Philosophy of Democratic Government / by Yves R. Simon

Authority in Democracy

Among the obnoxious simplifications which fill the treatises of political science, let us single out the proposition that the divine-right theory is theocratic and the sovereignty-of-the-people theory democratic. If theocracy means the ruling of temporal society by the spiritual power, no theory of divine right is theocratic. The common view that every lawful authority holds from God the power of binding man's conscience is not theocratic but rather dismisses all theocratic claim by supplying the temporal power with a complete justification. And King James's theory is shrewdly calculated to exclude all threat of theocracy by setting, between the king and God, a relation equal to that which obtains between the pope and God (at least equal, for the privilege of hereditary transmission can make it even better). As to the expression "sovereignty of the people," we know that it may refer to the coach-driver theory, in which case there is nothing democratic about the so-called "sovereignty of the people," for there cannot be democratic government when the very essence of government is negated; this lust for a situation in which the need of society for leadership would be satisfied without the leader (who may well be the community itself, expressing itself through majority vote) being endowed with any authority does not pertain to democracy any more than to any other regime, although it is in the democratic framework that it expects satisfaction, so that democracy is particularly exposed to its destructive power. If, on the other hand, the expression "sovereignty of the people" refers to the transmission theory, it should be mentioned that this theory was never understood to hold for democracy alone. Historians often described the views of Bellarmine and Suarez as expressions of the democratic theory of sovereignty; yet neither of these thinkers meant to recommend democracy. They both had in view principally the monarchical governments of their time; and against the disorderly claims of emerging absolutism they meant to define general conditions of political sovereignty holding for every political government, whether democratic or not.

This point should be stressed: the transmission theory is not understood by its proponents to be distinctly democratic. It is distinctly political, no more.{17} The implications of its political character are three: (1) it concerns the state, i.e., the complete or perfect temporal community; (2) it concerns the fully legitimate government of such community rather than what we call a de facto government, which must be obeyed for the single reason that, under the circumstances, disobedience would entail more inconvenience than obedience; (3) it concerns, finally, a government which is political in the sense defined in the second chapter of this book, viz., in the sense in which a political system is understood to imply a degree of autonomy and a legally defined power of resistance in the hands of the governed. If a despotic regime happens to be legitimate (as in the case, mentioned by Suarez, of a rule resulting from just conquest and not yet sanctioned by popular consent), the transmission theory of sovereignty does not apply fully; true, the normal characteristics of temporal society are but partly realized; for a society which can be lawfully ruled in despotic fashion is one that has not yet attained maturity as a complete temporal society or one that has lost the privileges of maturity through some perversion.

When the concept of temporal government is realized with all its implications, the transmission theory of sovereignty holds, regardless of whether government is democratic, aristocratic, monarchical, or mixed. It implies that the governed consent to the government which is theirs, but it does not imply that this consent is necessarily exercised in the democratic procedure of election. The constitutional powers of the British king and those of the French president are similar in several respects: the French president is elected by the people, though indirectly; the British king is designated by heredity; both enjoy the consent of the majority. In the case of the president, this consent is expressed by election; in the case of the king, without any election. Notice that the popular consent given to the British king without any voting procedure is at least as genuine, sincere, profound, and unmistakably established as the consent given, through election, to the French president. The transmission theory implies that the power which primarily belongs to the people and has been transmitted by it to a distinct governing personnel can be withdrawn from unworthy rulers. We saw how firmly Cajetan maintains that the church is unlike the state so far as deposition of the unworthy ruler is concerned. According to Cajetan, the deposition of the unworthy king by the people constitutes the exercise of a power superior to that of the king, and there is no power superior to that of the pope, except that of Christ himself; so that the deposition of the heretical pope has to be accounted for in a way essentially different from the way in which the deposition of the unworthy king is accounted for. Thus, whether the regime is democratic or not, the transmission theory holds that the people, after having transmitted power and having placed itself in a position of mandatory obedience, retains a power greater than the power transmitted; this power is to be exercised when, and only when, the governing personnel are gravely unfaithful to their task. Consider, for the sake of clarity, the case of a monarchy according to the old pattern, i.e., that of a monarchy associated with few, if any, democratic elements; according to the transmission theory, the people enjoys, in such a system, a power greater than that of the king; what difference and what relation are there between this power of the people in a nondemocratic state and the power of democratic control?

