When is a citizenry justified in deposing its government?

The Execution of Louis XVI.Bob Owens

As nation after nation rushes towards backruptcy due to profligate spending that was easily avoidable with even the most basic restraint, the question posed in the title of this article is moving from being a purely academic question to one meriting serious study.

The government of Cyprus is one of those that justifies the question:  

Imagine waking up to find out that as much as 40 percent of the money you thought was safely deposited in the bank was seized, without your permission, to bail out a near-bankruptgovernment.

That’s just what thousands of large depositors in Cyprus woke up to Monday morning after European Union officials accepted a last-minute deal offered by the island’s lawmakers to secure a $13 billion bailout to avert imminent financial meltdown.

I would postulate that as governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that if a government becomes destructive towards its people—in this instance, arbitrarily manufacturing a “legal” right to commit the mass theft of private funds—then the people have the right and duty to cast off such government, dissolving it through any means necessary. Please stop me if you’ve heard these words before.

Human beings are social creatures; we form and dissolve bonds as insignificant as marketplace transactions to bonds as formal as constitutions, laws, and treaties between tribes and nations. All people belonging to a group have accepted a social contract to live within the laws of their group, tribe, or nation… but what if the nation’s governors no longer acts within the bonds they has set for the nation? What should a people do, when thegovernment has become irrevocably compromised, or corrupted, or tyrannical?

The answer is simple, clear, and morally just: the people have not just the right, but theobligation to dissolve that government. This is the right of revolution that is the right of all men, everywhere.

It is a right of cultural preservation. It is a right of self-preservation. It is the right that says no group, however “official,” has the right to take the property not rights of another by force. It is right for the sheepdogs and rams turn on a shepherd that has turned mad and who has determined to harm the flock.

The people of Cyprus have the right to revolt against their government for this outright theft. They may protest peacefully. They may protest violently. They may even wage an insurrection if it comes to it, and they would be morally justified in doing so.

The government of Cyprus failed in its stewardship of the nation’s finances, and they failed to be good trustees. When a trust fails, it is right that it be dissolved.

If those who failed in the public’s trust did so with intent, it is the right of the people to bring them to justice. Of course, in a nation where the government itself is illegitimate, who has the authority to pass sentence on the government itself? The people reserve that right for themselves, and while that right is sometimes exercised in unpleasant, it is still their right.

Every government, in every nation, would be wise to remember that truth.


3 thoughts on “When is a citizenry justified in deposing its government?

  1. “This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it.” — Abraham Lincoln

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