As I just quoted, the Declaration of Independence states "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed". I observe the following:
- Governments are instituted (they are not natural).
- The purpose of that instituting is to secure natural, inalienable rights.
- Governments can have just powers and, presumably, unjust powers.
- The just powers of governments are granted through the consent of the governed.
From these principles, classical liberals tend to draw several conclusions:
- The unjust powers of governments are not and cannot be granted through the consent of the governed (they are powers taken, not powers granted).
- Any powers beyond securing natural, inalienable rights are unjust.
- Governments can be just if all they do is secure natural, inalienable rights.
Those of a more deeply individualist persuasion might go even farther:
- Governments cannot be instituted among "the governed" because human beings are naturally sovereign; only to the extent that people are ungoverned can they freely choose to give their consent to any agreement (including especially the agreement to institute a government).
- Throughout history, governments have never been instituted solely or even primarily to secure the natural, inalienable rights of the individual.
- At any time you have the right to withdraw your consent from any government, even if some part of its activities is devoted to securing individual rights.
- After you have withdrawn your consent, you cannot legitimately be governed because, as Lincoln said, "No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent."
Over time I find myself trending farther away from the classical liberal position and closer to the individualist position. What that implies for my political views is not something I've settled on yet...
Peter Saint-Andre > Journal