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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/16163/no-treason-no-1/

No Treason, no. 1

March 22, 2011 by

Before the civil war, there were some grounds for saying that, at least in theory, our government was a free one — that it rested on consent. FULL ARTICLE by Lysander Spooner

{ 3 comments }

Ned Netterville March 22, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Lysander Spooner, perhaps the last great lawyer America has spawned. What he says here of the north and the Civil War puts the nation’s current murdering of people in Libya in appalling perspective: epic hypocrisy!

Stephen MacLean March 25, 2011 at 6:12 am

Reading Spooner for the first time, and acknowledging the brief bio to the side about his ‘individualist anarchist’ beliefs, am I correct in assuming that instead of an attempt to buttress the foundations for ‘consent of the governed’ as laid down in the Declaration of Independence, Spooner’s real objective is to demonstrate the impossibility of any legitimate government based on such principles?

The passage below, in particular, admits this scenario as the only logical outcome:

If, for example, A claims that his consent is necessary to the establishment or maintenance of government, he thereby necessarily admits that B‘s and every other man’s are equally necessary, because B‘s and every other man’s rights are just as good as his own. On the other hand, if he denies that B‘s or any other particular man’s consent is necessary, he thereby necessarily admits that neither his own, nor any other man’s, is necessary, and that government need not be founded on consent at all.

There is therefore no alternative but to say either that the separate, individual consent of every man who is required to aid, in any way, in supporting the government is necessary, or that the consent of no one is necessary.

I seem to remember that Locke raised a similar argument about the individual nature of the social contract — although he came to a different conclusion about the possibility of government — whereas Hobbes’s contract was collective and binding, breakable only by the sovereign entity’s inability to prevent (or personal activity in favour of) a state of war of all against all.

Ned Netterville March 25, 2011 at 11:47 am

I’m sure no expert, but I’d say Spooner was candidly pointing out the unimpeachable fact that government (as we know it) by consent of the governed is impossible. Government by consent as we don’t know it would restrict its activities to those that impacted only those persons who individually consented to its actions. The state of communication technology in Spooner’s day as well as now renders such individual consent impossible. But who knows what the future might bring?

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