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Author Topic: Consent of the Governed  (Read 2424 times)
FredericBastiat
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May 18, 2012, 06:04:34 PM
 #1

In re UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,

"Obviously there can be no law of treason more stringent than has now been stated, consistently with political liberty. In the very nature of things there can never be any liberty for the weaker party, on any other principle; and political liberty always means liberty for the weaker party. It is only the weaker party that is ever oppressed. The strong are always free by virtue of their superior strength. So long as government is a mere contest as to which of two parties shall rule the other, the weaker must always succumb. And whether the contest be carried on with ballots or bullets, the principle is the same; for under the theory of government now prevailing, the ballot either signifies a bullet, or it signifies nothing. And no one can consistently use a ballot, unless he intends to use a bullet, if the latter should be needed to insure submission to the former.

No attempt or pretence, that was ever carried into practical operation amongst civilized men—unless possibly the pretence of a "Divine Right," on the part of some, to govern and enslave others—embodied so much of shameless absurdity, falsehood, impudence, robbery, usurpation, tyranny, and villany of every kind, as the attempt or pretence of establishing a government by consent, and getting the actual consent of only so many as may be necessary to keep the rest in subjection by force. Such a government is a mere conspiracy of the strong against the weak. It no more rests on consent than does the worst government on earth.

What substitute for their consent is offered to the weaker party, whose rights are thus annihilated, struck out of existence, by the stronger? Only this: Their consent is presumed! That is, these usurpers condescendingly and graciously presume that those whom they enslave, consent to surrender their all of life, liberty, and property into the hands of those who thus usurp dominion over them! And it is pretended that this presumption of their consent—when no actual consent has been given—is sufficient to save the rights of the victims, and to justify the usurpers! As well might the highwayman pretend to justify himself by presuming that the traveller consents to part with his money. As well might the assassin justify himself by simply presuming that his victim consents to part with his life. As well might the holder of chattel slaves attempt to justify himself by presuming that they consent to his authority, and to the whips and the robbery which he practises upon them. The presumption is simply a presumption that the weaker party consent to be slaves.

Such is the presumption on which alone our government relies to justify the power it maintains over its unwilling subjects. And it was to establish that presumption as the inexorable and perpetual law of this country, that so much money and blood have been expended." -- Lysander Spooner

Nothing like stirring the pot eh? Smiley


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May 18, 2012, 06:36:45 PM
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Was this something he wrote when he opposed the US Civil War?  My problem with Spooner is he never offers anything better than government by consent.  All you have to do is take a look at Iraq or Afghanistan to see how the US fares when it governs without consent - do you really want to bring that to places like Nebraska?

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May 18, 2012, 08:53:28 PM
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Was this something he wrote when he opposed the US Civil War?
Was that meant to be some kind of dig?
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May 18, 2012, 10:34:20 PM
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Was this something he wrote when he opposed the US Civil War?
Was that meant to be some kind of dig?

Look Spooner up on wikipedia.  He was a great guy but the US Civil War exposed a lot of problems with his logic.  He felt that slavery was wrong and should be abolished.  He felt the Lincoln was pushing the south for reasons that were totally immoral.  He felt that the slave owners had a right to secede rather than lose their property.  He was honest enough to put all this in writing.

Spooner never got over the criminal law question.  99% of people feel that property is a legal right and that if you take it without consent and without legal authority, you deserve to go to jail. 1% do not agree - what gives the 99% the right to jail the 1%? 

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May 18, 2012, 11:01:58 PM
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99% of people feel that property is a legal right and that if you take it without consent and without legal authority, you deserve to go to jail. 1% do not agree - what gives the 99% the right to jail the 1%? 

The right to self-defense.

Nice strawman, though, equating slavery with property rights and attacking Spooner for a position you admit he disagreed with.

