"Are Citizens Culpable for State Action?"
A key assumption of international law is that states, as legal persons, have rights and obligations and that they can be held holistically responsible for their acts. One view that makes sense of international legal practice is the corporate agent model of responsibility. Yet the corporate agent view faces a question: what does the ascription of responsibility to the state imply about the responsibility of its citizens? Many argue that it is unfair to pass on the responsibilities of states to their citizens, who are morally blameless for the wrongs committed by their officials. Others reply that citizens are rightly liable for the acts of their state, though they are in no way culpable for them. In this paper, I argue that (some) citizens in a representative democracy share culpability for their state’s acts. Drawing on theories of representation, I argue that in certain cases, though A does not directly participate in B’s action, still the action is undertaken on A’s behalf and in A’s name, such that we can appropriately regard A as bearing some responsibility for it. Since acting in A’s name is not the same thing as A herself acting, my account can make sense of an unequal distribution of state responsibility between officials and ordinary citizens, while still implicating citizens in the acts of their state.