Government 1B Week 2 Tacit Consent and Free Speech

Question 1: Discuss several of Spooner’s arguments against the idea that Americans have consented to their government in a meaningful way. Do you find Spooner persuasive? Why or why not?

Spooner stated that to reap the benefits of government (such as protection from crime) one must consent to live under the authority and laws of that government. But, how exactly do we give consent? Does someone come to your door with a contract for you to sign stating you consent to the governments regulations? Do you take a pledge as a young child, making you honor bound to respect the governments authority? Of course not, but you live here and you accept the benefits of government, so you’ve given something called tacit consent. Tacit consent is implied consent, its the idea that: “Well you live in this country and you haven’t packed up and left, so obviously you’re fine with the government having authority over you.” You have the right to vote, the right to be protected from violence, and the right to have your private property legally under your name; so because you’re reaping governmental benefits you’ve given tacit consent. Spooner acknowledged this, but he believed that it’s an unfair arrangement. Spooner argued that the only way not to give consent is to leave the country, and for many people this is an impossible option. Many people don’t have the funds, or they simply don’t want to move to an entirely new country and culture. Do they still give tacit consent, even though they want no part in the system? By the governments standpoint: yes. Even if they would choose not to consent, by not leaving the country they’re forced into consent. Voters are said to have given consent, even if they’re using their vote to try diminishing government control. They still participated in the vote, and therefor are forced to accept the outcome despite disagreeing with it. Spooner argued that there is no way to live in a government controlled country and not consent to the governments authority. No other business uses this tacit consent, because there’s no way to force everyone to truthfully consent. He argued that there should be a way to step out of the system if one wants to, to neither live under the authority of or gain any benefits from the government.

Question 2: Is there a “right to free speech” in the abstract, or is the question of free speech a root matter of property rights?

Free speech seems like an abstract law at first glance, a law that allows individuals to speak their mind when they feel the need to. But to truly understand this law you have to take the bigger picture into account, and the bigger picture tends to be rooted in private property. Because the government has authority over the laws you’d assume they also have authority over free speech. But the one thing the government doesn’t have authority over is private property, and because of this free speech morphs and changes from property to property depending on what the owner thinks is appropriate. For example, it’s obvious to most that if you yelled “fire” in a crowded theater you’d be forced to leave. Yelling “fire” would cause a panic, and the owner of the theater would have the jurisdiction to escort you from the property. This is the owners authority, not the governments. It’s the same with any other piece of private property, the owner maintains the authority over what can be said. If you went to a friends house and started insulting his wife for example, even though this falls under free speech the friend has the authority to ask you to leave if you continue this behavior. Though you could call this keeping the peace or simply having common decency, the strict definition boils down to private property and the owner having authority over what is said on that property.

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