the question of political authority is not “Should we have government?” The question is: Should the government be subject to the same moral constraints as apply to private agents? The failure of theories of political authority means that we must apply to the state the same moral standards that we apply to private agents. If a private agent would not be justified in using coercion to achieve a particular goal, then the state is also not justified in using coercion to achieve that goal.
The state is an institution, not an individual. Individuals play roles within this institution, such as legislator, policeman, or citizen. These roles are defined partly by law and partly by custom. When one talks about applying moral standards to the state, what I think this means is that we are applying moral standards to its laws and customs. For that purpose, using the metaphor of the individual to characterize these laws and customs may be helpful but it is not obligatory.
Consider another institution–a business. Should we say that a business is like a family, and the owner should be subject to the same moral standards as apply to a parent? Some people might find that analogy attractive, but I do not.
I think that the term I am looking for here is “category error.” Saying that a business or “the state” belongs in the same category as an individual strikes me as such an error. Instead, I think that “the state” belongs in a category that is closer to “relationship” or “institutional arrangement.” Within that institutional arrangement, we give authority to firemen to break traffic laws in the line of duty. When they are off duty, they are subject to the same laws as the rest of us. There are many relationships and institutional arrangements in which we authorize people to do things to us that differ from what we would permit a random stranger to do.
The problem I have with government is with the scope and scale of monopoly control. I think that the laws and customs in the United States today give too much authority to government officials. I wish that everyone had much more freedom to choose laws and customs without being forced to accept the territorial monopolies that we call government. However, I would not lean on Huemer’s arguments to make that case. Instead, I focus on the knowledge-power discrepancy.