Today is the 198th anniversary of the birth of the great Lysander Spooner, an inspiration to indivdualist voluntarists and anarchists. Spooner was a political philosopher, a constitutional lawyer, an abolitionist, a postal entrepreneur, and an activist. You can learn more about him and read his voluminous writings here. Here's a taste from his 1882 letter to Thomas F. Bayard (U.S. senator from Delaware):
You assume that the right of arbitrary dominion -- that is, the right of making laws of their own device, and compelling obedience to them -- is a "trust" that has been delegated to those who now exercise that power. You call it "the trust of public power."Hat tip: Kenneth R. Gregg.
But, Sir, you are mistaken in supposing that any such power has ever been delegated, or ever can be delegated, by any body, to any body.
Any such delegation of power is naturally impossible, for these reasons, viz:
1. No man can delegate, or give to another, any right of arbitrary dominion over himself; for that would be giving himself away as a slave. And this no one can do. Any contract to do so is necessarily an absurd one, and has no validity. To call such a contract a "constitution," or by any other high-sounding name, does not alter its character as an absurd and void contract.
2. No man can delegate, or give to another, any right of arbitrary dominion over a third person; for that would imply a right in the first person, not only to make the third person his slave, but also a right to dispose of him as a slave to still other persons. Any contract to do this is necessarily a criminal one, and therefore invalid. To call such a contract a "constitution" does not at all lessen its criminality, or add to its validity.
These facts, that no man can delegate, or give away, his own natural right to liberty, nor any other man's natural right to liberty, prove that he can delegate no right of arbitrary dominion whatever -- or, what is the same thing, no legislative power whatever -- over himself or anybody else, to any man, or body of men.
This impossibility of any man's delegating any legislative power whatever, necessarily results from the fact that the law of nature has drawn the line -- and that, too, a line that can never be effaced nor removed -- between each man's own interest and inalienable rights of person and property, and each and every other man's inherent and inalienable rights of person and property. It, therefore, necessarily fixes the unalterable limits, within which every man may rightfully seek his own happiness, in his own way, free from all responsibility to, or interference by, his fellow men, or any of them.
All this pretended delegation of legislative power -- that is, of a power, on the part of the legislators, so-called, to make any laws of their own device, distinct from the law of nature -- is therefore an entire falsehood; a falsehood whose only purpose is to cover and hide a pure usurpation, by one body of men, of arbitrary dominion over other men.
Postscript: It was Spooner's letter to Bayard that inspired my essay "Slave Contracts and the Inalienable Will," which was published in the July-August 1978 issue of The Libertarian Forum.