"Consent of the governed": a contradiction in terms (Larken Rose)Submitted by dabooda on Sat, 02/12/2011 - 21:08
This post is an excerpt from Larken Rose's new book,The Most Dangerous Superstition Reprinted with permission of the author. (I would l♥ve to say that Larken "authorized" this reprint, but the whole thesis of his book is that "authority" is "the most dangerous superstition," and he'd likely hunt me down & carry on cranky. Great book.
"The Myth of Consent" (TMDS pp. 15-17)
There are two basic ways in which people can interact: by mutual agreement, or by one person using threats or violence to force his will upon another. The first can be labeled "consent" -- both sides willingly and voluntarily agreeing to what is to be done. The second can be labeled "governing" -- one person controlling another. Since these two -- consent and governing -- are opposites, the concept of "consent of the governed" is a contradiction. If there is mutual consent, it is not "government"; if there is governing, there is no consent. Some will claim that a majority, or the people as a whole, have given their consent to be ruled, even if many individuals have not. But such an argument turns the concept of consent on its head. No one, individually or as a group, can give consent for something to be done to someone else. That is simply not what "consent" means. It defies logic to say, "I give my consent for you to be robbed." Yet that is the basis of the cult of "democracy": the notion that a majority can give consent on behalf of a minority. That is not "consent of the governed"; it is forcible control of the governed, with the "consent" of a third party.
Even if someone were silly enough to actually tell someone else, "I agree to let you forcibly control me," the moment the controller must force the "controllee" to do something, there is obviously no longer "consent." Prior to that moment, there is no "governing" -- only voluntary cooperation. Expressing the concept more precisely exposes its inherent schizophrenia: "I agree to let you force things upon me, whether I agree to them or not."
But in reality, no one ever agrees to let those in "government" do whatever they want. So, in order to fabricate "consent" where there is none, believers in "authority" add another, even more bizarre step to the mythology: the notion of "implied consent." The claim is that, by merely living in a town, or a state, or a country, one is "agreeing" to abide by whatever rules happen to be issued by the people who claim to have the right to rule that town, state or country. The idea is that if someone does not like the rules, he is free to leave the town, state or country altogether, and if he chooses not to leave, that constitutes giving his consent to be controlled by the rulers of that jurisdiction.
Though it is constantly parroted as gospel, the idea defies common sense. It makes no more sense than a carjacker stopping a driver on a Sunday and telling him,"By driving a car in this neighborhood on a Sunday, you are agreeing to give me your car." One person obviously cannot decide what counts as someone else "agreeing" to something. An agreement is when two or more people communicate a mutual willingness to enter into some arrangement. Simply being born somewhere is not agreeing to anything, nor is living in one's own house when some king or politician has declared it to be within the realm he rules. It is one thing for someone to say, "if you want to ride in my car, you may not smoke," or "You can come into my house only if you take your shoes off." It is quite another to try to tell other people what they can do on their own property. Whoever has the right to make the rules for a particular place is, by definition, the owner of that place. That is the basis of the idea of private property: that there can be an "owner" who has the exclusive right to decide what is done with and on that property. The owner of a house has the right to keep others out of it and, by extension, the right to tell visitors what they can and cannot do as long as they are in the house.
And that sheds some light on the underlying assumption behind the idea of implied consent. To tell someone that his only valid choices are either to leave the "country" or to abide by whatever commands the politicians issue, logically implies that everything in the "country" is the property of the politicians. If a person can spend year after year paying for his home, or even building it himself, and his choices are still to either obey the politicians or get out, that means that his house and the time and effort he invested in the house are the property of the politicians. And for one person's time and effort to rightfully belong to another is the definition of slavery. That is exactly what the "implied consent" theory means: that every "country" is a huge slave plantation, and that everything and everyone there is the property of the politicians. And, of course, the master does not need the consent of his slave.
UPDATE: I've posted a second excerpt from The Most Dangerous Superstition here on another thread.