Legitimacy and Consent

Rasmussen finds:

Fifty-six percent (56%) agree with the view that governments derive their only just authority from the “consent of the governed.” Interestingly, one-in-four Americans (25%) disagree.


Isaac Chotiner seems a bit distressed that the 25 percent number is so high. But I don’t think people should embrace this consent of the governed notion, and my understanding is that most political theorists would reject it. How would you measure consent? And how much consent do you need? After all, there’s no set of rules for governing society that everyone is going to agree to. Legitimacy is better thought of as deriving from substantive criteria — legitimate regimes govern with a decent respect for human rights and political freedoms and afford people a reasonable chance to change policies from within the system. And the way the relationship between consent and legitimacy works, is that when you have a legitimate rights-respecting regime people tend to treat it as legitimate, which is to say consent to following the rules.