This is a fascinating article about legitimacy in the context of cryptocurrency and blockchains. What I thought was interesting was the list of the theories of legitimacy and how it can be obtained.
The first two items, listed below, sound exactly like how our current system of government operates.
- Legitimacy by brute force: someone convinces everyone that they are powerful enough to impose their will and resisting them will be very hard. This drives most people to submit because each person expects that everyone else will be too scared to resist as well.
- Legitimacy by continuity: if something was legitimate at time T, it is by default legitimate at time T+1.
Obviously there is the concept that we have laws, and if you do not abide by the laws there are consequences and if you resist those consequences we have police forces that have been bestowed with the power to enforce those consequences. But more important than that is the belief that because others are following the law, even laws we disagree with, we should as well. The fact that our tax system is voluntary and self reported yet has one of the highest rates of compliance in the world is likely a fact that everyone believes that everyone else is playing by the rules so they should as well. So much of what drives legitimacy of government is the shared understanding that others believe it is legitimate. What happens when that shared belief in each others belief of legitimacy is eroded?
The next theory is intriguing to me as a form of inertia. How much of the legitimacy of a government is from the fact that you were taught it was legitimate when you were growing up, or your parents felt it was legitimate so you carried on that belief. What happens if the current generation of adults does not pass along that feeling of legitimacy to the next generation?