Lysander Spooner was an American philosopher and anarchist who was an ardent supporter of labor movements in his hey days during 19th century. Born in state of Massachusetts in the early years of the 19th century, Spooner a lawyer was against the set legislation that have been instituted by man in a bid to harmonize the daily life of citizens. Spooner questions the authority of the constitution to bid all the citizens both the presently alive and the future generation to obediently follow its doctrines and practices. According to Spooner, there is no way the future generation should be obligated to follow a constitution that was created way back before they were born and that was in addition created by a selective clique in that present generation. In his own opinion, he points out that obedience to set regulations of the constitution by future generations would simply amount to submissiveness towards their grannies’ tyranny. Spooner advocates for what he refers to as natural law that he further calls the science of all human right. Natural law as described by Spooner includes the right of liberty and pursuits of happiness, which he argues that, are given to someone during birth (Spooner, 3).
Spooner is of the opinion that the constitutional obligation on every citizen adopted in the constitution is in collision with this natural law and, therefore, was illegal. According to him, anything that is against his model of natural law was illegal and an offence towards the citizens of the state. He validates his claim of illegality by analyzing the reasons that make people vote. To him, people vote not because they have consented to do so but because of the situation a person has been placed in. He says that people only votes because they usually consider the option of voting and not voting. According to Spooner if a man refuses to vote, others will vote and he will consequently be subjected to the tyranny of others. If he votes, he too will subject others to his own tyranny (Spooner, 5) Therefore, a man finds himself in a situation where he has to choose between being a master or a slave by the use of ballot. Spooner also gives an example of a soldier in the battleground who finds himself in a situation where he either has to kill to save his life or be killed. Killing might not be his consent, but something obligated by the circumstances.
Spooner is against the establishment and practices of the government and especially the governing principles of the constitution. He argues that since the constitution was made by a generation that preceded the current one, they did so to govern themselves. The fact that they have all passed away does not mean that the current generation is obligated to follow the constitution. This is because they were not there in the time of its formation and also the fact that things might have changed that makes it not to address the current issues in the current generation. In such a situation, he states that the current generation is at a position of not obeying the constitution since they are not obligated to do so. To him the constitution is voidable (Spooner, 6).
Spooner is against the democratic practices that are exercised in a country. Voting has been practiced by many democratic states throughout the world as a way of citizens to express their consent of who governs them and how they are governed. Spooner rejects this notion of voting by arguing that voting by its basic disposition is not based on a free and consented state of mind, but is rather based on coercive situational setting that leaves someone with no other option, but to vote.
In conclusion, Spooner thoughts on the modern setting of the government are that it is illegitimate and illegal.
On the other hand, Rousseau he does not believe that the current disposition is illegitimate as Spooner thinks. Instead, Rousseau thinks that the government should be guided by the general will of its citizens. He thinks that only the general will can help in achieving common good for all people in the society, but at times general will can be unable to cater for all the interests of the society. Rousseau, therefore, states that sovereignty is inalienable and cannot be represented by anything apart from itself. This also leads to another feature of sovereignty, and that is it is indivisible. This is to say that it must be a representation of the entire body of citizens rather than part of it. In the latter’s case, it represents particular will, which is the will of a part of the population and not a whole of it. Rousseau refuses the idea that the will of all can be called a general will. He states that the will of all is privately interested and individuals can be deceived into it while general will is for the good of the community (Rousseau, 3).
According to Rousseau, the aim of the state is towards self-preservation and security for all its members. Therefore, it is the obligation of the community to avail anything for the sake of preserving the sovereignty, be it material goods or services. Rousseau goes on to state that, in a situation where the general will starts pursuing particular objectives that are not for the interest of the entire population, it loses the meaning of the general will and, therefore, cannot be classified as such.
Rousseau also argues that there comes a time when the sovereignty might require the sacrifice of its citizens in order to defend it although he adds that sovereignty must demand from each citizen equally without being unnecessarily skewed. People might risk their lives in order to protect the sovereign (Rousseau, 7).
Finally, Rousseau argues that anyone with criminal activities is the enemy of sovereignty and should be removed from its vicinity. In case one kills another, he too must be met with the death penalty. Rousseau distinguishes situations where death penalty can apply. He is of the opinion that it can only apply where the individuals are determined to hold no capability or ability for rehabilitation. Rousseau supports the framework of governance unlike Spooner who is opposed to it (Rousseau, 10
Spooner, Lysander, Thomas F. Bayard, and James J. Martin. No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority ; a Letter to Thomas F. Bayard. Colorado Springs, Colo: R. Myles, 1973. Print.
Spooner, Lysander. No Treason: No. Vi. Boston: Published by the author, 1870. Print.
Spooner, Lysander, James J. Martin, and Lysander Spooner. No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority ; And, a Letter to Thomas F. Bayard. Larkspur, Colo: Pine Tree Press, 1966. Print.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, and G D. H. Cole. The Social Contract: And Discourses. New York: E.P. Dutton and Company, Inc, 1950. Print.
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, and G D. H. Cole. On the Social Contract. New York: Dover Publications, 2003. Print.