Consent and refusal

In response to Consent of the Governed?:

Ah, you’ve brought forth one of my favorite hobby horses, among the most unique treasures of the Revolution, and one of the towering achievements of moral imagination: the consent of the governed.  

The Declaration of Independence tells us that governments derive their “just powers” from the consent of the governed.  But nobody ever really asks for our consent, do they?  We are born into a legal regime, defined by a series of immense programs begun long ago.  No one asks children if they think Social Security is a good deal.  They are given no chance to opt out of the program.

We get to elect representatives who fight bitter struggles to modestly adjust the course of these huge compulsory schemes, but we have no realistic chance of escaping from them.  It could be argued that the business of running a huge national government makes such compulsory participation essential, but I would counter that proper respect for the consent of the governed is a powerful moral argument against the entire top-heavy federal system.  It is also part of the case against deficit spending.  Because if there’s no realistic way to seek positive consent from the governed, we must make every possible allowance for free people to withdraw their consent.  

In other words, a just government impartially protects the basic rights of all citizens from coast to coast, but imposes few other demands that cannot be refused.  Local governments can properly make more such demands, because if individuals don’t like it, they can leave.  Competition breeds efficiency.

One of the things that offends me about massive non-emergency deficit spending – a point brought up by the Tax Foundation in their announcement of Tax Freedom Day on April 18 this year – is that “annual federal borrowing represents future taxes owed.”  In other words, taxation without representation; a burden deposited on future generations who were not asked for their consent, and will be given no option to refuse.

You’re quite right to note that the unbreakable spending loop of public employee unions also ignores the consent of the governed, who have no input into the process, at either federal or state levels.  No public employee should belong to a union.  No wildly expensive benefit plans should be dumped on future voters, with demands that transcend the property rights of creditors and bondholders.  Badly structured business entities fail, and die.  Unsustainable public enterprises fail, and tighten their grip on our throats.

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