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FredericBastiat
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May 18, 2012, 11:10:16 PM
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Look Spooner up on wikipedia.  He was a great guy but the US Civil War exposed a lot of problems with his logic.  He felt that slavery was wrong and should be abolished.  He felt the Lincoln was pushing the south for reasons that were totally immoral.  He felt that the slave owners had a right to secede rather than lose their property.  He was honest enough to put all this in writing.

Spooner never got over the criminal law question.  99% of people feel that property is a legal right and that if you take it without consent and without legal authority, you deserve to go to jail. 1% do not agree - what gives the 99% the right to jail the 1%?  

What's so difficult to understand about theft? Theft, simply put, is the expropriation of property; viz., without the consent of the owner (not any different than consent of the governed). The only right is that of the owner to restitution (for being put out) and the return of his property. He can aqcuire, if they are willing, the help of others to re-obtain it if necessary, and if truly recidivist, jail the offender.

What you're saying is that 1% disagree that consent is required when obtaining objects (specifically those things which were previously owned). This means that there is only the strong and the weak, and that the strong may take by force, from the weak, those things which may belong to others or until such time as the weak organize and commit the same offense on those who were once their masters.

If that is the case, then there is no meaningful definition of justice or lawfulness or fairness and therefore no need for judges or juries or prosecutors or defenders, as that would make them a mere farcical organization which covers the true purpose of their action - that being to subjugate the weak, and to use deception, pretending that the rule of law was applied.

Is the disagreement that the concept of property doesn't exist?

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d'aniel
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May 19, 2012, 06:44:32 AM
 #7

Was this something he wrote when he opposed the US Civil War?
Was that meant to be some kind of dig?

Look Spooner up on wikipedia.  He was a great guy but the US Civil War exposed a lot of problems with his logic.  He felt that slavery was wrong and should be abolished.  He felt the Lincoln was pushing the south for reasons that were totally immoral.  He felt that the slave owners had a right to secede rather than lose their property.  He was honest enough to put all this in writing.

Spooner never got over the criminal law question.  99% of people feel that property is a legal right and that if you take it without consent and without legal authority, you deserve to go to jail. 1% do not agree - what gives the 99% the right to jail the 1%? 
That reasonable people can't be opposed to the US Civil War in your world view makes me not take you seriously.
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May 19, 2012, 06:49:03 AM
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99% of people feel that property is a legal right and that if you take it without consent and without legal authority, you deserve to go to jail. 1% do not agree - what gives the 99% the right to jail the 1%? 

The right to self-defense.

Nice strawman, though, equating slavery with property rights and attacking Spooner for a position you admit he disagreed with.

Spooner was opposed to preventing secession by the south.  He was also opposed to slavery but the OPs quote was Spooner's rage at Civil War and at Reconstruction which he also felt was wrong.  

To our modern minds, it looks contradictory to oppose slavery and at the same time defend the right of the southern states to secede.  But thats because the myth that the Civil War was about abolishing slavery has become ingrained.  In Spooner's day, the war was seen as a war against secession and abolishing slavery was just one part of the war effort.

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May 19, 2012, 06:38:53 PM
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What's so difficult to understand about theft? Theft, simply put, is the expropriation of property; viz., without the consent of the owner (not any different than consent of the governed). The only right is that of the owner to restitution (for being put out) and the return of his property. He can aqcuire, if they are willing, the help of others to re-obtain it if necessary, and if truly recidivist, jail the offender.
What's missing here is the rationale behind the right to self-defense. However, that's easy enough to grasp: if you steal someone else's property, you have no rational objection to raise when they come to take it back--or to take your property in retribution. What you do to others, they can legitimately do to you.

I do have to object to the "jail the offender" bit, however. Taking alienable property is in no way equivalent to coercively restricting someone's freedom of movement. Self-defense has to be proportional to the offense to be justified in this way.

