Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Government by Consent of Some of the Governed

I am not an anarchist. I am not an anarchist. I am not an anarchist. There are some days I have to repeat that mantra more often than others, and this is one of them, for on this day we allegedly consent to the policies of our government. Lest anyone think this form of consent is anything like (say) the consent that distinguishes consensual sex from rape, let us hearken to words of Herbert Spencer: "Perhaps it will be said that this consent is not a specific, but a general one, and that the citizen is understood to have assented to everything his representative may do when he voted for him. But suppose he did not vote for him, and on the contrary did all in his power to get elected someone holding opposite views -- what then? The reply will probably be that, by taking part in such an election, he tacitly agreed to abide by the decision of the majority. And how if he did not vote at all? Why, then he cannot justly complain of any tax, seeing that he made no protest against its imposition. So, curiously enough, it seems that he gave his consent in whatever way he acted -- whether he said yes, whether he said no, or whether he remained neuter! A rather awkward doctrine, this." - from "The Right to Ignore the State," 1851.

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