By Jeff Rutherford
A Rasmussen Reports survey conducted in April 2014 found that “just 19% of likely U.S. voters believe the federal government today has the consent of the governed.” “66% do not believe the federal government has the consent of the governed today, while 16% are unsure.”
I’d like to examine this “consent thing” more closely.
British philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) published his Second Treatise of Government in 1688. The following excerpt should sound VERY familiar to you, even if you’ve never read it before – even if you’ve never heard of John Locke:
“MEN being…by nature, all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent. The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of it. …When any number of men have so consented to make one community or government, they are thereby presently incorporated, and make one body politic, wherein the majority have a right to act and conclude the rest.”
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….”
The Declaration proceeded to list over two dozen acts of tyrrany the British King had imposed on the American colonists without due political process Absence of consent was at the core of the colonists’ grievances against imperial Britain, and many of them died to fight this oppression. Without consent, government power is unjust.
After an eight-year Revolutionary War and four independent but chaotic years under the flawed Articles of Confederation, delegates from 12 of the 13 original United States (all except Rhode Island) gathered in Philadelphia to forge the U.S. Constitution that established the structure, powers, and limits of a federal government. It was finished in September 1787, but it meant nothing without demonstrable proof of the consent of the governed.
To gain American legitimacy, the new Constitution had to be ratified by the states. Over a span of nearly 3 years, the states held their ratifying conventions. This time period was the most DIRECT DEMONSTRATION of consent of the governed in American history.
After 1790, further consent was incrementally affirmed as 37 more states joined the Union. There were 16 states by 1800, 31 states by 1850, 48 states by 1912, and 50 states by 1959. Among those alive today, only citizens of Alaska and Hawaii that were of voting age (twenty-one) in 1959 have ever affirmed their consent by formally seeking statehood.
What about modern America? For 55 years, Americans have had just one remaining way to affirm consent upon their government: By voting in elections for candidates to represent them.
Here’s a very important question, then: How do today’s voters know to what they are consenting?
My vote is my consent to the stated campaign platform of my chosen candidate – especially the intentions that are specifically expressed as a “pledge.” Of course, there is no assurance that my candidate can accomplish her/his pledges once elected. But I expect him/her to try, because the consent granted by my and others’ votes imposes a moral obligation upon my representative.
Now, here’s a painful question: What if they don’t try to keep their pledges? Worse, what if they never even intended to fulfill their pledges? When disingenuous politicians knowingly lie about their intentions in order to get the votes needed to win, their occupation of that office is ILLEGITIMATE. This reprehensible practice is akin to urinating on the fundamental tenet of “consent of the governed.”
Exhibit A: In Sept 2008, Barack Obama made a firm pledge against ANY form of tax increase for families making less than $250,000 a year. Then, just 5½ months later, his very first budget submitted in Feb 2009 recommended reinstatement of limits on itemized deductions and personal exemptions for married taxpayers filing separately, making $150,000 a year. He clearly had no intention of trying to keep that pledge even as he uttered it. Illegitimately these limits on deductions and exemptions took effect for tax year 2013, without the consent of the governed.
Exhibit B: In March 2010 when Obamacare became law, a CNN Poll found that 59% of Americans opposed it. In fact, Obamacare became law without a single Republican legislator voting for it. Who could honestly believe Obamacare was enacted by consent of the governed?
Why do these illegitimate government acts happen? Because to these post-Constitutional politicians, the ends justify any means:
I recommend this related article by the Austrian Economics Addict: