In John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, his entire political philosophy hinges upon the fact that humans are moral equals and thus unable to legitimately govern or impose rules upon another without that other person’s consent. For Locke, the perfect answer to this is entitled express consent. According to Locke, “[n]o body doubts but an express consent, of any man entering into any society, makes him a perfect member of that society, a subject of that government” (Locke 64). Express consent is the perfect way to bind the original members together. This however, raises many difficulties for Locke once critics begin to question how someone can consent to a system of government for which they never expressly consented or gave their agreement; simply stated, they were not the founding members, and thus how can it be argued that they are legitimately ruled by the government? Locke’s rebuttal is tacit consent, a method by which any man “that hath any possessions, or enjoyment, of any part of the dominions of any government, doth thereby give his tacit consent” to be ruled by that government (64). Though this seems to be a sound remedy, further holes can be exposed using a hypothetical, but very plausible, situation to demonstrate. The situation is as outlined below:

An adult citizen who was born in this country (and thus never had to take an oath of citizenship) was disgruntled about the lack of funding for education and began protesting on the steps of a government building. Shortly thereafter, a police officer confronts her and informs her that she has broken the law by protesting within 100 feet of the public building without a permit. He attempts to arrest her but she explains that, as a moral equal, she never consented to join the body politic and thus these laws do not apply to her.

Using the above situation, it becomes simple to apply Locke’s response, tacit consent. However, to fully understand this issue, a counter argument by the protestor must be offered and tacit consent must be adjusted to include her arguments such that she is still bound by the national law.

Assuming that the police officer is an educated man and familiar with his political philosophy, specializing in Lockean philosophy, his response would be a classic example of tacit consent applied to life. He would start with the beginning – at one point in time, a group of citizens joined together to form a body politic and institute a government on the land now called the United States of America. For the sake of simplifying the situation, one of her direct relatives was amongst these first founders.

The police officer, his name badge proudly displaying his name, Darryl Worley, looked the protestor in the eye. “Look here,” he said, taking out his copy of Second Treatise he kept in his pocket, “this relative took an oath to bind his land to the authority of this government; ergo, he showed his express consent, for he both knew to what he was consenting and was voluntarily agreeing.” He assumed that the woman knew her philosophy as well, but might not be as versed as he in Locke.

Because this protestor owned land in the state which was handed down from her ancestor, one of the country’s founders, she was, according to Locke, a subject of the government as a result. As Locke states, a person who “enjoys any part of the land […] under the government of that common-wealth, must take it with the condition it is under; that is, of submitting to the government of the common-wealth” (64). Furthermore, because this woman is partaking in the services offered by the government, she is giving her tacit consent to be ruled by that government. For Locke, even “lodging only for a week” in a country is a satisfactory condition under which tacit consent may be derived (64). Because she is an adult and a citizen, it is safe to assume that she has used the public roads, post office, or other public services before and at the time of her first use, she gave her tacit consent.

Darryl looked up at the woman. He continued to explain to her why she was violating the law. “Is that your car over there?” he asked. She nodded. “Well, I know you used the public road system to get here and you even deposited money into the meter. Because these are provided by the government, you used the government’s services and gave your tacit consent. Locke says it right here,” he stated, pointing halfway down page 64 in his book. “No one forced you to use the road system to get here, nor did they force you to pay for the meter. You did that voluntarily. You knew to what you were consenting when you used these goods. I am sorry, but you are in violation of a law that very much applies to you.”

Despite these solid conditions upon which Locke builds his concept of tacit consent, there are flaws that can be exploited in some situations. In addition, Locke does not give clear provisions for revoking one’s consent, only conditions in which one’s consent contract is nullified. One of the many possible flaws of tacit consent would be if she did not know the full extent to what she was consenting. Another flaw along this line would be if she did not know she was consenting; both are sufficient, once proved to be true, to show that she did not and would not have consented to the government if given a chance. If she wanted to leave the country but did not have the funds available to do so, she would be in effect withdrawing her express consent and therefore one cannot assume that she had indeed consented if she expressly did not.

