Writings and Publications by Joseph B. H. McMillan






The Ten Principles of Freedom: The Equal Freedom Principles; Principles 1 to 4.

(An extract from The Ten Principles of Freedom: A Presentation of the Ten Principles to the Founding Fathers …)


Joseph BH McMillan


Joseph BH McMillan (JBH):  “The crux of Locke’s natural state of men is that they are in a state of ‘perfect freedom’ to deal with their own affairs ‘as they think fit …without asking leave or depending on the will of any other man.’ Further, they are in a ‘state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another.’ Now, if I were to derive any principles out of such a condition of equal freedom, the first would be this: no one person has any authority (natural or otherwise) to tell another person what to do, without that person’s consent. Would you agree with that?”

Founding Father (FFs): “We could agree with that.”

JBH: I would like to expand on that first principle a little. If my neighbor arrives at my door and demands that I hand over to him a proportion of my property, I am free to tell him to get lost; and if he seeks to use force to take my property, or compel me to do something against my will, I am free to resist. Would you agree?”

FFs: “Yes!”

JBH: “Now, if that same person goes away and returns with another ten of my neighbors, all brandishing batons, does the first neighbor gain some authority he did not have individually? In short, is some authority vested in him when he is backed up by a mob which he didn’t have on his own?”

FFs: “No, of course not. But is that not the reason for Locke’s argument for government – to protect the People against just the sort of intimidation you describe?”

JBH: “I’m coming to that – bear with me a minute. So you would agree that the mob does not in itself award authority! We can therefore expand Principle 1 to say this: no person or group of people has any authority (natural or otherwise) to tell another person what to do, without that person’s consent. Would you agree?”

FFs: “Yes!”

JBH: “Now, let’s take the neighbor scenario one step further. What if the ten neighbors return again brandishing not batons, but a piece of paper, and they explain to me that the ten of them constitute the majority of the people in my street, and that they have all voted in favor of me submitting to the first neighbor’s demand. Do they then acquire an authority the first neighbor did not possess individually?”

FFs: “That must surely depend on whether you agreed that matters would be decided in your street by majority vote, and whether you had the opportunity to vote when the proposal was put forward?”

JBH: “Yes, that is precisely the issue. In Locke’s case, it is at this point where he claims that men capitulate. He claims that we simply consent to the majority deciding for everyone else. Now what if these ten neighbors yield to my objections, and suggested that everyone in the street has a ‘right’ to vote on their proposal that the will of the majority in the street conclude the rest of the people in the street? And let’s say they simply proceed with that vote over my objections and without my consent. Does that vest in them an authority they did not possess individually, or with their batons or first paper?”

FFs: “I think that scenario is getting closer to vesting in them some authority, but the question is whether everyone needs to consent to be governed in that way.”

JBH: “Quite! Locke himself was vague on this point, or more likely fudged it deliberately. Let’s consider again what he said. ‘When any number of men have, by the consent of every individual, made a community, they have thereby made that community one body, with a power to act as one body, which is only the will and determination of the majority; … it is necessary the body should move that way whither the greater force carries it, which is the consent of the majority: … and so every one is bound by that consent to be concluded by the majority.’ So we see that Locke is a little ingenious here.

“He doesn’t say that ‘every individual’ consents to be governed by the will of the majority, but rather that their consent to make ‘a community’ has the effect of subjecting every individual to the will of the majority. That is quite a remarkable assertion, because he is saying that the mere fact that I decided to live in my street subjects me to the will of the majority in the street. Locke stands logic on its head. If I had known that by living in that street I would be subjected to the vicissitudes of the majority, I would never have joined that ‘community’. And if I had joined that ‘community’ before my neighbors had decided that everyone should be subjected to the will of the majority, I would not have given my consent. Let me elaborate further on that. Before I join any association, I would consider carefully the objects and purpose of the association, I’d consider what contributions it would require from me, and what process has to be adopted in order to vary the contributions; I’d want to know what powers the officials have; and most importantly, the principles on which the association operates. Only a fool would agree to join an association where the majority can make up the rules, objects, and purpose as they go along, and determine my contributions accordingly by majority vote. And I would certainly not join an association that was subject to no principles at all, other than the ‘will and determination of the majority’. So Locke does not set out a formula for ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people.’  Instead he provides a blueprint for government of the mob, by the mob, for the mob.  And when a political party garners its ‘majority’ by appealing to the fringe groups of society, government becomes mob-rule of the misfits. Was that what you had in mind when you adopted Locke’s vision of the ‘perfect democracy’?”

