Why Do We Obey the Law?
An Evaluation of the Theory of Gratitude
by James Milton
Discussion on the theory of law will often consider the legitimacy of the concept of political obligation. This concerns the moral duty of citizens to obey the law of the state in which they dwell. In his publications, ADM Walker refers to the gratitude-based theory of obligation, which simply put, suggests that citizens obey the law out of a sense of gratitude that is generated from the benefits that the state provides them. This article will examine Walker’s theory, as well as touching on an earlier edition of the argument provided by Socrates, before ultimately concluding that the theory of gratitude cannot pose as a successful model for political obligation.This conclusion is drawn from Walker’s poor understanding of the concept of gratitude, and the instability of basing political obligation on an emotion. Instead, this article determines that the theory of fair play, which has been popularised by HLA Hart, is a model that is better suited to the concept of political obligation.