A legitimate and valid government: obedience in conscience


In 2004 I wrote about The Legitimacy of HOA Governance, quoting the writings of constitutional scholar Randy Barnett:i


A constitution that lacks adequate procedures to ensure the justice of valid laws is illegitimate even if it was consented to by a majority . . . constitutional legitimacy can even be seen as a product of procedural assurances that legal commands are not unjust”. . . .”A law may be ‘valid’ because it was produced in accordance with all the procedures required by a particular lawmaking system, but be ‘illegitimate’ because these procedures were inadequate to provide assurances that a law is just.


Barnett speaks of justice by explaining, “the founders’ view that ‘first come rights, and then comes the Constitution’. The rights that precede the formation of government they call ‘natural rights’ … For these are rights that the people possess before they form a government and therefore retain; they are not positive rights created by government.”

Natural rights define a private domain within which persons may do as they please, provided their conduct does not encroach upon the rightful domain of others. As long as their actions remain within the rightful domain, other persons — including persons calling themselves government officials — should not interfere without a compelling justification.”

And, more directly relating to HOAs where homeowners are assumed to have given their unanimous consent to be governed by the HOA, Barnett wrote,

If there are some rights that cannot be waived or transferred even by the consent of the right-holders, then the unanimous consent regimes [including HOAs], to be legitimate, must offer procedural assurances that these inalienable rights have been protected.

In other words, these inalienable rights are independent of any form of government and that a legitimate government cannot take away or restricted. And this is why I cannot over emphasize the important of arguments based on fundamental principles of American government in our efforts to obtain justice. And this is our biggest problem in fighting HOA governance and its legitimacy over homeowners. This bypasses the important question of contractual consent.

These attitudes and beliefs on the legitimacy of laws and government, and the people’s obligation to obey in good conscience, are not new. They can be found dating back some 260 years in Emmerich de Vallet’s, The Law of Nations.i Exchanging the word “nation” with “homeowners association” would not affect the content of this treatise, except in areas pertaining to the objectives and goals of the HOA society — set forth in its declaration — as compared to a democratic constitution where the primary concern is the people and not the state.

Vattel wrote, If the greater part of a free people . . are weary of liberty, and resolved to submit to the authority of a monarch,—those citizens . . . though obliged to suffer the majority to do as they please,—are under no obligation at all to submit to the new government . . . . “ (P. 48). In contrast to the HOA constitution, which by its very nature repudiates a democratic government of the people, by the people, for the people, democratic government’s primary concern is to provide for justice. “This obligation flows from the object proposed by uniting in civil society, and from the social compact itself.” Our own Preamble lists “establish justice” first among its objectives. And Vattel cautions, as advocates today ardently have repeatedly sought redress, “The best laws are useless, if they be not observed” and that “a penal sanction becomes necessary, to give the laws their full efficacy.”

In April of this year I wrote The legitimacy of HOA boards and state legislatures , continuing to quote the views of Barnett,

That [the homeowners’] acquiescence to obey these unjust [HOA] laws and covenants cannot be misconstrued and interpreted as having  consented in good conscience to have agreed with the laws or with the HOA’s governing documents.  


The vast majority of these HOA and condo statutes and “acts” do not measure up to qualify as legitimate laws.  Our public government, realizing that it cannot achieve a voluntary acceptance and willingness by homeowners to obey these laws in conscience,  must resort to repressive and punitive laws as found in any other dictatorship or banana republic, even those with a facade that the people have a right to vote.  These unjust laws mimic the private government “constitutions”, the governing documents of these planned communities, with their authoritarian HOA governments.

In our recent past, we have witnessed the Rule of Law drifting off into oblivion with increasing encroachments by the short-sighted Rule of Man. By Man who has been preoccupied and narrowly focused on his own personal agenda of “what’s in it for me”, his political legacy, his allegiance first and foremost to the objectives and dogmatic principles of his political party rather to the good of the country and his fellow man.

America has lost its direction and the reason for its being. It is a necessity at this time for all to recapture those reasons for being and to re-establish their rightful position in guiding the actions and decisions of our elected representatives. Only We the People can restore the lost America of our origins. And those who defend the HOA legal scheme, for whatever their perceived benefits, have chosen to accept an authoritarian regime and to have denied and renounced our democratic system of government.

As stated in the Law of Nations, the people who disagree with the majority’s preference for a democratic government, and who have a right to disagree and who prefer HOA governance — who find democratic laws as illegitimate to which they cannot be bound in good conscience — are the ones who should pick up and move, not the majority who still prefer democratic government: they may quit a society which seems to have dissolved itself in order to unite again under another form: they have a right to retire elsewhere, to sell their lands, and take with them all their effects.” To the bewilderment of many Americans, in our New America, this renunciation of and succession from American constitutional government is acceptable to all our branches of government: executive, judiciary, and legislative.


i  Randy Barnett, Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty (Princeton Univ. Press 2004).

ii The Law of Nations or, principles of the law of nature, applied to the conduct and affairs of nations and sovereigns, Emmerich de Vattel, 1758, (Joseph Chitty, ed., 1883), http://www.constitution.org/vattel/vattel-01.htm.

Published in: on December 1, 2010 at 8:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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