Argument Against Majority Rule

Monday, March 28, 2022 11:40:37 PM

Argument Against Majority Rule

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The trouble with majority rule

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Waldron thinks that the condition would lead Locke to the absurd conclusion that in circumstances of scarcity everyone must starve to death since no one would be able to obtain universal consent and any appropriation would make others worse off. In particular, it is the only way Locke can be thought to have provided some solution to the fact that the consent of all is needed to justify appropriation in the state of nature.

If others are not harmed, they have no grounds to object and can be thought to consent, whereas if they are harmed, it is implausible to think of them as consenting. Sreenivasan does depart from Tully in some important respects. The disadvantage of this interpretation, as Sreenivasan admits, is that it saddles Locke with a flawed argument. Those who merely have the opportunity to labor for others at subsistence wages no longer have the liberty that individuals had before scarcity to benefit from the full surplus of value they create.

Moreover, poor laborers no longer enjoy equality of access to the materials from which products can be made. Simmons presents a still different synthesis. He sides with Waldron and against Tully and Sreenivasan in rejecting the workmanship model. Locke thinks we have property in our own persons even though we do not make or create ourselves. Simmons claims that while Locke did believe that God had rights as creator, human beings have a different limited right as trustees , not as makers. According to the former argument, at least some property rights can be justified by showing that a scheme allowing appropriation of property without consent has beneficial consequences for the preservation of mankind.

This argument is overdetermined, according to Simmons, in that it can be interpreted either theologically or as a simple rule-consequentialist argument. Like Sreenivasan, Simmons sees this as flowing from a prior right of people to secure their subsistence, but Simmons also adds a prior right to self-government. Labor can generate claims to private property because private property makes individuals more independent and able to direct their own actions. Some authors have suggested that Locke may have had an additional concern in mind in writing the chapter on property. David Armitage even argues that there is evidence that Locke was actively involved in revising the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina at the same time he was drafting the chapter on property for the Second Treatise.

A final question concerns the status of those property rights acquired in the state of nature after civil society has come into being. It seems clear that at the very least Locke allows taxation to take place by the consent of the majority rather than requiring unanimous consent 2. Nozick takes Locke to be a libertarian, with the government having no right to take property to use for the common good without the consent of the property owner. On his interpretation, the majority may only tax at the rate needed to allow the government to successfully protect property rights. At the other extreme, Tully thinks that, by the time government is formed, land is already scarce and so the initial holdings of the state of nature are no longer valid and thus are no constraint on governmental action.

His analysis begins with individuals in a state of nature where they are not subject to a common legitimate authority with the power to legislate or adjudicate disputes. From this natural state of freedom and independence, Locke stresses individual consent as the mechanism by which political societies are created and individuals join those societies. While there are of course some general obligations and rights that all people have from the law of nature, special obligations come about only when we voluntarily undertake them.

Locke clearly states that one can only become a full member of society by an act of express consent Two Treatises 2. Simply by walking along the highways of a country a person gives tacit consent to the government and agrees to obey it while living in its territory. This, Locke thinks, explains why resident aliens have an obligation to obey the laws of the state where they reside, though only while they live there. Inheriting property creates an even stronger bond, since the original owner of the property permanently put the property under the jurisdiction of the commonwealth. Children, when they accept the property of their parents, consent to the jurisdiction of the commonwealth over that property Two Treatises 2. There is debate over whether the inheritance of property should be regarded as tacit or express consent.

On one interpretation, by accepting the property, Locke thinks a person becomes a full member of society, which implies that he must regard this as an act of express consent. On the other interpretation, Locke recognized that people inheriting property did not in the process of doing so make any explicit declaration about their political obligation. However this debate is resolved, there will be in any current or previously existing society many people who have never given express consent, and thus some version of tacit consent seems needed to explain how governments could still be legitimate. It is one thing, he argues, for a person to consent by actions rather than words; it is quite another to claim a person has consented without being aware that they have done so.

To require a person to leave behind all of their property and emigrate in order to avoid giving tacit consent is to create a situation where continued residence is not a free and voluntary choice. Hannah Pitkin takes a very different approach. Tacit consent is indeed a watering down of the concept of consent, but Locke can do this because the basic content of what governments are to be like is set by natural law and not by consent. Pitkin, however, thinks that for Locke the form and powers of government are determined by natural law. What really matters, therefore, is not previous acts of consent but the quality of the present government, whether it corresponds to what natural law requires.

