03/02/2010 17:12

“Common Sympathies”: the Civic Duty Argument

Hsin-wen Lee
University of Southern California

“Common Sympathies”: the Civic Duty Argument

Miller believes that, in a multi-national society, a government will have difficulty enforcing the demands of civic duties--- due to the lack of trust and reciprocity, the rich national communities may view the transfer of resources to the poorer ones as mere burden or sacrifice. On the other hand, because co-nationals share common sympathies, they are more likely to be willing to share the burden of a democratic society. That is, they would be more likely to cooperate with the demands of the government and fulfill their civic duties. This makes a nation group a good candidate group to set up a democratic government. In this essay, I discuss the merits and problems facing this argument. I argue that, (1) it is not clear to what extent co-nationals share such common sympathies. (2) Even if co-nationals do share common sympathies, it is not clear if such sympathies would enhance their willingness to conform to the demands of civic duties. (3) Members of other types of groups share a strong sense of common sympathy, but they clearly do not have a right to establish a state. Therefore, the civic argument fails to justify the claim that a national community is a good candidate group for establishing a democratic society.