Jill, the woman, looked at Darryl and sighed. “Like everyone else, aren’t you? Too caught up in what Locke says to understand that there are critical flaws. I have no money right now but I want to leave this country as soon as I am able to. I furthermore, here and now, renounce my consent to be ruled by this government. I am out of here as soon as possible,” Jill stated, stomping her foot for emphasis. She turned to leave, but Darryl stopped her. “Let me go!” she exclaimed. “As a moral equal to you, you have no right to impose your laws on me. I do not consent to be governed by your state or you. As a moral equal, I demand that you let me go,” Jill said, twisting her arm free of Darryl’s grasp.

Because Locke does not seem to give much thought to citizens renouncing their consent, there is not much textual evidence for the process through which this is done. However, it is possible to surmise, by reversing the express consent process that one can knowingly and voluntarily remove their consent to be governed by the body politic. However, the protestor could bring up a critical point to which Locke does not seem to have ever imagined would happen. If a citizen wishes to leave the state, but does not have the money to do so, what would happen if the citizen renounced their consent? Locke lauds his monetary system as allowing for people to take what is needed and to diffuse the moderate scarcity in the world. However, it appears that Locke did not consider what would happen in a fully monetized economy – it would be impossible to take anything because everything would already be claimed by some other citizen mixing their labor with it. If, like in this case, the citizen had no money at all, they would be unable to partake of this rationing system devised and would be essentially forced to stay where they were. Thus, a catch-22 arises – the citizen does not want to stay and cannot use the system in place because they do not consent, but they cannot leave because the only mode to leave requires using the system by paying money. Indeed, it gives the impression that Locke’s consent system has an insurmountable flaw in it, an inherent catch-22 to keep people locked in the system even though it deprives them of their right as moral equals to not be governed by a law to which they did not voluntarily submit.

Darryl grabbed the woman again and told her that she would be resisting arrest if she attempted to leave a second time. “You obviously didn’t read the latest edition of Philosophy Illustrated, did you?” he questioned. “If you had, you would know about hypothetical consent. If you leave now, turn the corner, and get robbed, would you prefer me to chase down the robber and protect you or would you prefer that I stand by and chuckle at your misfortune? Of course you would prefer me to protect you! It makes sense; it is reasonable under those circumstances to assume that you would want protection,” Darryl said, gasping for a breath after his monologue. “And that, right there, is hypothetical consent.”

Though hypothetical consent is never directly mentioned in Locke’s work, it is easy to derive from his argument of tacit consent, specifically from the notion that the state of nature, though humane, is not as good as a body politic; because it is better to be part of a body politic than not, it is plausible to assume that a person would consent to be ruled by a body politic and gain the benefits thereof rather than not. Hypothetical consent is the notion that it is reasonable to treat a person as if they had given their consent because it is the most reasonable course of action that all people would do if they knew they could, were able to consent, and were reasonable. It is important to note that this hinges on an assumption and it is not a form of actual consent. In the case of the protestor, it makes sense that she would submit herself to the laws of the government and, in return, reap the reward of protected rights to life and property, ensured liberty, and access to better healthcare, thus improving her right to health. Because of the obvious benefits that outweigh any small negative side effects, it is not possible, for Locke, to understand why she would not consent to this government. Furthermore, one cannot argue that she does not possess a right state of mind to consent. As an adult In John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, his entire political philosophy hinges upon the fact that humans are moral equals and thus unable to legitimately govern or impose rules upon another without that other person’s consent. For Locke, the perfect answer to this is entitled express consent. According to Locke, “[n]o body doubts but an express consent, of any man entering into any society, makes him a perfect member of that society, a subject of that government” (Locke 64). Express consent is the perfect way to bind the original members together. This however, raises many difficulties for Locke once critics begin to question how someone can consent to a system of government for which they never expressly consented or gave their agreement; simply stated, they were not the founding members, and thus how can it be argued that they are legitimately ruled by the government? Locke’s rebuttal is tacit consent, a method by which any man “that hath any possessions, or enjoyment, of any part of the dominions of any government, doth thereby give his tacit consent” to be ruled by that government (64). Though this seems to be a sound remedy, further holes can be exposed using a hypothetical, but very plausible, situation to demonstrate. The situation is as outlined below:

An adult citizen who was born in this country (and thus never had to take an oath of citizenship) was disgruntled about the lack of funding for education and began protesting on the steps of a government building. Shortly thereafter, a police officer confronts her and informs her that she has broken the law by protesting within 100 feet of the public building without a permit. He attempts to arrest her but she explains that, as a moral equal, she never consented to join the body politic and thus these laws do not apply to her.