Locke does not think, for example, that walking the streets or inheriting property in a tyrannical regime means we have consented to that regime. It is thus the quality of the government, not acts of actual consent, that determine whether a government is legitimate. Simmons objects to this interpretation, saying that it fails to account for the many places where Locke does indeed say a person acquires political obligations only by his own consent. John Dunn takes a still different approach. Simmons objects that this ignores the instances where Locke does talk about consent as a deliberate choice and that, in any case, it would only make Locke consistent at the price of making him unconvincing.

Recent scholarship has continued to probe these issues. Only those who have expressly consented are members of political society, while the government exercises legitimate authority over various types of people who have not so consented. The government is supreme in some respects, but there is no sovereign. The former is more plausibly interpreted as an act of affirmative consent to be a member of a political society. Registering to vote, as opposed to actually voting, would be a contemporary analogue. Van der Vossen makes a related argument, claiming that the initial consent of property owners is not the mechanism by which governments come to rule over a particular territory. Rather, Locke thinks that people probably fathers initially simply begin exercising political authority and people tacitly consent.

This tacit consent is sufficient to justify a rudimentary state that rules over the consenters. Treaties between these governments would then fix the territorial borders. Hoff goes still further, arguing that we need not even think of specific acts of tacit consent such as deciding not to emigrate as necessary for generating political obligation. Instead, consent is implied if the government itself functions in ways that show it is answerable to the people. A related question has to do with the extent of our obligation once consent has been given.

The interpretive school influenced by Strauss emphasizes the primacy of preservation. Since the duties of natural law apply only when our preservation is not threatened Two Treatises 2. This has important implications if we consider a soldier who is being sent on a mission where death is extremely likely. Grant points out that Locke believes a soldier who deserts from such a mission 2. Grant takes Locke to be claiming not only that desertion laws are legitimate in the sense that they can be blamelessly enforced something Hobbes would grant but that they also imply a moral obligation on the part of the soldier to give up his life for the common good something Hobbes would deny.

According to Grant, Locke thinks that our acts of consent can, in fact, extend to cases where living up to our commitments will risk our lives. The decision to enter political society is a permanent one for precisely this reason: the society will have to be defended and if people can revoke their consent to help protect it when attacked, the act of consent made when entering political society would be pointless since the political community would fail at the very point where it is most needed.

People make a calculated decision when they enter society, and the risk of dying in combat is part of that calculation. Grant also thinks Locke recognizes a duty based on reciprocity since others risk their lives as well. A different approach asks what role consent plays in determining, here and now, the legitimate ends that governments can pursue. One part of this debate is captured by the debate between Seliger and Kendall , the former viewing Locke as a constitutionalist and the latter viewing him as giving almost unlimited power to majorities.

On the former interpretation, a constitution is created by the consent of the people as part of the creation of the commonwealth. On the latter interpretation, the people create a legislature which rules by majority vote. A third view, advanced by Tuckness a , holds that Locke was flexible at this point and gave people considerable flexibility in constitutional drafting. A second part of the debate focuses on ends rather than institutions. Locke states in the Two Treatises that the power of the Government is limited to the public good. Libertarians like Nozick read this as stating that governments exist only to protect people from infringements on their rights. On this second reading, government is limited to fulfilling the purposes of natural law, but these include positive goals as well as negative rights.

On this view, the power to promote the common good extends to actions designed to increase population, improve the military, strengthen the economy and infrastructure, and so on, provided these steps are indirectly useful to the goal of preserving the society. In arguing this, Locke was disagreeing with Samuel Pufendorf Samuel Pufendorf had argued strongly that the concept of punishment made no sense apart from an established positive legal structure. Locke realized that the crucial objection to allowing people to act as judges with power to punish in the state of nature was that such people would end up being judges in their own cases.

Locke readily admitted that this was a serious inconvenience and a primary reason for leaving the state of nature Two Treatises 2. Locke insisted on this point because it helped explain the transition into civil society. The power to punish in the state of nature is thus the foundation for the right of governments to use coercive force. The situation becomes more complex, however, if we look at the principles which are to guide punishment. Rationales for punishment are often divided into those that are forward-looking and backward-looking. Forward-looking rationales include deterring crime, protecting society from dangerous persons, and rehabilitation of criminals. Backward-looking rationales normally focus on retribution, inflicting on the criminal harm comparable to the crime.