The problem with claiming slaves as property is simply that they are, by definition, stolen property. The slave holder is laying false claim to another's inalienable rights of self-ownership.
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May 20, 2012, 05:59:11 AM
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What's so difficult to understand about theft? Theft, simply put, is the expropriation of property; viz., without the consent of the owner (not any different than consent of the governed). The only right is that of the owner to restitution (for being put out) and the return of his property. He can aqcuire, if they are willing, the help of others to re-obtain it if necessary, and if truly recidivist, jail the offender.
What's missing here is the rationale behind the right to self-defense. However, that's easy enough to grasp: if you steal someone else's property, you have no rational objection to raise when they come to take it back--or to take your property in retribution. What you do to others, they can legitimately do to you.

I do have to object to the "jail the offender" bit, however. Taking alienable property is in no way equivalent to coercively restricting someone's freedom of movement. Self-defense has to be proportional to the offense to be justified in this way.

The problem with claiming slaves as property is simply that they are, by definition, stolen property. The slave holder is laying false claim to another's inalienable rights of self-ownership.

Part of the problem is that back then stolen property, like a horse for example, could easily mean the end of the real owner's life. They could be prevented from growing their own food, or getting to town to find food for example. The importance of material possessions is subjective. We all own things that might seem meaningless to others that mean a lot to us personally. That is why theft is treated in such a way.

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May 20, 2012, 06:43:23 PM
 #11

"In the general course of human nature, A power over a man's subsistence amounts to a power over his will." -Alexander Hamilton

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fergalish
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May 20, 2012, 07:05:18 PM
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Was this something he wrote when he opposed the US Civil War?  My problem with Spooner is he never offers anything better than government by consent.  All you have to do is take a look at Iraq or Afghanistan to see how the US fares when it governs without consent - do you really want to bring that to places like Nebraska?
You don't even need to look at Iraq or Afghanistan.  Yesterday (http://www.itn.co.uk/home/45735/School+bombed+in+Italy) a school in Italy was bombed a day before an anti-mafia rally.  The school was named after the wife of a murdered anti-mafia judge, murdered twenty years to the day beforehand.  In the bombing, one child was killed and several injured.  That's the alternative to "government by consent," what many here like to call the "tyranny of the majority" - it's "government without consent," and "tyranny of the minority."  Which do you prefer?
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May 20, 2012, 08:03:28 PM
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"In the general course of human nature, A power over a man's subsistence amounts to a power over his will." -Alexander Hamilton

No.  History shows that when people believe in a cause, they can't be bought off with money.  If anything, the problem is that you have to kill some people to stop them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominic_McGlinchey

This guy spent his life with tons of cash from bank robberies yet in the end it took a hole in the head to stop him.  Jail, his wife being killed in front of his children, 24 hour surveillance, nothing stopped him.   

In short, your man Hamilton got that totally wrong.

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May 20, 2012, 09:44:16 PM
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No.  History shows that when people believe in a cause, they can't be bought off with money.  If anything, the problem is that you have to kill some people to stop them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominic_McGlinchey

This guy spent his life with tons of cash from bank robberies yet in the end it took a hole in the head to stop him.  Jail, his wife being killed in front of his children, 24 hour surveillance, nothing stopped him.  

In short, your man Hamilton got that totally wrong.

I'm not disagreeing that it's necessary to stop a hardened criminal and that it might require violence. Only that's it's appropriate when exhausting other options and only when attacked or threatened with attack first. I would think Alexander was a pretty bright guy who understood the purpose of law and justice.

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May 21, 2012, 06:52:19 AM
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No.  History shows that when people believe in a cause, they can't be bought off with money.  If anything, the problem is that you have to kill some people to stop them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominic_McGlinchey

This guy spent his life with tons of cash from bank robberies yet in the end it took a hole in the head to stop him.  Jail, his wife being killed in front of his children, 24 hour surveillance, nothing stopped him.  

In short, your man Hamilton got that totally wrong.

I'm not disagreeing that it's necessary to stop a hardened criminal and that it might require violence. Only that's it's appropriate when exhausting other options and only when attacked or threatened with attack first. I would think Alexander was a pretty bright guy who understood the purpose of law and justice.

