Political Legitimacy

Submitted By austncldwll
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Pages: 4

Political Legitimacy The concept of legitimacy, according to German sociologist Max Weber, is defined by whether or not making and enforcing laws are acceptable and appropriate to governed populations. No matter the type of government – whether it is a republic, democracy, tyranny, or any other dialectical form of government – actions have always been determined on a whether or not their legislations are legitimate by the governed people’s actions. This essay will analyze different cases of legitimacy as well as use comparisons in order to examine various instances when the federal government of the United States used, abused, and implemented agencies into daily life that has been either legitimatized or illegitimatized by U.S. citizens.
Weber determined that the idea of legitimacy rests upon a person’s particular belief, or lack thereof, in the system (McLean). Although political legitimacy can take many forms it is not equivalent to political justice. Political legitimacy denotes a broader consent on appropriate and inappropriate uses of political power as well as the viability of alternatives to each owns political object, whereas political justice makes reference to particular views of the good society and how political entities can serve said end (“Legitimacy”). The federal government of the United States seizes any opportunity at hand in order to ideally pass legislation. Examples of this would be the recent mass-shootings that have happened on different occasions, including at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut and the Naval Yard shooting in Washington, DC in order to press for stricter gun control laws. While the Constitution protects the right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment, tragic events often times induce citizens to willingly forfeit different rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. While unethical by standards set by the Constitution, such policy can be considered politically legitimate due to the vast approval of United States citizens. David Beetham distinctly described in his book The Legitimation of Power that political rightfulness consisted of three subtypes: “whether a political object accords with the rules and laws of a political community, whether a political object accords with the values and morality of a political community, and whether a political object has secured the willing consent of a political community,” (Beetham). Bruce Gilley refers to these three subtypes as legality, justification, and consent – each of which shows how they can be “measured empirically using a combination of attitudinal and behavioral data,” (“Legitimacy”). While stricter gun control laws fall in line with the values and morality as well as securing the willing consent of the political community of the U.S., they also oppose the founding rules and laws of said community. Tragic events such as mass shootings are not the only way the U.S. governments clutches civil rights in order to maintain a stronger, more centralized federal government and confirm “political legitimacy.” Through a special agency called the National Security Agency, or NSA, the federal government bypasses basic civil rights without the general knowledge of the public. The “President’s Surveillance Program,” which was carried out under the Bush administration shortly after the attacks on September 11, 2001, began to heavily survey millions of Americans – innocent or guilty – without a warrant or any judicial oversight. While the program was not as strong in the aftermath of 9/11, in recent years many “whistleblowers” to the program have revealed how powerful the agency actually is. In recent years it has been revealed that the NSA has advanced the President’s Surveillance Program to the point where it actually intercepts detailed records of every phone call, email, Google searches, and so much more – including parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter,” (Bamford, 2008).