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Forum Post: The Right to Ignore the State

Posted 1 year ago on Sept. 7, 2012, 9:12 p.m. EST by darrenlobo (204)
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The very existence of majorities and minorities is indicative of an immoral state. The man whose character harmonizes with the moral law, we found to be one who can obtain complete happiness without diminishing the happiness of his fellows. But the enactment of public arrangements by vote implies a society consisting of men otherwise constituted; implies that the desires of some cannot be satisfied without sacrificing the desires of others; implies that in the pursuit of their happiness the majority inflict a certain amount of unhappiness on the minority; implies, therefore, organic immorality.

Thus, from another point of view, we again perceive that even in its most equitable form it is impossible for government to dissociate itself from evil; and further, that unless the right to ignore the state is recognized, its acts must be essentially criminal.


In affirming that a man may not be taxed unless he has directly or indirectly given his consent, it affirms that he may refuse to be so taxed; and to refuse to be taxed is to cut all connection with the state.

Perhaps it will be said that this consent is not a specific, but a general one, and that the citizen is understood to have assented to everything his representative may do, when he voted for him. But suppose he did not vote for him, and on the contrary did all in his power to get elected someone holding opposite views. What then?

The reply will probably be that, by taking part in such an election, he tacitly agreed to abide by the decision of the majority. And how if he did not vote at all? Why then he cannot justly complain of any tax, seeing that he made no protest against its imposition.

So, curiously enough, it seems that he gave his consent in whatever way he acted — whether he said yes, whether he said no, or whether he remained neuter! A rather awkward doctrine this. Here stands an unfortunate citizen who is asked if he will pay money for a certain proffered advantage; and whether he employs the only means of expressing his refusal or does not employ it, we are told that he practically agrees, if only the number of others who agree is greater than the number of those who dissent.

And thus we are introduced to the novel principle that A's consent to a thing is not determined by what A says, but by what B may happen to say!

Herbert Spencer The Right to Ignore the State Social Statics or, The Conditions essential to Happiness specified, and the First of them Developed (1851) Chapter 19 http://www.thepillarsofliberty.com/classical-liberty-abutment/the-right-to-ignore-the-state/all-pages

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