McGlinchy was not a criminal in the sense of someone who does bad things for personal gain.  He devoted his life to a cause and killed people to advance that cause.  He opposed democracy on the basis that "the people have no right to vote for something wrong" and never made a penny despite always having access to large amounts of cash.   If only he were a common criminal, then he would have been locked up after his first robbery and many lives have been spared.

What Hamilton got wrong is thinking that people with morals can be stopped if you control their jobs or money.  In fact, if someone believes in a moral cause, they are unstoppable.

If you are American, you don't have much experience of dealing with people like McGlinchey driving about your neighbourhood.  Those of us that do have that experience tend to regard a strong proactive state as an essential part of liberty.

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May 21, 2012, 04:00:46 PM
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McGlinchy was not a criminal in the sense of someone who does bad things for personal gain.  He devoted his life to a cause and killed people to advance that cause.  He opposed democracy on the basis that "the people have no right to vote for something wrong" and never made a penny despite always having access to large amounts of cash.   If only he were a common criminal, then he would have been locked up after his first robbery and many lives have been spared.

What Hamilton got wrong is thinking that people with morals can be stopped if you control their jobs or money.  In fact, if someone believes in a moral cause, they are unstoppable.

If you are American, you don't have much experience of dealing with people like McGlinchey driving about your neighbourhood.  Those of us that do have that experience tend to regard a strong proactive state as an essential part of liberty.

If I remember correctly, we had something most people refer to as 9-11. I think that might qualify.

All law and "life devotion" is about some moral cause. Government is a perfect example of a "moral" cause that is nearly unstoppable. Your "petty" criminal McGlinchy is a simpleton compared to that of a much bigger operation (aka. government). You may look at him as a moral cause gone amuck, but I look at almost all forms of government as the same thing, with the notable exception that they have this definition they call "legal" which makes it all righteous for them and that simultaneously assuages their conscience.

Had McGlinchy the use of the law to leverage with, he'd likely still be alive today. Unfortunately (or fortunately) he wasn't that bright. I'd recommend to anybody that you not worry so much about the low-life criminals roaming the street, so much as you should the three-piece-suit politicos claiming to be so high and mighty. They're much more dangerous.

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May 21, 2012, 04:51:31 PM
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McGlinchy was not a criminal in the sense of someone who does bad things for personal gain.  He devoted his life to a cause and killed people to advance that cause.  He opposed democracy on the basis that "the people have no right to vote for something wrong" and never made a penny despite always having access to large amounts of cash.   If only he were a common criminal, then he would have been locked up after his first robbery and many lives have been spared.

What Hamilton got wrong is thinking that people with morals can be stopped if you control their jobs or money.  In fact, if someone believes in a moral cause, they are unstoppable.

If you are American, you don't have much experience of dealing with people like McGlinchey driving about your neighbourhood.  Those of us that do have that experience tend to regard a strong proactive state as an essential part of liberty.

If I remember correctly, we had something most people refer to as 9-11. I think that might qualify.


No - its not even close to having an insurgency going on.  911 was unpleasant but a 1 off.  McGlincy and his like were active continually for 30 years.

Quote

All law and "life devotion" is about some moral cause. Government is a perfect example of a "moral" cause that is nearly unstoppable. Your "petty" criminal McGlinchy is a simpleton compared to that of a much bigger operation (aka. government). You may look at him as a moral cause gone amuck, but I look at almost all forms of government as the same thing, with the notable exception that they have this definition they call "legal" which makes it all righteous for them and that simultaneously assuages their conscience.

Had McGlinchy the use of the law to leverage with, he'd likely still be alive today. Unfortunately (or fortunately) he wasn't that bright. I'd recommend to anybody that you not worry so much about the low-life criminals roaming the street, so much as you should the three-piece-suit politicos claiming to be so high and mighty. They're much more dangerous.

You make my point perfectly.  Government is exactly like terrorism when you remove the concept of consent.  McGlinchy was not a moral cause gone amok and he most certainly was not a petty criminal - he was just an idealist fighting for a cause (republican communism) that the majority would not vote for.