The transmission theory holds that the people still possesses, after transmission has been effected, a power greater than that of the governing personnel; yet, in an aristocratic or monarchical regime this power cannot be lawfully exercised except in extreme cases: this is not democratic control, which is periodically exercised without there being anything abnormal or extraordinary about the circumstances. The British can vote Mr. Churchill out of power without even implying that they are dissatisfied with his record; they may merely mean that, after the war has been won, they intend to turn to tasks for which another administration is better qualified. The common right of deposition, which the transmission theory grants to every politically organized people, cannot be lawfully exercised without extraordinary circumstances, without dire and immediate threat to the common good. Thus, between the two, the difference is obvious. It can be illustrated by a comparison with the laws concerning the ownership of earthly goods. Anyone, no matter how destitute, may become lawful owner of a loaf of bread in case of extreme necessity. Yet there is a great difference, with regard to the use of wealth, between the man who can acquire it by regular means, i.e., by paying for it, and the man who can acquire it only in extraordinary circumstances and through the extraordinary privileges of extreme necessity. The people who transmitted power within democratic forms exercise, whenever election time comes, a power which may be likened to that of the regular owner over his regularly possessed goods. The people who transmitted power to a hereditary king and depose their ruler on account of high treason or some extraordinary mismanagement exercise a right that can be likened to that of anyone to make use of earthly goods, in an extreme emergency, to preserve his life or that of those who belong to him.

No matter how clear the difference between the common right of deposition and the democratic right of control, it is hardly possible to give much thought to the former without inclining toward the establishment of the latter. If people envisage the removal of their ruler as a contingency likely to occur in not extremely rare cases, they are logically inclined to promote institutions that can handle the procedure of deposition in nonrevolutionary fashion; such institutions, almost inevitably, turn out to be the beginning of democratic control. But what are the peoples who fail to realize that the removal rulers is a thing necessary in not exceedingly rare cases? Such peoples are those among whom a mythical representation of the governing personnel prevails, as in traditional Japan and also in nontraditional countries where many persons have come to believe that the genius of history is embodied in a definite party. Since there can be no question of deposing the genius of history, there is no use contemplating circumstances under which it might be necessary to get rid of such a party. Let the conclusion be that the concept of popular control inherent in the transmission theory and inseparable from it favors the promotion of democracy, although it is not distinctly democratic and finds application in every fully political system.

The features characterizing the behavior of sovereignty in democracy are still to be disengaged. Let us use, as a starting point, the trivial consideration that democracy alone admits of nontransmission of power. If the people, having received sovereignty from God, refrains from taking the human measures necessary for the establishment of monarchy or aristocracy, it finds itself constituted as a democratic society by its very abstention. Nontransmission of authority means democracy in its most typical form. Although a regime implying no transmission of power and no distinct governing personnel is a rare occurrence, it is plain that direct rule of the whole community through majority vote is the archetype of all democratic institutions and the fundamental pattern which must be referred to whenever there is a problem of understanding the democratic element in a mixed society.

What characterizes the democratic condition of sovereignty is that, in a democracy, sovereignty is never completely transmitted. But let us first consider in what sense sovereignty can be said to be completely transmitted in a nondemocratic regime. If the nondemocratic regime is political in the full sense of the term, the people remains capable of exercising a power superior to that of the king; but the act of transmission implies that such power can be exercised only under extraordinary circumstances and on account of a dire threat to the welfare of the community. Under normal circumstances the transmission of power to the king precludes the exercise of this popular power which is greater than that of the king. According to the theory of Cajetan, the king deposed by the people is deposed by a power superior to his; thus it would not be appropriate to say that, under extreme circumstances, the power transmitted to the king reverts to the people; for the deposition of the king as described by Cajetan, in a sharp contrast with the deposition of the heretical pope, implies the exercise of a power superior to that of the king; it implies that, while the king is still in power, another power superior to his, viz., the power of the people, steps in and puts an end to the power of the king. Are we back to the coach-driver theory? The temptation is great to say that the transmission of power is ungenuine and merely apparent. If the people retains a power superior to that of the king, it looks very much as if the king were only a secretary or manager hired by the people. To this difficulty let it be answered that, in order for the transmission of power to be genuine, it suffices that the superior power of the people should be suspended by the act of transmission and should remain suspended until circumstances of extreme seriousness give back to the people the right to exercise it. While royal power is normally exercised, the people remains in possession of a power superior to that of the king; otherwise, it could not, under extreme circumstances, depose the king by virtue of a power superior to his. But the act of genuine transmission suspends the exercise of the people's power; subjection to the king is genuine; subjects are bound in conscience to obey the genuine power of the king. The proper effect of the extraordinary circumstances under which the people can depose the king is to make it again lawful for the people to exercise a power which it never ceased to have but which could not be lawfully exercised under normal circumstances. The key to the interpretation of the case is the notion that the actual possession of a power does not necessarily entail the right to use it actually and that the suspension of the right to use a certain power does not necessarily entail the loss of this power. The following example may help to explain this important point.

