Liberty and Obedience

by David Gordon, Mises.org

The dedication of Restoring the Lost Constitution, “To James Madison and Lysander Spooner,” at once alerts us that we confront an unusual book. During the Constitutional Convention, Madison supported a strong national government; Spooner, by contrast, subjected to withering criticism the notion that the people of the United States had consented to the Constitution. Whom does Barnett support? The Father of the Constitution or the author of The Constitution of No Authority?

Barnett soon makes clear his response. He finds convincing Spooner’s assault on consent theories of political obligation. But this does not lead him to question the need for a state. Quite the contrary, he aims to extricate government from Spooner’s challenge: since consent does not underlie our obligation to obey the state, Barnett must locate something better that will do the job.

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