Political Obligation by John Horton (auth.)

By John Horton (auth.)

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In the end this is to say no more than that tacit consent is an instance of consent, but to say that much may prevent one being misled when the emphasis is placed upon its being tacit consent. The difference between tacit and express consent is of the same order as the difference between consent being indicated by raising a hand or by saying yes. The nature of silence and passivity may make such consent more difficult to identify and more disputable in practice, but the logic oftacit consent is no different from that of express consent.

The reason for this relates to a general failing in Plamenatz's account which is that elections may be understood simply as mechanisms for deciding who will rule rather than conferring authority on those who are elected. The former need not imply the latter, nor is there anything intrinsic to democratic elections which compels anyone who participates in them to adopt the latter understanding of them. For example, an anarchist who denies authority to any government, may vote in an election, believing some governments to be worse than others, in an attempt to ensure that the least bad government is elected.

It seems highly implausible to think that it does. There are no commonly understood conventions by reference to which continued residence or the enjoyment of its fruits can be reasonably interpreted as implying consent. It is not at all clear what individuals are consenting to, that they know they are consenting, or that they intend to do so. There may of course be 34 Political Obligation other arguments, for example from fairness, justice, gratitude or utility, as to why individuals should consent but these are not to the point here.

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