Locke may seem to conflate these two rationales in passages like the following:. Locke talks both of retribution and of punishing only for reparation and restraint. Simmons argues that this is evidence that Locke is combining both rationales for punishment in his theory. In the passage quoted above, Locke is saying that the proper amount of punishment is the amount that will provide restitution to injured parties, protect the public, and deter future crime. Even in the state of nature, a primary justification for punishment is that it helps further the positive goal of preserving human life and human property. The emphasis on deterrence, public safety, and restitution in punishments administered by the government mirrors this emphasis.

A second puzzle regarding punishment is the permissibility of punishing internationally. Locke describes international relations as a state of nature, and so in principle, states should have the same power to punish breaches of the natural law in the international community that individuals have in the state of nature. This would legitimize, for example, punishment of individuals for war crimes or crimes against humanity even in cases where neither the laws of the particular state nor international law authorize punishment.

The most common interpretation has thus been that the power to punish internationally is symmetrical with the power to punish in the state of nature. Tuckness a , however, has argued that there is an asymmetry between the two cases because Locke also talks about states being limited in the goals that they can pursue. Locke often says that the power of the government is to be used for the protection of the rights of its own citizens, not for the rights of all people everywhere Two Treatises 1. Locke argues that in the state of nature a person is to use the power to punish to preserve his society, which is mankind as a whole.

After states are formed, however, the power to punish is to be used for the benefit of his own particular society. In the state of nature, a person is not required to risk his life for another Two Treatises 2. Locke may therefore be objecting to the idea that soldiers can be compelled to risk their lives for altruistic reasons. In the state of nature, a person could refuse to attempt to punish others if doing so would risk his life and so Locke reasons that individuals may not have consented to allow the state to risk their lives for altruistic punishment of international crimes.

Locke claims that legitimate government is based on the idea of separation of powers. First and foremost of these is the legislative power. Locke describes the legislative power as supreme Two Treatises 2. The legislature is still bound by the law of nature and much of what it does is set down laws that further the goals of natural law and specify appropriate punishments for them 2. The executive power is then charged with enforcing the law as it is applied in specific cases. Since countries are still in the state of nature with respect to each other, they must follow the dictates of natural law and can punish one another for violations of that law in order to protect the rights of their citizens.

The fact that Locke does not mention the judicial power as a separate power becomes clearer if we distinguish powers from institutions. Powers relate to functions. To have a power means that there is a function such as making the laws or enforcing the laws that one may legitimately perform. When Locke says that the legislative is supreme over the executive, he is not saying that parliament is supreme over the king. Moreover, Locke thinks that it is possible for multiple institutions to share the same power; for example, the legislative power in his day was shared by the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the King. Since all three needed to agree for something to become law, all three are part of the legislative power 1.

He also thinks that the federative power and the executive power are normally placed in the hands of the executive, so it is possible for the same person to exercise more than one power or function. There is, therefore, no one-to-one correspondence between powers and institutions Tuckness a. Locke is not opposed to having distinct institutions called courts, but he does not see interpretation as a distinct function or power. For Locke, legislation is primarily about announcing a general rule stipulating what types of actions should receive what types of punishments.

The executive power is the power to make the judgments necessary to apply those rules to specific cases and administer force as directed by the rule Two Treatises 2. Both of these actions involve interpretation. In other words, the executive must interpret the laws in light of its understanding of natural law. Similarly, legislation involves making the laws of nature more specific and determining how to apply them to particular circumstances 2. Locke did not think of interpreting law as a distinct function because he thought it was a part of both the legislative and executive functions Tuckness a.

It is more the terminology than the concepts that have changed. Locke considered arresting a person, trying a person, and punishing a person as all part of the function of executing the law rather than as a distinct function Tuckness a. Locke believed that it was important that the legislative power contain an assembly of elected representatives, but as we have seen the legislative power could contain monarchical and aristocratic elements as well.

Locke was more concerned that the people have representatives with sufficient power to block attacks on their liberty and attempts to tax them without justification. This is important because Locke also affirms that the community remains the real supreme power throughout. This can happen for a variety of reasons. The entire society can be dissolved by a successful foreign invasion 2. If the rule of law is ignored, if the representatives of the people are prevented from assembling, if the mechanisms of election are altered without popular consent, or if the people are handed over to a foreign power, then they can take back their original authority and overthrow the government 2.