FFs: “Not when you put it that way!”

JBH: “So we could expand Principle 1 further to include institutions, and government. So Principle 1 would read like this: no person, group of people, or institution (however constituted, including government) has any authority (natural or otherwise) to tell another person what to do without that person’s consent. That cures Locke’s deception that the mere fact of joining a community strips me of my equal freedom and subjects me to the ‘will and determination of the majority’. It means that the consent of every individual is required in respect of each and every Principle to which government must be subjected. Would you agree that that would be considerably better to a total surrender of our equal freedom to the ‘will and determination of the majority’ by the mere fact of being part of ‘a community?’

FFs: “If it can be achieved, of course.”

JBH: “Good! Let’s go to Principle 2 of our equal freedom. This follows from Principle 1, and the ten people in the street backing up their demands with a piece of paper. Principle 2 is designed to prevent the cunning from circumventing Principle 1 by creating something which they claim vests in them an authority they could not possess under Principle 1. It reads like this: no person, group of people, or institution (however constituted, including government) has any authority (natural or otherwise) to compel any other person, without that person’s consent, to serve or obey anything created, written, or designed by another person, group of people or institution (including government). As you will know from your run-ins with George III, then King of England, and the other despots who have plagued this planet throughout history, the power-hungry are very adept at inventing ingenious devices which they then claim vests in them some special authority. Apart from pieces of paper, they also create mighty monuments with so-called ‘eternal truths’ inscribed on their elevations; they create statues of themselves; they create little Red Books; blood lines; even divine appointment. This Principle prevents such deceptions and deceits from circumventing the consent of the People, and preserves the equal freedom of every individual.”

FFs: “We agree that no individual, or even group of individuals, can conjure authority from nothing through the creation of artificial objects. But surely it is preferable to have some written document which specifies the authority vested in government, and also its limitations?”

JBH: “Yes, of course. That is what these Principles are all about. Any document which awards anyone some authority must specify exactly what that authority is, and the best way to do that is through principles that each and every individual can agree to. Would you not agree?”

FFs: “Yes! So, what’s next?”

JBH: “The next two principles are these. Principle 3: No one person, group of people, or institution howsoever constituted (including government), has any authority, natural or otherwise, to compel any other person, without that person's consent, to enter into any obligation. Principle 4: No one person, group of people, or institution howsoever constituted (including government), has any authority, natural or otherwise, to compel another person, without that person's consent, to labor for any other person, group of people, or institution (including government), or to compel any person to surrender all or part of their labor, income or property to any other person, group of people, or institution (including government). These Principles simply mean that no person can be slave to another, and that no one can be compelled to pay tax for something that falls without the Principles he has consented to. I trust that you could not find fault with such provisions, notwithstanding that in your day some did consider themselves as ‘owning’ other people?”

FFs: “No, we could not object!”

JBH: “So there we have it, the Principles which guarantee our condition of equal freedom. I’ll come to the remaining Principles of Freedom in a moment, but these first 4 Principles set the basis on which People would agree to subject themselves to some authority. People would only agree to surrender such part of the equal freedom they enjoy in order to collectively protect that freedom, not to surrender it to the ‘will and determination of the majority’. It is common sense. So we would agree to appoint one or more from our midst with the sole authority to defend, in the first instance, our equal freedom as defined by these four Principles. Thus, I would consent to government having the authority to prevent another person, or even foreign power, from attempting to tell me what to do without my consent; or prevent another person or Power from compelling me to serve something they have created which they claim vests in them such an authority; to prevent anyone seeking to impose on me an obligation without my consent, or to compel me to work for them without my consent. And on the other hand, I consent to abide by these Principles myself, and consent, on a reciprocal basis, to the authority we appoint, compelling me to abide by these Principles. Would you not agree that these Principles thus preserve our equal freedom while at the same time submitting us, with our consent, to an authority for the sole purpose of ensuring that we comply with the obligations we have taken on by agreeing to these Principles?”