Spooner would have said McGlinchy was entitled to secede and set up his own state.  Just like the South.  What he left out is that handing people over to the tender mercies of violent idealists is a form of tyranny even more severe than ruling by democratic majority.

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May 21, 2012, 05:03:37 PM
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... I do have to object to the "jail the offender" bit, however. Taking alienable property is in no way equivalent to coercively restricting someone's freedom of movement. Self-defense has to be proportional to the offense to be justified in this way. ...
Part of the problem is that back then stolen property, like a horse for example, could easily mean the end of the real owner's life. They could be prevented from growing their own food, or getting to town to find food for example. The importance of material possessions is subjective. We all own things that might seem meaningless to others that mean a lot to us personally. That is why theft is treated in such a way.
I understand that, and agree that an action (which may also be theft) which threatens someone's life may justify jailing the offender (though strictly speaking one would probably have to offer the choice of jail or being placed in a similarly risky position; most would probably choose confinement). However, theft alone does not, even in the case of a repeat offender. There is some leeway in the rule of proportional response to allow for sentimental value, etc., but only in terms of the degree of response, not the kind.
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May 21, 2012, 11:38:03 PM
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You make my point perfectly.  Government is exactly like terrorism when you remove the concept of consent.  McGlinchy was not a moral cause gone amok and he most certainly was not a petty criminal - he was just an idealist fighting for a cause (republican communism) that the majority would not vote for.

Spooner would have said McGlinchy was entitled to secede and set up his own state.  Just like the South.  What he left out is that handing people over to the tender mercies of violent idealists is a form of tyranny even more severe than ruling by democratic majority.

I think McGlinchy should have been able to secede, but with a few caveats. Firstly and most obviously, he should only secede with his own property and person (or family, if willing). Secondly, he should only convince thru persuasion, not coercion or violence, solicit followers/disciples. Your "handing people over" to "violent idealists" comment doesn't even come close to either of those blatantly obvious requirements.

And finally, should there be any "political dissidents" or "political refugees" who would want to immigrate, they should be allowed to leave his jurisdiction at their leisure, or at the very least, petition anyone they choose to assist them in extricating themselves and their things from their tyrannical environs, if need be.

If you understood Spooner, you wouldn't be making lame comparisons to your scumbag McGlinchy. McGlinchy was inciting riots and generally oppressing others, not putting down external insurgencies and invasions from abroad (there's nothing enlightening about political communism, republican or otherwise).

I highly doubt, had McGlinchy been able to secede (given the chance), he would have been able to last very long on his own since nobody likes dealing with a violent tyrannical nut-job. At the very least he would have starved himself out, or gone out crusading (plundering) and had his head handed to him.

From what I can tell, "libertarians" and "generally conservative" individuals, don't fight (in the violent sense) for a cause, they educate and persuade as much as possible. At the most, they use self defense since that's what their belief system is. As far as I can tell, McGlinchy did none of those things. Hardly a shining example.

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May 22, 2012, 06:39:46 AM
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You make my point perfectly.  Government is exactly like terrorism when you remove the concept of consent.  McGlinchy was not a moral cause gone amok and he most certainly was not a petty criminal - he was just an idealist fighting for a cause (republican communism) that the majority would not vote for.

Spooner would have said McGlinchy was entitled to secede and set up his own state.  Just like the South.  What he left out is that handing people over to the tender mercies of violent idealists is a form of tyranny even more severe than ruling by democratic majority.

I think McGlinchy should have been able to secede, but with a few caveats. Firstly and most obviously, he should only secede with his own property and person (or family, if
...snip...

Um - thats crazy.  McGlinchy wasn't some isolated maniac - he was leader of a movement with a lot of support.  A vociferous minority who felt the majority were misguided. So you have this guy who is setting up his own state with his own little army terrorising the democratically elected state.  And your solution is to ask him to leave his army and community of supporters behind and secede on his own?  

Way to miss the point...

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