Tacit Consent and Free Slavery
When you make a deal with someone in buying a car, for example, you consent with the price that the seller is giving you. In that agreement you probably shake hands and sign some papers and these actions demonstrate your approval of the seller’s price according to the conditions of the car. Now, imagine that watching all this, is your 18 year old son that does not agree with what you are doing. According to his point of view, the price is not fair enough and he doesn’t like the car model. However, he never expresses his disapproval or lack of consent to you for it is the first car of its type your family has ever been able to buy. Your son still thinks, though, that the family has enough money to afford a better car and with a much preferable deal.
Suppose that when you die, your son will not necessarily keep the car, for he never consented the buying of it. He didn’t sign any papers, it did not cost him, and it is worth nothing to him. In the end, he ends up throwing the car in the dump. Imagine you are able to see all that he does and you say, “How ungrateful of him, I thought he liked the car, every time he wanted to go out, I let him take it and he happily went in it, he would sometimes help me wash it and take care of the mechanical issues. When I was buying it, he said nothing, just smiled at me. I thought he approved that car.” You never thought that he did all these things, because it was the only car you had and he had no other choice.
John Locke, a philosopher of the 17th century talked about how people consent to the idea of a government ruling over them. What he expresses is no different than what the father implied about his son consenting to the car. The “son” or people never sign anything saying, “I hereby consent to the establishment of this or that.” However, they let the government or “father” prejudice their acquiescence with the people’s or son’s actions. John Locke called this “tacit consent”. This type of consent is merely implied. He said that the citizens of a nation consent to what the government is doing when they accept the benefits that the government offers, like traveling on roads the government built and protects. Unanimous consent is difficult to obtain in a nation, therefore, according to John Locke, tacit consent is needed. If a people using governmental benefits, does not prove their actual consent, what does?
I don’t know, but tacit consent is absurd, and according to Lysander Spooner, it is also. Spooner asks if anyone living signed the constitution or consented to it. The truth is that no one living in Spooner’s time, the 19th century, and our time, the 21st century, has ever done such things. “Oh, well then, when people vote they are consenting to the government they choose.” This is implied, they are not necessarily consenting. The reasons are because not everyone is allowed to vote, plus, out of those that are allowed, not all do vote. Also, sometimes people vote in self-defense, not agreeing to the fact that a certain political system should govern over them.
We sometimes don’t want a form of government to rule us, because we don’t want to be slaves of that system. Someone may ask, “How can there be slaves in a free society?” and I ask back, “How do you know it is a free society?” Robert Nozick, in his book, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, published in 1974, included a tale, The Tale of the Slave, where he expressed a very valid point to analyze.
He begins saying, “There is a slave completely at the mercy of his brutal master’s whims. He often is cruelly beaten, called out in the middle of the night, and so on.” Then Robert Nozick goes on presenting other 8 situations where the master begins to be kinder with his slaves, beats them with purpose, gives them free time, he has a group of slaves, and decides how to assign things to them on pleasant grounds, realizing their needs and merit. Then, he doesn’t whip the slaves at all anymore and starts to let the slaves have four days on their own and only requires them for three. The master, then allows the slaves to go off into the city and work for wages, he only asks for three sevenths of their earnings in return. He also tells them to not do things that endanger the slaves’ lives for their death would lower his financial return.
Nozick keeps going until he gets to a situation that is very similar to how we live nowadays. He exposes saying that ten thousand slaves are allowed to vote on rules and regulations, but you are the only slave that can’t vote. Until, one day, they come to a point, practically impossible, where the votes are 5000 vs. 5000 and they need one vote to decide. Therefore, that is when they choose to include you from this moment on in the voting. You vote for one specific side, the votes turn 5001 vs. 5000, and your side wins. However, the next days all slaves vote, if the things are not tied up, your vote will make no difference. Finally Robert Nozick asks, “Which transition from case 1 to 9 made it no longer the tale of the slave(s)?”
We do not have entities, we only have individuals. In other words, a person will no longer be a slave or part of an enslaving system until people start acknowledging that we are single-minded individuals, that have a will no one can touch, and along with that will, we have property rights. Property rights that lead us to the freedom to do with whatever we own and whoever we are as we please and no one can tell us the opposite, no one can infringe our rights without being penalized, not even the Civil Government. If our rights are trespassed and the people who committed the crime get away with it, the system turns into a corrupt system, a system of slavery. Some slave autobiographies take us to the conclusion that a system of slavery not only corrupts the people that hold the power, but also the people under such power.