Democracy has been hailed as the great system of governance that keeps a nation balanced on the thin line between authoritarianism and lawless anarchy. The voluntaryist’s suggestion that the core responsibilities of the state – provision of courts, police, and national defense – be demonopolized (that is, allowed to work in private hands instead of being financed by coercive government taxation) is met with amusement at best, fury at worst. “The nation would devolve into perpetual struggles of one man against another!” critics cry out. If this is true, it may be a death blow to the idea that man can exist in peaceful, law-abiding voluntary relationships. Indeed, Hobbes would be right that man must be coercively controlled to rear in his savage nature. Is this what we must accept?
Tag Archives: justice
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?