by Michael Eliot
It is painful, as a libertarian, to watch the constitutional drama currently unfolding in Egypt, painful to watch a modern people make the same mistakes made by the Founders of America 225 years ago, painful to read of needless clashes and deaths and tortured struggle in pursuit of an impossible goal.
Americans began the modern obsession with constitutional government saying governments “deriv[e] their just powers from the consent of the governed.” That is, governments are legitimate if they have the consent of each individual they govern.
But what if some people do not give their consent, or later withdraw it? A government cannot justly govern those who do not give their consent.
There is another complication: the only powers governments can legitimately use are just powers.
So the question is, does government have any just powers?