There are several arguments against philosophical anarchism. Most of the arguments are in line with either the theory that consent is not required or of the theory we have already consented. For the sake of being brief, this essay will attempt to refute only the latter of the two. Along with the idea of individual consent is the longstanding, traditional theory of the authority of God. Other arguments follow a less anarchist view and are that of tacit consent and more specifically that of majority consent.
The idea that consent is essential for the legitimacy of political authority can be argued against in many ways. Traditionally, the argument that God gave government authority was valid and in accepting religion we accept this as well. If you rebel against this order, you rebel against God. It was reason enough for most people to stop questioning such authority. In the last few centuries, however, the idea of personal freedom and independence has shifted mainstream thinking to being skeptical of the religious premise of government. Just because you believe in God doesn’t mean that you believe he gives government authority over you. The rising political awareness in our societies is causing many people to wonder how much power our government should really have over us. Even if the argument of political authority by God still cannot be argued against, then what about those who do not believe in God? Are they expected to follow governmental authority just as everyone else when they do not believe a god gave authority to government? How does on reconcile that they do and still try to argue that everyone has consented in this way?
Next, is the argument of tacit consent. Those upholding this argument say that we consent to government through some action such as voting, paying taxes, or even just by living in its territory. It even goes as far to saying that we consent simply by remaining silent. Does this mean that we consent to something when we choose an option that is forced upon us? We have more options than the ones given to us by the government. It’s just that they have the power to punish us if we don’t choose from their palette of choices. The fact that we make a choice does not necessarily make it voluntary. Can one say then that if someone believes they make a choice voluntarily it constitutes consent? Is a person bound by his consent that he gave if he should not have given it? One could argue that confusion and ignorance are not states of mind that give rational consent. Obviously, we are not coerced into voting or remaining silent. When we vote we believe we might make a choice that will affect a final choice to be made. We are, however, forced into choosing between only certain choices and not necessarily ones we would have chosen by our own free will. By remaining silent do we consent? We could make the time to do something about the way our government is run in one way or another. The way set up for us is through our state representatives. Whether or not we voted for them or voted at all, we have a choice as to whether or not we become involved with them to voice our own opinions. That depends on if the representative has the time to listen to us and if they agree with our point of view. Is this a realistic way of trying to change our options? Lobbying is certainly another way of getting our opinions noticed, but also depends on the representatives’ point of view. Becoming an activist is another option for changing government. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, right? This depends on how many other people agree with you in order to start anything that will get noticed. Even if you do get noticed, then who is to say whether anything will change or not? Why should one even have to go to these measures in order to make an individual choice according to their own free will?
There is also the argument of majority consent. According to this theory, not everyone is required to consent, but a degree of the majority is sufficient to make a governmental command legitimate. Who is to say, though, whether a ruler would rule according to this common will? What about when a person of this majority does not agree with a governmental decision but is forced to obey anyway? Doesn’t this invalidate their consent as part of the majority? When that majority changes according to a specific decision then the majority rule is no longer valid. The idea that prior majority consent validates it falls short in the logic for consenting to it in the first place.
It must be admitted that the theory of consent may not be realistic and the practical applications of it would make government unstable and ineffective. Since not everyone would agree to a specific law it would be extremely difficult and time consuming to ask consent from everyone on a case-by-case basis. Robert Nozick, in his essay, The Minimal State, mentions that if one could prove that the state would be better than a non-state, and if the state arose by a process involving no morally impermissible steps, then that state would be justified. This may be a valid argument for the legitimacy of political authority.
The arguments against anarchism have many problems. The first is that they all encourage ignorance of any thought regarding whether political authority is legitimate. They ask for one to follow authority blindly on the given arguments. This is obviously how authority stays in power. Also, all these theories require that a person give up free will and responsibility from themselves to authority. Rousseau said “To renounce liberty is to renounce being a man.” More questions must be asked on the validity of the arguments and more research is to be done on the practicality of them.
To my mind political anarchy is the most cruel way of ruling the country.