Crispin Sartwell Email on Government Power

By Xah Lee. Date:

Today, out of the blue, i got a email from Crispin Sartwell, a American philosophy professor and journalist.

I almost forgot, but i remember having read his website's essays few years back, and have in fact wrote to him for permission to mirror one of his essay on my website. The essay is: What's Wrong With Women.

Here's the content of his email in full:

do me a favor?: cut and paste this everywhere. it's a…marketing ploy. but it's sincere.

A Philosophical Challenge

My irritating yet astounding new book Against the State (SUNY Press) argues that

(1) The political state or government rests on violence (force and coercion).

(2) Violence is always wrong if it can't be morally justified. (That is, violence is wrong if it lacks a moral justification.)

(3) The arguments for the moral legitimacy of state - for example those of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, Hegel, Rawls, and Habermas - are unsound.

(4) Hence, state power has not been shown to be morally defensible.

Until you show me otherwise, I insist that government power is in every case illegitimate.

Not only are the existing arguments for the legitimacy of state power unsound; they are pitiful, embarrassments to the Western intellectual tradition.

So I issue a challenge: Give a decent argument for the moral legitimacy of state power, or reconstruct one of the traditional arguments in the face of the refutations in Against the State.

If you can't, you are rationally obliged to accept anarchism.

Henceforward, if you continue to support or observe the authority of government, you are an evil, irrational cultist.

You're an anarchist now, baby, until further notice.

e-mail responses to c.sartwell @

Yours in anarchy,

Crispin Sartwell

〈Against the State: An Introduction to Anarchist Political Theory〉 amazon