The most radical statement in 2,000 years of western political history is found in the third sentence of the “Declaration of Independence”:
“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.”
The Declaration that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights is the foundation for individual sovereignty and government as a public servant rather than a public master.
The third sentence of the Declaration is almost as profound:
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The first half of that sentence declares the fundamental purpose of government as envisioned by the Founders: to secure to every man, woman and even unborn child their God-given, unalienable Rights.
The second half expresses another principle that is fundamental to freedom: governments derive their “just powers from the consent of the governed.” Thus, the concept of “consent” is fundamental to the foundation of governments established by the Founders.
But what, exactly, does consent mean? Can I run stop signs if I don’t “consent” to obey traffic laws? Can I avoid paying income taxes by simply withholding my consent to be bound by Title 26 of the United States Code?
The concept of consent is both fundamental our de jure form of government—and extremely hard to grasp and apply. OK—you do have the right to consent or not to consent, but you don’t have the right to consent or not to particular laws . . . or do you?
The concept of consent is particularly important if a fundamental hypothesis advocated on this blog—the difference between The State (the States of the Union) and “this state” (an administrative division of a singular territory of the United States)—is valid. If “this state” is a real governmental structure that exists as an alternative to The State, it appears that we may only be subject to the laws of “this state” based on some manifestation of our consent to submit to “this state”.
Thus, if we could more fully understand the concept of consent, we might be able to avoid being subject to the laws of “this state”.
• Douglas Newdick authored an essay entitled “Power and Consent: Reductionism, Dialectics and Consent Theory”. A friend emailed me a copy which I read and commented upon. The author’s conclusion appears to deny the reality or need for consent to laws and instead extol the primary reality of the “state” or “power structure” to rule by brute force. I absolutely disagree with the author’s conclusion. Nevertheless, by reading Mr. Newdick’s essay, I learned a great deal about the concept of consent.
If you’re interested in the concept of consent, you might also learn a little from Mr. Newdick’s essay and perhaps from my comments.
Here’s a PDF copy of Mr. Newdick’s essay that’s been edited to include my various highlighting and commentary: 120421 Consent Theory of Government 2