Using the above situation, it becomes simple to apply Locke’s response, tacit consent. However, to fully understand this issue, a counter argument by the protestor must be offered and tacit consent must be adjusted to include her arguments such that she is still bound by the national law.

Assuming that the police officer is an educated man and familiar with his political philosophy, specializing in Lockean philosophy, his response would be a classic example of tacit consent applied to life. He would start with the beginning – at one point in time, a group of citizens joined together to form a body politic and institute a government on the land now called the United States of America. For the sake of simplifying the situation, one of her direct relatives was amongst these first founders.

The police officer, his name badge proudly displaying his name, Darryl Worley, looked the protestor in the eye. “Look here,” he said, taking out his copy of Second Treatise he kept in his pocket, “this relative took an oath to bind his land to the authority of this government; ergo, he showed his express consent, for he both knew to what he was consenting and was voluntarily agreeing.” He assumed that the woman knew her philosophy as well, but might not be as versed as he in Locke.

Because this protestor owned land in the state which was handed down from her ancestor, one of the country’s founders, she was, according to Locke, a subject of the government as a result. As Locke states, a person who “enjoys any part of the land […] under the government of that common-wealth, must take it with the condition it is under; that is, of submitting to the government of the common-wealth” (64). Furthermore, because this woman is partaking in the services offered by the government, she is giving her tacit consent to be ruled by that government. For Locke, even “lodging only for a week” in a country is a satisfactory condition under which tacit consent may be derived (64). Because she is an adult and a citizen, it is safe to assume that she has used the public roads, post office, or other public services before and at the time of her first use, she gave her tacit consent.

Darryl looked up at the woman. He continued to explain to her why she was violating the law. “Is that your car over there?” he asked. She nodded. “Well, I know you used the public road system to get here and you even deposited money into the meter. Because these are provided by the government, you used the government’s services and gave your tacit consent. Locke says it right here,” he stated, pointing halfway down page 64 in his book. “No one forced you to use the road system to get here, nor did they force you to pay for the meter. You did that voluntarily. You knew to what you were consenting when you used these goods. I am sorry, but you are in violation of a law that very much applies to you.”

Despite these solid conditions upon which Locke builds his concept of tacit consent, there are flaws that can be exploited in some situations. In addition, Locke does not give clear provisions for revoking one’s consent, only conditions in which one’s consent contract is nullified. One of the many possible flaws of tacit consent would be if she did not know the full extent to what she was consenting. Another flaw along this line would be if she did not know she was consenting; both are sufficient, once proved to be true, to show that she did not and would not have consented to the government if given a chance. If she wanted to leave the country but did not have the funds available to do so, she would be in effect withdrawing her express consent and therefore one cannot assume that she had indeed consented if she expressly did not.

Jill, the woman, looked at Darryl and sighed. “Like everyone else, aren’t you? Too caught up in what Locke says to understand that there are critical flaws. I have no money right now but I want to leave this country as soon as I am able to. I furthermore, here and now, renounce my consent to be ruled by this government. I am out of here as soon as possible,” Jill stated, stomping her foot for emphasis. She turned to leave, but Darryl stopped her. “Let me go!” she exclaimed. “As a moral equal to you, you have no right to impose your laws on me. I do not consent to be governed by your state or you. As a moral equal, I demand that you let me go,” Jill said, twisting her arm free of Darryl’s grasp.

Because Locke does not seem to give much thought to citizens renouncing their consent, there is not much textual evidence for the process through which this is done. However, it is possible to surmise, by reversing the express consent process that one can knowingly and voluntarily remove their consent to be governed by the body politic. However, the protestor could bring up a critical point to which Locke does not seem to have ever imagined would happen. If a citizen wishes to leave the state, but does not have the money to do so, what would happen if the citizen renounced their consent? Locke lauds his monetary system as allowing for people to take what is needed and to diffuse the moderate scarcity in the world. However, it appears that Locke did not consider what would happen in a fully monetized economy – it would be impossible to take anything because everything would already be claimed by some other citizen mixing their labor with it. If, like in this case, the citizen had no money at all, they would be unable to partake of this rationing system devised and would be essentially forced to stay where they were. Thus, a catch-22 arises – the citizen does not want to stay and cannot use the system in place because they do not consent, but they cannot leave because the only mode to leave requires using the system by paying money. Indeed, it gives the impression that Locke’s consent system has an insurmountable flaw in it, an inherent catch-22 to keep people locked in the system even though it deprives them of their right as moral equals to not be governed by a law to which they did not voluntarily submit.

