enforcing such demands. Residents may be compelled to respect the law if they lack ethical obligations to do so, but by doing so, the state is violating their liberty and acting unfairly.

This paper mainly focuses on the discussion of why the fair-play principle does not create a general duty to respect the law by rebuilding and clarifying John Simmons' justification regarding this. While discussing the same, it also sheds light on strongest counterargument against Simmons' contention.


Political obligation is regarded as the ethical commitment to uphold the systems of one's political society and to respect its laws. In reality, a number of academics believe that political obligations encompass a wider range of accountabilities than only legal ones. The two might separate. In a severely corrupt regime, for instance, someone could be required by law to pay taxes but not required by moral duty. On the subject of the nature of political duty and, particularly, the fair play claim, there is a fabulously vibrant tradition in ethical and political philosophy. The main question at hand is whether or not the legislation to which people are subject actually make up an equitably just, mutually advantageous community. As a result, individuals are obligated to shoulder their fair portion of the costs associated with maintaining such a society. Therefore, a universal duty to observe the legislation is based on the idea of fair play, which is doing ones share to maintain a society from which people get benefit while others do theirs.

Two fundamental viewpoints can be interpreted as being advanced by the standard consent theory account of political obligation. As per the first viewpoint every or even most residents have political obligations, a minimum within fairly just political societies (that is, ethical responsibilities or accountabilities to respect the law and support their political institutions). Whereas according to the second viewpoint personal permission serves as the foundation for all political commitments (express or implicit). Maximum political theorists of nowadays are still inclined to acknowledge the first viewpoint. However, viewpoint two has been overwhelmingly rejected since it implies that all of the individuals, or at least the majority of them have engaged on political duties by purposeful, voluntary activities. And it appears that this is not even roughly correct. If that is not the case, the first argument calls for a different kind of exclusive rights and responsibilities defence than what consent theory has to provide. One common approach for reasoning viewpoint one is to use what has been referred to as "the notion of fair play" (or "the principle of fairness"). This theory's proponents contend that accepting advantages under some cooperative arrangements is enough to create unique rights and duties, dispelling the notion that only commitments and conscious assent may give rise to such duties and rights.

H. L. A. Hart offered the first succinct explanation of the notion of fair play. According to H. L. A. Hart, the difference between having a duty to do something and being obligated to do something may be used to illustrate the specific impetus of political obligations. For instance, Smith will probably have to hand over $50 in exchange for her life if a shooter threatens her to shoot. Hart claims that obligation gives this a more inward dimension. The fact that Smith is required to hand over $50 in exchange for her life adds to these considerations the ethical validity of what she is forced to do, even while her responsibility to perform the same is assessed in terms of her evaluation of the repercussions of obeying or disobeying. Smith would once more be compelled to cooperate if she is a resident of a valid state that demands she pay $50 in taxes since the repercussions of not doing so might be intolerable to her. However, in this instance, it is appropriate for her to pay the cash. She will think it is the proper thing to do if she acknowledges the responsibility, but it should be noted that this is only a basic ethical need that can be superseded by other ethical factors.

According to Simmons, the majority of people in most contemporary states have no political obligation. He comes at this position by thoroughly examining different important arguments for political duty, the viability of which depends on them meeting the requirements Simmons lists as essential for the legitimacy of political obligation. As per Simmons, none of these explanations are plausible within the limits of the current political system, and as a result, people have no political responsibilities. It has been stated by Simmons that the basic conclusion to which people are compelled by this investigation is that political theory cannot provide a credible comprehensive account of individual political ties. Simmons is referring to his in-depth examination of what, in his opinion, were the strongest justifications for political obligation, arguments based on consent, the idea of fairness, the natural responsibility of justice, and appreciation. Simmons perceives personal assent as a basis for political responsibility, but after analysing how it applies in the context of already-existing political institutions, he comes to the conclusion that most individuals' political responsibilities in contemporary nations are not grounded in personal assent.

Arguments that use the fairness principle and the inherent obligation to uphold justice are woefully ineffective. Since people do not view their governments as cooperative systems and as it is impossible to claim that people accept advantages resulting from cooperative arrangements for open advantages or public goods, the fairness principle is invalidated. Simmons evaluates Rawls' argument that people have a natural obligation to support and abide by just political institutions that is applicable to people as failing since the phrase "applicable to us" was added arbitrarily and without authority. However, without this provision, a person's inherent responsibility of justice does not bind them to a certain government, violating one of Simmons' essential requirements. Ultimately, the reasoning from appreciation is disproved primarily because to the argument's failure to meet two requirements Simmons specifies for producing duties of appreciation and the ambiguity of the obligation's meaning in relation to politics. As a result of his thorough research, Simmons is able to draw the startling conclusion that most people in most contemporary states have no political responsibilities.

However, Simmons’ argument can be defended on several grounds. The moral obligation for agents to treat others with whom they interact equitably in order to ensure everyone's security stems from their obligation to observe the legislation. The obligation to treat people equitably is an issue of reverence for their standing as ethical agents, as Simmons admits elsewhere. As a result, it cannot be justifiable on the basis of instrumental considerations, such as the fact that it is a way to the end of a situation in which everyone who has a right to it is secure. As a result, others end up owing conformity to the legislation since they have an equitable claim to the prerogative facilitated by the reality that the legislation can endure a certain amount of defiance, not as they are highly susceptible to the numerous harmful effects or inequities that are likely to take place in a Hobbesian state of nature. Agents recognise their countrymen' equal claim and, hence, their equality as ethical agents through abiding by the law.


Thus, from the above discussion, it can be concluded that political philosophy's central concern is political responsibility. The phrase encompasses problems that continue to remain important to people. Individuals have undoubtedly wrestled with the basic subject of political responsibility: why follow, promote, or conform with one's political institutions, its authorities, and legislation, since before life in political societies became a part of human life. According to A. John Simmons, individuals frequently mean something far broader than willingly recognising an ethical obligation to observe the legislation when they speak about "giving consent" to their government. Instead, they use a "attributional" understanding of assent. People typically means that they approve their government when they say that they assent to it. It is possible, as suggested below, that people might assent if given the chance, but it does not imply that they have legally committed themselves to obeying its rules by giving their permission.


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