Let us think of a constitutional ruler to whom the constitution gives extraordinary powers (e.g., that of issuing laws without parliamentary vote) in emergency situations. When an emergency materializes, what is it, precisely, that happens? Extraordinary powers are given to the governor not by the emergency but by the constitution. But the constitution gave such powers under such limitations that any claim to exercise them outside the emergency situation would be high treason. What the emergency effects is the releasing of powers given by the constitution under the provision that they are emergency powers and, consequently, cannot be lawfully exercised except in an emergency. Similarly, the people who transmitted power to a king would be guilty of criminal disobedience if they decided to depose the king for no extraordinarily grave reasons. It would be like a constitutional ruler fancying to exercise emergency powers when there is no emergency. Thus the superior power retained by the people does not jeopardize the genuineness of the transmission. Transmission is so genuine as to bind the superior power of the people, to tie it up in such a way that extraordinarily serious circumstances alone can untie it. The situation, so interpreted, does not resemble the relation symbolized by the coach-driver any more than a constitutional ruler endowed with emergency powers resembles an absolute despot.

This is, briefly, the sense in which transmission of power is complete in a nondemocratic regime. Its completeness does not mean that the power of the people ceases to be superior to that of the king. Such superiority cannot cease, It is due to the very nature of civil society and to the privilege of the civil multitude as first bearer of God-given power. In this very precise sense the sovereignty of the people is inalienable.

What distinguishes democracy is that in a democratic regime transmission of sovereignty is incomplete even in the sense in which it would be complete if the regime were nondemocratic. In other words, over and above this nontransmissible power that the people retains under all circumstances,{18} the people, in a democracy, retains the exercise of powers which are transmissible and would be transmitted if the regime were not democratic. Democracy never transmits the whole of the transmissible powers. Every democracy remains, in varying degree, a direct democracy.

Let us briefly survey the features which evidence, in common democratic practice, the partial nontransmission of sovereignty. If government by distinct personnel is made democratic by the control of the people over the governing personnel through the procedure of periodical election, the very definition of democracy (indirectly exercised) points to merely partial transmission of sovereignty. It cannot be said that sovereignty is entirely transmitted to distinct personnel when the basic understanding is that this personnel will render accounts at the end of a determinate period and be reinstated or not by act of the people's sovereignty. But, in addition to the basic procedure of control over the governing personnel through periodical election, democratic practice always retains some aspects of direct democratic government. One of these practices is the obligation of submitting some particularly important laws (e.g., constitutional dispositions) to referendum. Another one, so common that without it democracy, at least in modern societies, is inconceivable, and so broad in its scope as to affect all aspects of political life, is the power of public opinion.

This is one aspect by which normal democratic practice bears resemblance to the coach-driver system. On account of this resemblance, this aspect of democratic practice can favor the inconspicuous corruption of democracy into masked anarchy. What are we requested to do when organizations pray that we bombard our congressman with letters to the effect that we want him to vote in such and such fashion? Bombardment of congressmen by letters from the electors may be interpreted in either of two ways, and this is why it is always a risky method. It may be interpreted as meaning that power of legislation and control over the executive has never been genuinely transmitted to the United States Congress, that this power has been retained by the people, and that, accordingly, congressmen are merely managers hired by the people for the enforcement of their will. This interpretation, familiar to all demagogues, violates the Constitution of the United States and constitutes an appeal to rebellion. It is fitting to recall here Bellarmine's proposition that the people is not morally free to transmit or not to transmit power. As explained, this proposition does not necessarily signify that Bellarmine ignores the lawfulness of direct democracy. It means that, when circumstances are such that a distinct governing personnel is needed, the people is obligated to create such a governing personnel and to transmit authority to it. Transmission of authority is not necessary under all circumstances. There are circumstances under which a community can do without distinct governing personnel, but the thing which is never ethical and never political is insincere, ungenuine, unfaithful, apparent, and not real -- in short, treacherous -- transmission of authority. A king may not be restricted by constitutional control; but, if he is, he cannot ignore constitutional control without violating the constitution and deserving the most severe punishment. Similarly, a people may not transmit sovereignty; it may, if circumstances allow, govern itself directly by majority vote and know of no distinct personnel except managers. But when circumstances demand that power be transmitted to a distinct governing personnel, when this demand of the common good has been sanctioned by fundamental law, every attempt at corrupting transmission of power into an ungenuine process is sheer revolt against the fundamental law of the country. Provided that those things are understood, public opinion has a noble part to play in the operation of democratic government.

