Consent is a hotly contested idea that underpins much of what we do in our public and private lives. At Consent.com we try to bring these debates to the fore by providing analysis of—or at least information about—the issues in which consent is embedded. These issues are various and many, ranging from political consent to medical and legal consent.
What is Consent?
- The Editors
- About Consent
Why should we be concerned with consent? Perhaps the clearest indication of its pressing importance is the place it has in many of the foundational political documents of our day. Our Declaration of Independence gives consent almost absolute pre-eminence when it states that ‘Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed’. The pre-eminence of consent in the world of human affairs is, indeed, ubiquitous. The UN Declaration of Human Rights puts it this way: ‘The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government’.
The political and legal role of consent is a clue to its more foundational importance to human affairs. And yet all around us we observe the erosion of consent’s status, be it political, legal, or medical. Should we be concerned about this erosion and, more importantly, does consent really matter? Much of the world’s goings-on have nothing at all to do with our consent and they will, indeed, continue to go on with or without our say.
There is, after all, no active consent in the fact that we are bound up with a system of international laws and treaties that bind our government’s hands on issues as diverse as trade and warfare. Nor do we actively consent to most of the things that happen closer to home, for example, the fact that our system of social organization is such that we have to pay taxes, drive on the right side, and so on. None of that is really actively based on consent.
Sure, we can change the way we vote and make it such that these things change—but, until those changes occur, should we even desire them—what happens to the status of our consent?
The fact that consent appears so fragile is precisely why it needs to sustain its place in the forefront of our public engagements. This is undoubtedly a challenge given the extraordinary noise that characterizes public political discourse in the US. But that challenge makes it no less important to take up the task. That is the focus of our efforts at Consent.com. Our goal is to ensure that consent is not set aside or forgotten and that it remains at the very center of our politics.
In these pages, the reader will find a growing body of analysis on consent-based issues. We survey, for instance the relationship between judicial review and consent. In recent months, a great deal has been said about the Supreme Court nomination and subsequent confirmation of Neil Gorsuch. In the context of a Court that is often accused of judicial activism, a major threat to the status of consent given the unaccountable nature of judges, particularly Supreme Court Justices, we provided analysis that showed that the relationship between judicial review and consent is not one that can be resolved along party lines.
On a further issue of topical interest, we considered the role of cyberattacking in undermining the robustness of the consent that allows the government to rule ‘with the consent of the governed’. We argued that that in the interest of shoring up the allegations against Russia in respect of the electoral interference, we ought to allow the investigations underway to take their course in an unimpeded manner, free from the cuts and thrusts of partisan politics.
We also considered the place of consent in medical contexts, focussing on the case of Charlie Gard, whose parents have been in daily battle with the UK state to get their child the help he needs. We saw how intrusive the state could be, notwithstanding the wishes of a child’s consent and, moreover, the expert opinions of non-state figures.
In all these cases, we have explored the various ways in which consent is contested in our modern society. Our approach is conservative but we provide fair analysis that is accessible to readers across the political spectrum, within reason. We welcome article submissions but it goes without saying that our selection process is quite rigorous.