The Boulder Elephant

A trip over to Walter in Denver's blog paid off immediately, with this post about the nature of government at all levels, even the usually weaker local one.

Megan Forbes cooled her heels in jail for a few hours Sunday, long enough for her to rue installing the wrong kind of garage door behind her historic home and then failing to answer a summons on the municipal violation.

Ah, yes, we all agree it's wrong to put people in jail for having the wrong kind of garage door. But the landmarks board and other city entities have authority only via their ability to do that sort of thing. Otherwise homeowners could ignore the board and city regulations and remodel their houses as they wish.

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I've been thinking about

I've been thinking about something Walter wrote in the post you mentioned, "that government derives its power from the use of force." I can't say I've read much on WiD, so I don't know if I'm misreading what Walter wrote, but I'm not sure this statement is exactly right.

Government's derive their power from the consent of the governed. In the event that the governed do not succumb to the government's previously agreed upon rules, then force must be exercised. However, force is only a result of failing to follow the rules. For example, the power of Housing Association X over Neighborhood X is a derivative of the rules agreed upon by the Neighborhood X. But for the consent of those in the neighborhood, the Association (the Government) has no power. Thus, is it the threat of force that empowers the government or the resultant inability to form reliable contracts should the governed fail to follow their own rules? If you consistently fail to follow your own rules, others will stop engaging in trade with you.

Any thoughts? Am I thinking about this wrong?

Neal, are you claiming that

Neal, are you claiming that if I say "do X or I'll kill you", and you do X , that I had your consent? If you didn't consent, you could have opted for plan B (wherein you likely die), right?

The whole point of government is that it enforces behavior in the absence of consent. The "consent of the governed" is a way of saying that there is always the option to rebel, but it doesn't change the basic use of force involved.

Force is NOT a result of failing to follow the rules, it's result of the rule itself. All government rules are unilateral demands of behavior, enforced by the threat of violence.

This does, however, bring up a difficult point for philosophical libertarians. Some rules (like those that maintain private property) seem quite necessary in any society, free or not. And therefore, I presume, force is justified in upholding them. Who gets to decide which rules justify force, and which do not?

Mark, I guess I'm coming at


I guess I'm coming at it from a slightly different angle (I think based on my interpretation of your comment). I'm arguing that consent is required for voluntary governments like Housing Associations or governing contracts. This is not to be confused with de facto governement's like the United States of America or the Dekalb County Government as in these instances, I've never given any consent (because it's consent or else) to be governed. For there to be choice, you must have a viable alternative. This is the case in voluntary governments and not the case in de facto governments. Does that help clarify my position?

Am I the only one who

Am I the only one who thought it was significant that the bench warrant was not really because of her garage door, but her failure to appear in court?

Neal - Consent of the

Neal - Consent of the governed isn't necessary for government, as the long view of history shows. We're (happily) a bit spoiled here in the democratic West. :smile: FWIW, an historic neighborhood board isn't quite the same as a HOA. Your house may become part of an historic neighborhood without your consent. But that hardly matters, unless you think the basic rights of an individual can be diminished by the vote of a majority.

Mike - The circumstances of Ms. Forbes arrest are significant in terms of her treatment by the press, as she was cooperating with the authorities but was sent jail for what appears to be a simple oversight on her part. But if she had refused to recognize the city's authority and refused to comply she would likely have eventually faced worse consequences, and would not have had the sympathy of the press.