The truth is that in every democracy, at least under modern conditions, the people retains the character of a deliberating assembly. The constitutional tradition of Great Britain provides for two assemblies, the House of Lords and the House of Commons; but a less articulate part of the constitution gives considerable power to a third assembly, viz., the people, as able to express its thoughts and wills through the common channels of public opinion. The Constitution of the United States was written with a higher degree of self-consciousness; yet it includes an unwritten part which gives considerable power to a third assembly, viz., the people of the United States. That the powers of this informal assembly should not be mentioned in any formal document is easy to understand and entirely normal. But, because of the informal character of this assembly and of the unwritten character of its powers, great uncertainties inevitably ensue, and it is in the shadow of these uncertainties that democratic government ceaselessly undergoes the temptation of being corrupted into a coach-driver system. Again, all the essential features of government are found in a direct democracy. In a society ruled by majority vote, without distinct governing personnel, everyone is bound to obey; it is only by accident that one happens to be in the majority and to follow one's own judgment as one acts according to the decision of the majority. Nontransmission of power does not destroy the essence of government; but ungenuine transmission does. We mentioned earlier that a citizen of a direct democracy who is determined to abide by the law only when the law is what he wants it to be always behaves as a rebel, never as a law-abiding citizen, even when he performs -- in a purely material sense -- the actions prescribed by the law. Similarly, ungenuinely transmitted sovereignty implies constant rebellion, even when the laws and decrees issued by the governing personnel are complied with. Practices calculated to assure the influence of the people on the policies of actually elected assemblies and executive agencies are ambiguous and risky, which does not mean that they are not necessary and important. So long as letters addressed to congressmen, press campaigns, petitions, and street demonstrations are merely the expression of opinions held by the consultative assembly established, in unwritten fashion, by every democratic constitution, all is normal and sound. If, on the other hand, such expressions of opinion are calculated to deprive the men in power of their right to command, of their duty to have a judgment of their own, of their responsibility, of their conscience; if such practices are calculated to change, through threat and bribe, into mere secretaries or managers or messengers or mandate-holders or coach-drivers, men who know that they are under obligation to exercise authority, to have a prudence of their own and to make use of it, to be governors and not mere managers; men who know that, as a consequence of transmission, they cannot give up the character of holders of authority without criminal failure to fulfil their task: such practices mean rebellion and treachery established at the core of political life. They tend to corrupt political life into a competitive system where all moral idea is absent. Promises, formal and informal bribes, threats of all kinds, not excluding physical ones, and soon slander and calumny become determining factors in public life. In such confusion there is no guaranty that the majority's wishes should prevail; it is all a question of force, and the greater force may not be on the side of the majority. In most cases it is more likely to belong to the minority -- often a handful of particularly rebellious characters -- who control the means of pressure. Practices calculated to make the transmission of sovereignty ungenuine do not lead the people to any sort of direct democracy but rather to oligarchic situations that are totally unwished for, except by their beneficiaries.

It would be very helpful, if it were at all possible, to formulate rules and criteria concerning those practices which, if our analysis is correct, can be either an important phase of democratic life or sheer rebellion, destructive of democracy and of political relations. One proposition can be safely uttered: in such matters quantity is of decisive importance, and the species of an action changes according as this action is of moderate, or of extreme, intensity. The situation of a congressman who receives, once in a while, letters in which a few electors voice their opinions seems not to differ, except quantitatively, from that of the congressman who is constantly disturbed by telegrams, telephone: calls, and special deliveries. In fact, as often happens in human affairs, a change in quantity entails here a qualitative change, and nobody can say exactly where the qualitative change has taken place. (Changes that take place surreptitiously are always suspicious.) If some circumstances ever make it necessary to wage an extremely intensive campaign of opinion, those circumstances are not of the same kind as the circumstances which justify a campaign of moderate intensity.