FFs: “It is difficult to dispute the Principles. Perhaps the main complaint would be that they do not go far enough; that they are too limited?”

JBH: “Well, that brings me to the next Principle. What the first 4 Principles show is that when two or more people join in a common enterprise, obligations attach to them. Would you agree that that is the case in respect of every enterprise involving two or more people? No sane person would agree to join in an enterprise with another, where he is bound to fulfill his obligations, while the other is free to ignore his!”

FFs: “That is obvious!”

JBH: “And as I have already said, any enterprise needs a purpose, as well as an objective. The objective of the first 4 Principles is to guarantee our equal freedom. But we also need some purpose, other than the mere fact of preserving our equal freedom. That too must be common sense. If we rested our search for Principles of Freedom with just these four, we would open the door to some unintended and unpleasant consequences. For example, there could be those of a depraved disposition who would say that their freedom entitles them to parade naked in the streets, indulge in sexual intercourse in public – even with the same sex, or partake in bestiality in front of your children. Some people may even claim that they are free to seek sexual gratification with children if the children consent. Such people would see freedom as being free to indulge their most carnal amoebic instincts for pleasure, and they would invoke these 4 Principles against those who find their behavior repugnant. When freedom could be conceived in such radically different ways, the result would not be people living together harmoniously, but in conflict. As the old cliché goes – united we stand; divided we fall. I trust, therefore, that you would agree that a common purpose is essential to harmonious relations?”

George Washington (GW): “I would agree with that. As I said in my Farewell Address back in 1796, ‘of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.’ I also warned of the dangers of claiming that there could be morality without religion. I said this: ‘And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.’ As I said in that speech, we should all ask ourselves this simple question: ‘Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?’ So yes, I would agree that any principles should contain some system of morality, but I would argue that such a system should be rooted in religion, and specifically, Christianity.”

JBH: “Well, Mr Washington, the problem is that the Constitution, or more properly, the Bill of Rights, separates church and state. However, I suspect that your intention was not to banish religious values from public life, although that has been the regrettable consequence. So we now have the most unfortunate situation where children are taught one set of ‘values’ at school, if we could call the nonsense they are taught at school ‘values’ without doing violence to the very concept of values, and another different set at home, especially if those children have God-fearing parents. I should also warn you Mr Washington, that the very words morality and religion have become dirty words in the modern Liberal Fundamentalist state.”

GW: “Yes, we have seen that. But that was certainly not our intention! So how do you suggest we rectify that?”

JBH: “Well, first, I don’t think we can look to religion to find a system of morality. That could not attract universal consent. Secondly, neither do I think we can look to religion to identify the source of obligations, as you recommended Mr Washington. That could not attract universal consent either. You all did far too good a job at giving the enemies of religion the weapon to banish it. What we need to find is a purpose of human life that no one can rationally refute. Principles must derive from the purpose of life, rather than the other way round. We don’t sit down and make up rules for a game, then think of a game that would fit the rules. We first need to know what the game is, only then can we determine what the rules should be, or better, what rules the game necessarily requires. Would you agree that that is the correct way to proceed?”

FFs: “That we can agree with. But how on earth could we come up with a common purpose that everyone can agree with? Just about every single human being will form his own idea of what purpose to give his or her own life.”

JBH: “Gentlemen, that is indeed the challenge we face. But if I may venture to be so bold, it has actually been staring us in the face from the beginning of time.”

NEXT: The Ten Principles of Freedom: Principle 5 and the Purpose of Life.

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2007 All Rights Reserved

Joseph BH McMillan is the author of Freedom v. A Tyranny of Rights. This article is an abridged extract of his forthcoming book The Ten Principles of Freedom.


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