They can also rebel if the government attempts to take away their rights 2. Locke thinks this is justifiable since oppressed people will likely rebel anyway, and those who are not oppressed will be unlikely to rebel. Moreover, the threat of possible rebellion makes tyranny less likely to start with 2. For all these reasons, while there are a variety of legitimate constitutional forms, the delegation of power under any constitution is understood to be conditional.

Prerogative is the right of the executive to act without explicit authorization for a law, or even contrary to the law, in order to better fulfill the laws that seek the preservation of human life. A king might, for example, order that a house be torn down in order to stop a fire from spreading throughout a city Two Treatises 2. Locke handles this by explaining that the rationale for this power is that general rules cannot cover all possible cases and that inflexible adherence to the rules would be detrimental to the public good and that the legislature is not always in session to render a judgment 2.

The relationship between the executive and the legislature depends on the specific constitution. If, however, the chief executive has a veto, the result would be a stalemate between them. Locke describes a similar stalemate in the case where the chief executive has the power to call parliament and can thus prevent it from meeting by refusing to call it into session. Locke assumes that people, when they leave the state of nature, create a government with some sort of constitution that specifies which entities are entitled to exercise which powers.

Locke also assumes that these powers will be used to protect the rights of the people and to promote the public good. In cases where there is a dispute between the people and the government about whether the government is fulfilling its obligations, there is no higher human authority to which one can appeal. The only appeal left, for Locke, is the appeal to God. His central claims are that government should not use force to try to bring people to the true religion and that religious societies are voluntary organizations that have no right to use coercive power over their own members or those outside their group.

One recurring line of argument that Locke uses is explicitly religious. Locke argues that neither the example of Jesus nor the teaching of the New Testament gives any indication that force is a proper way to bring people to salvation. He also frequently points out what he takes to be clear evidence of hypocrisy, namely that those who are so quick to persecute others for small differences in worship or doctrine are relatively unconcerned with much more obvious moral sins that pose an even greater threat to their eternal state.

In addition to these and similar religious arguments, Locke gives three reasons that are more philosophical in nature for barring governments from using force to encourage people to adopt religious beliefs Works — This argument resonates with the structure of argument used so often in the Two Treatises to establish the natural freedom and equality of mankind. There is no command in the Bible telling magistrates to bring people to the true faith, and people could not consent to such a goal for government because it is not possible for people, at will, to believe what the magistrate tells them to believe. Their beliefs are a function of what they think is true, not what they will.

Many of the magistrates of the world believe religions that are false. If force is indirectly useful in bringing people to the true faith, then Locke has not provided a persuasive argument. Waldron pointed out that this argument blocks only one particular reason for persecution, not all reasons. Thus it would not stop someone who used religious persecution for some end other than religious conversion, such as preserving the peace. Tuckness b and Tate argue that Locke deemphasized the rationality argument in his later writings. Susan Mendus , for example, notes that successful brainwashing might cause a person to sincerely utter a set of beliefs, but that those beliefs might still not count as genuine.

Beliefs induced by coercion might be similarly problematic. Paul Bou Habib argues that what Locke is really after is sincere inquiry and that Locke thinks inquiry undertaken only because of duress is necessarily insincere. A person who has good reason to think he will not change his beliefs even when persecuted has good reason to prevent the persecution scenario from ever happening. Richard Vernon argues that we want not only to hold right beliefs, but also to hold them for the right reasons. The vaccines are effective against preventing hospitalizations and deaths, according to state-level hospital data. As a child, I attended evangelical summer camps that required vaccinations, and as an adult, I worked for ministries with similar mandates.

Some conservative evangelicals just don't like the political taste of this particular vaccine on the menu. Chang added, "The consensus of mainstream Christian leaders — from Pope Francis to Franklin Graham — is that vaccination is consistent with biblical Christian faith. Jeffress has quoted Philippians in his support of the vaccine. Have this attitude in yourself, which was in Christ Jesus,' who gave Himself, was crucified for our sin payment. It's not just about me; it's about us," Jeffress said. You know, Jesus came to earth to die for us, not for His benefit, but for ours. And we're to have that same attitude toward other people as well. Trump Urges Supporters: 'Take the Vaccines.

I Did. Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years.

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