Let us try, further, to define the qualitatively different characteristics of moderate and intensive campaigns. With due allowance for the element of relativity implied in all such considerations, let it be said that the moderate campaign implies merely a determination to have a certain opinion known and taken into consideration. An intensive campaign, on the other hand, means determination to assure the victory of an opinion. Now, an assembly whose opinions are merely to be taken into consideration is a consultative, deliberative, or advisory assembly; but one whose opinions are meant to be final decisions, delivered for purposes of realization to executive agencies, is more than a consultative assembly, it is a legislating and governing one. In short, considering that in every democracy the people retains the character of an assembly that has normally a part to play in the government, let it be said that the transmission of sovereignty to a distinct governing personnel leaves to the people the character of a merely consultative assembly. Granted that, in addition to the Senate and the House, formally established by written constitution, the democratic organization of the federal government actually comprises a third assembly, informally constituted and not mentioned in a written document -- that of the people of the United States -- let our conclusion be that, whereas the first two assemblies are endowed with the power of decision, the third one is merely consultative in character. Campaigns of opinion, when they become intensive, treat the people as if it were possessed with a power of decision. This is the meaning of the qualitative change corresponding to the change of intensity: a moderately intensive political campaign treats the assembly of the people as a consultative assembly; an extremely intense campaign of opinion treats the people as an assembly endowed with a power of decision. A congressman who receives, once in a while, letters that let him know how various groups of electors feel about impending legislation and executive policies is a man in power who receives advice from people normally endowed with an advisory function. A congressman bombarded with telegrams, phone calls, and special deliveries, even if those messages contain no threats and no bribes, is treated as a man in charge of enforcing decisions described to him as made by the third assembly, that of the whole people. But if the assembly of the people retains a power of decision and if its power of decision is understood to overrule the judgment of the Congress, then sovereignty has not been transmitted to the Congress in a genuine way. In order for campaigns of opinion to avoid the character of rebellion, it is necessary that they should treat the assembly of the people as a merely consultative assembly. Then they will be but moderately intensive.

It remains to be considered whether it is ever lawful for a people that has transmitted authority to claim more than the character of a consultative assembly, to claim a power of decision. The answer is not dubious: after authority has been regularly transmitted, the people can make decisions only when it can and ought to exercise this power which is greater than that of the governing personnel and which cannot be transmitted. One way to exercise this power is by deposing the governing persons; this is an extreme procedure, almost never necessary in a democracy, since democratic institutions subject the governing personnel to periodical re-examination. Another procedure is intense opinion pressure. To conclude: Intense campaigns of opinion, which imply that the people has the power of decision, are lawful only when circumstances are so grave as to give the people a right to exercise, albeit in limited fashion, the power greater than that of the governing personnel which was suspended, but not nullified, by the act of transmission.


It should now be possible to analyze the expression "government by the consent of the governed" -- a historic and glorious expression which will never fall out of use. It has several meanings, which cannot be distinguished in political speeches or even in statements of principles. Such is the paradox of political notions considered in their sociological existence; for it is in a state of confusion that they are most active and produce their most important effects. About all the clarity that these subjects admit of will be procured if instruments of clarification are available to whoever needs and cares to use them. To work out such instruments and see that they are kept in good order is what political philosophers are paid for.

1. The proposition that government requires the consent of the governed may mean that political association is an act of the reason and of the will; that political society is not brought about by instinct and infra-rational forces but by rational judgment and free will and, more precisely, by the good use of reason and freedom and by the qualities which render such use steady, i.e., wisdom, justice, and friendship. So understood, the theory of government by the consent of the governed expresses a truth of great profundity and consequence. It is particularly important to recall it and to understand it in a time like ours, since the social sciences, understandably, are influenced by the successful pattern of the physical sciences and consequently tend to represent human societies as a product of nature, in the sense in which nature means univocal determination and is spoken of in opposition to free will. The naturalistic concept of political society does not proceed only from the deterministic philosophy of human nature generally associated with materialism and positivism; it proceeds also from a conservative and traditionalistic reaction against the political voluntarism which has been and remains at work in the ideological and emotional movements connected with Rousseau and the French Revolution. In their righteous opposition to propositions which seemed to describe political society as a work of human arbitrariness, some traditionalists so emphasized the natural character of society as to make it appear a product antedecent to any activity of reason and freedom, a product, accordingly, foreign to morality, at least so far as its basic constitution is concerned.