Darryl grabbed the woman again and told her that she would be resisting arrest if she attempted to leave a second time. “You obviously didn’t read the latest edition of Philosophy Illustrated, did you?” he questioned. “If you had, you would know about hypothetical consent. If you leave now, turn the corner, and get robbed, would you prefer me to chase down the robber and protect you or would you prefer that I stand by and chuckle at your misfortune? Of course you would prefer me to protect you! It makes sense; it is reasonable under those circumstances to assume that you would want protection,” Darryl said, gasping for a breath after his monologue. “And that, right there, is hypothetical consent.”

Though hypothetical consent is never directly mentioned in Locke’s work, it is easy to derive from his argument of tacit consent, specifically from the notion that the state of nature, though humane, is not as good as a body politic; because it is better to be part of a body politic than not, it is plausible to assume that a person would consent to be ruled by a body politic and gain the benefits thereof rather than not. Hypothetical consent is the notion that it is reasonable to treat a person as if they had given their consent because it is the most reasonable course of action that all people would do if they knew they could, were able to consent, and were reasonable. It is important to note that this hinges on an assumption and it is not a form of actual consent. In the case of the protestor, it makes sense that she would submit herself to the laws of the government and, in return, reap the reward of protected rights to life and property, ensured liberty, and access to better healthcare, thus improving her right to health. Because of the obvious benefits that outweigh any small negative side effects, it is not possible, for Locke, to understand why she would not consent to this government. Furthermore, one cannot argue that she does not possess a right state of mind to consent. As an adult protesting a situation, it is plausible to conclude that she is educated to some degree and would give her consent to better protect her natural rights. Additionally, because she is an adult and not mentally handicapped, an assumption based on the fact that she is taking an active role as an outspoken citizen, she is able to consent. Finally, because she is able to reason with the police officer, she must be a reasonable person and therefore fulfills the final stipulation for hypothetical consent.

Locke fashions a strong system for consent and with the addition of hypothetical consent, it becomes nearly impossible for a sane person to argue that they are not bound to obey the laws of a state in which they are living. Though some would argue that this presents problems with withdrawing consent, Locke makes it clear that dissenting opinions should be expressed through the legal channels made available with the creation of the government. Whether express, tacit, or hypothetical, it is clear that Locke leaves no excuse for not consenting available to citizens. The body politic is better than a state of nature; all must realize this and agree.

Darryl took Jill by the arm and escorted her into the back of his squad car. “I’m sorry for this, but you are bound by our laws. You seem like a smart person, hopefully you will find a way to communicate your problems legally once you pay the penalty for breaking the law,” Darryl said, closing the back door of his squad car. He drove the two of them towards the police station, smiling that he was actually able to apply his recent philosophy course to his job.protesting a situation, it is plausible to conclude that she is educated to some degree and would give her consent to better protect her natural rights. Additionally, because she is an adult and not mentally handicapped, an assumption based on the fact that she is taking an active role as an outspoken citizen, she is able to consent. Finally, because she is able to reason with the police officer, she must be a reasonable person and therefore fulfills the final stipulation for hypothetical consent.

Locke fashions a strong system for consent and with the addition of hypothetical consent, it becomes nearly impossible for a sane person to argue that they are not bound to obey the laws of a state in which they are living. Though some would argue that this presents problems with withdrawing consent, Locke makes it clear that dissenting opinions should be expressed through the legal channels made available with the creation of the government. Whether express, tacit, or hypothetical, it is clear that Locke leaves no excuse for not consenting available to citizens. The body politic is better than a state of nature; all must realize this and agree.

Darryl took Jill by the arm and escorted her into the back of his squad car. “I’m sorry for this, but you are bound by our laws. You seem like a smart person, hopefully you will find a way to communicate your problems legally once you pay the penalty for breaking the law,” Darryl said, closing the back door of his squad car. He drove the two of them towards the police station, smiling that he was actually able to apply his recent philosophy course to his job.



Source by Adam Link

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