Home The Abutment Pillar Classical Liberty The Right to Ignore the State - The Only Legitimate Source of Power
The Right to Ignore the State - The Only Legitimate Source of Power
Written by Herbert Spencer   
Article Index
The Right to Ignore the State
Legislative Authority Can Never Be Ethical
The Only Legitimate Source of Power
The Immorality of Majority Rule
Representation versus Consent
Religious Liberty and Civil Liberty
Social Morality and Social Evolution
Footnotes and History
All Pages

The Only Legitimate Source of Power

Upholders of pure despotism may fitly believe state control to be unlimited and unconditional. They who assert that men are made for governments and not governments for men, may consistently hold that no one can remove himself beyond the pale of political organization.

But they who maintain that the people are the only legitimate source of power — that legislative authority is not original, but deputed — cannot deny the right to ignore the state without entangling themselves in an absurdity.

For, if legislative authority is deputed, it follows that those from whom it proceeds are the masters of those on whom it is conferred; it follows further, that as masters they confer the said authority voluntarily; and this implies that they may give or withhold it as they please.

To call that deputed which is wrenched from men whether they will or not, is nonsense. But what is here true of all collectively is equally true of each separately. As a government can rightly act for the people, only when empowered by them, so also can it rightly act for the individual, only when empowered by him.

If A, B, and C debate whether they shall employ an agent to perform for them a certain service, and if whilst A and B agree to do so, C dissents, C cannot equitably be made a party to the agreement in spite of himself. And this must be equally true of thirty as of three; and if of thirty, why not of three hundred, or three thousand, or three millions?