Aristotle's Politics today by Goodman, Lenn Evan; Talisse, Robert B.; Aristotle

By Goodman, Lenn Evan; Talisse, Robert B.; Aristotle

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Example text

But in the twenty-first century national defense can be provided only by government, and it is extremely expensive in a world plagued by belligerent states with large standing armies and weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, the recent rise in terrorism highlights the problem of controlling movements of personnel across national borders. The problem arises because defense is a public good: that is, everyone would benefit from it, but it cannot be withheld from just anyone selectively. So individuals who do not coordinate their actions have little incentive to contribute to it.

To put this point another way, the good that Aristotle sees as the end of the state is not something separate from the state, no more than the good of human life, happiness, is separate from human life; the good of the state is the state’s functioning well, but that is no different from the individuals ARISTOTLE AND THE LIBERAL STATE 35 in the state performing their tasks for the sake of maintaining the state in its fully functioning condition; and that, in turn, is no different from the citizens in the state choosing to act with the freedom or autonomy requisite to preserve the state.

On the level of the ideal, the task is to describe the best state, understood as the state which provides the fullest protection of individual liberty. In such a state all citizens would have the right to do whatever they chose with what they own—their own persons, their labor, and the private property they have legitimately acquired—unless their actions infringe on the rights of other individuals. Others’ rights are violated most importantly by initiating the use of physical force or coercion against them, but also by taking what belongs to others by threat, fraud, or theft.

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