2. The notion of consent of the people may refer to the designation of the governing personnel. What is signified, then, is that political leaders are not self-appointed but are designated by the people according to procedures which admit of great variety and of which the least formal are not necessarily the least genuine. Under extraordinary circumstances, when elections and even regular consultations of public opinion are impossible, a handful of men may declare that they are the government and not be rebels. Think of the circumstances which led to the constitution of governments-in-exile during the occupation of Europe by the Nazis. In order for such a creation of leadership to be better than sheer rebellion, the indispensable condition is that there be, in the historical situation, a demand for such creation. This demand may be at variance with the conscious wishes of the majority. Thus, initially, a governing agency may exist and operate without the consent of the people. Plainly, it does not possess fully the character of a government until the self-appointed leaders are confirmed in power by popular consent. So long as such consent has not been expressed, the men who claim authority do not possess, except in a rudimentary and uncertain fashion, the prerogatives of a political organization. A committee which claims to be the government, whose purposes and activities seem to be borne out by the historical situation, but which has not yet been confirmed by any expression of popular consent, is one of these nontypical forms that history produces in times of crises and revolutions. In order to behave properly toward such nontypical forms, either by recognizing them or by opposing them, individuals need an unusual amount of lucidity; they have to make a clear decision in a situation which is not clear. They have to draw a definite line of action in a situation which is not definite. The virtue which produces such lucidity when all is dark is the fortitude of the heroes.

3. The proposition that government requires the consent of the governed may mean that the leaders of temporal society do not receive their power directly from God and that political power does not reside in any distinct governing personnel unless it has been transmitted to them by the people. So understood, the theory of government by consent of the people would be identical with the transmission theory as opposed to the designation theory. A difficulty arises with regard to situations in which plainly lawful government is exercised without the governed having effected any transmission of power. Think, for instance, of the power exercised in conquered territory by the conqueror; if the war was fully just, this power is also fully just, though badly exposed to abuse. Or think of some barbarous population reluctantly controlled by a colonizing power. In spite of frequent and grave abuse, it would be absurd to deny that power exercised under such circumstances may be perfectly lawful. It may be lawful indeed, but not political. It is paternal authority, substitutional authority, in the sense of our first chapter.

4. The proposition that governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed may imply a demand for the periodical exercise of popular consent through the phases of political life. So understood, this proposition refers to the peculiar situation of sovereignty in democracy; it may even be considered the very formula of democratic government. If it is posited that consent of the people ought not to be given once and for all but should be elicited anew as political life goes on, there are only two possibilities, viz., direct democracy and control of the people over the governing personnel through the procedure of periodical election, that is, representative democracy.

5. The formula under consideration may signify determination to avoid complete transmission of authority. In this case it refers, again, to a situation which is not common to all lawful and political governments but proper to democracy. It refers to the fact that every democracy is, in a measure, a direct democracy and that in every democracy the people at large retains the character of a deliberative assembly which participates in the government by voicing its assent or dissent in several ways. Referring to what was said above of the people's assembly in indirect democracy, let it be mentioned that, so understood, the theory of government by the consent of the people must be held with discrimination and awareness of the risks.

6. The theory of government by consent of the people may mean that, all other things being equal, persuasion is a better instrument of government than coercion. It implies, then, that every government has a duty to seek the maximum of voluntary co-operation, to explain its purposes and methods, to educate the governed, to appeal indefatigably to whatever element of good will can be found in them, and never to resort to coercion unless persuasion proves impossible. Such interpretation is entirely wholesome and necessary, provided that it is unmistakably maintained that the use of coercion is fully legitimate whenever persuasion fails to accomplish some necessary purpose.

7. In the six preceding senses the notion of government by the consent of the governed expresses either (a) an essential condition of lawful government, (b) a condition proper to political government precisely considered as political, or (c) some condition proper to democracy. But in a seventh sense the formula is understood to mean that the governed are never bound except by their own consent, that they never obey except inasmuch as they please to obey -- briefly, that they are never obligated to obey. So understood, the theory that government demands the consent of the governed expresses neither a political nor a democratic necessity but mere revolt against the laws of all community.

{17} The "free people" of which Aquinas speaks (i-ii. 97. 3, ad 3) seems to be a people subjected to political government in the sense defined in chap. ii.

{18} Again, we are considering a people satisfying the conditions of political government.

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