Tacit Consent

In my last post, “The Moral Vote”, I discussed briefly voting along moral lines. This post is, in a sense, a continuation of the same idea, albeit from a different point of view.

The topic of tacit consent is not a new one. Among others, Locke claims that one who continues to reside in a state has given tacit consent to the government for which oversees that state. While this claim is important to what I wish to talk about here, I would like to delve deeper into the ramifications of tacit consent in relation to my previous post. To begin I feel two definition are in order. Both can be found in the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy.

Tacit: “A state of a person or a relation between people that is not expressed, or one of which the subjects may even be unaware, but which can be inferred from their other capacities and actives”.

Consent: “…The place of consent is the legitimation of social and political practices”.

For the purpose here then to be tacitly consenting is to, in a sense, accept the actions of others without even saying, or knowing, so. I would like to stretch this understanding further, as said, by delving into the ramifications of this. To do so let us look at an extreme example.

Let us suppose that an individual has been elected to an office who has been shown to be morally and rationally corrupt (know after as the official). The citizens by whom this official was elected had many different reasons for voting the way they did. Some voted based solely on the immoral/irrational ideology of the official; others set that aside and voted because of the non-moral issues that the official touted. As we have seen both of these groups of individuals have failed in the duty to be justified in his or her vote, but we must couch this character flaw while keeping it in mind when considering tacit consent.

Given our previous discussion it is inevitable that at some point the official will begin to act in clearly immoral/irrational ways. The immorality of the official will creep into those, supposed, non-moral policies. For those that voted based off of morality/immorality there is no discussion to be had about their consent. Yet, for those that voted for the official on non-moral policies there is a question that they need now answer. Do these individuals agree, do they give consent, to these immoral/irrational actions?

Too often the electorate rather stay quiet regarding this question. There is a strange occurrence such that even if they believe that acts are wrong, and would in the quiet of their own home denounce them, they will not openly speak out against the actions. This amounts to tacit consent of the actions. The ramifications then is that the message being sent to the rest of society, the whole of the body politic, is that consent has been given. The immoral/irrational acts are seen as being acceptable and approved on.

There are further ramifications. Beyond ignoring, or keeping quiet on, immorality and irrationality in the abstract, doing so after it has been allowed to seep into the so called non-moral policies is itself immoral and irrational at best. It erodes the very fabric of society by devolving it, and the body politic, into laziness and distrust. Laziness in the lack of justification for ones vote. Laziness toward the welfare of society and rational thought therein. Distrust founded in silence in the face of injustice. Distrust between those of society and the body politic itself.

Tacit consent, in the modern era, is needed for a government to function. It is necessary that the body politic is seen as giving consent and legitimization to a government. Yet, tacit consent, that leads to silence can allow for the most grievous of actions against a society and the body politic.  

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