Legitimate Leadership?

February 21, 2020
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Arthur Applbaum explains in his recently published book, Legitimacy: The Right to Rule in a Wanton World, Americans tend to discuss legitimacy in procedural terms: if a government comes to power through certain correct steps, such as free elections, it must be legitimate.

What makes a government legitimate? Adams professor of political leadership and democratic values Arthur I. Applbaum believes that legitimacy entails “genuinely having the moral right to rule.” By this right, he explains, governments impose laws and their consequences on citizens and derive immunity from foreign intervention.

The key question is how this right comes about. Americans, Applbaum explains in his recently published book, Legitimacy: The Right to Rule in a Wanton World, tend to discuss legitimacy in procedural terms: if a government comes to power through certain correct steps, such as free elections, it must be legitimate. He ties this notion to what he calls Americans’ “folk theory” of government by consent, whereby legitimacy derives from the consent of the governed.

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