A blupete Essay

Why People Obey Government, Part 14 to blupete's Essay
"An Essay On Government"

In any analysis of governmental power, the question soon comes to mind -- How is it, that government can maintain its power? How is it, as David Hume observed, "the many are governed by the few?"27

"The slaves of custom and established mode,
With pack horse constancy, we keep the road
Crooked or straight, through quags or thorny dells,
True to the jingling of our leader's bells."
(Tirocinium, Cowper.)
"The power of the state comes out from the willingness of the people to obey, - Why do they obey, and at what point will they not obey? It was Hume who expressed surprise of the easiness with which "the many are governed by the few"; those who govern have the force of opinion on their side, forget whether the opinion is right or wrong." (Edmund Burke.)
Why people obey government, and often obey government to the point of ruin, -- is a puzzling question. It may be simply a mystery; which we will assign simply to the powerful workings of custom and the mesmerizing effect of the "jingling bells" of the demigods -- who knows? There is little evidence that the crowd, the mob, the great unwashed,28 has any political sense of things. Legal scholars have this idea that people follow government because, to do so, is constitutionally correct, -- never mind that the mass of people have no conscience thought about the process, at all; government has authority because, as we have seen, the people voluntarily give (in a constructive sense) this limited authority to government. This authority is not permanently given, it is but lent, and the grant and its limits are to be found in the country's constitution, something each country has, whether it is written down somewhere or not.

So, it is the country's constitution from which the government takes its power. It uses its constitutional power to make laws and to enforce them. A government cannot ever exceed the authority granted to it by the constitution. A constitution by its very nature will limit the authority of government, -- at least to this extent: government in its law making function can make no law which has the effect of abrogating natural law; and government, at all times, must put itself under the rule of law.


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Peter Landry

2011 (2019)