LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT? INDIVIDUAL CONSCIENCE AND POLITICAL AUTHORITY
We live in an age of political turmoil. Internationally, the superpowers rely mainly on a balance of nuclear terror to keep what peace there is. The poor and the disadvantaged cry out for a more equal distribution of the world's wealth at both the national and international level. Domestically, controversy rages over the size of government and the effect of big government on individual freedom. There is little consensus on how major social problems are to be resolved. Can the mixed economy of the welfare state best handle problems of poverty and unemployment? Or should we turn to socialism, on the one hand, or the unregulated free market on the other? How are we to deal with crime in the streets and in the executive suites?
It is evident that the way major social and political problems are dealt with will profoundly affect us all. The wise use of political power can benefit millions while the unwise or immoral use of political power can cost the lives of millions more. Hence, it is important not just to describe how the political order does work. It also is desirable to determine how it should work. One of the principal tasks of social and political philosophy is to formulate, clarify, and assess criteria for evaluating political institutions. Accordingly, political philosophy is a critical activity in at least the sense that it subjects political and social institutions to intensive scrutiny.