Front Page Titles (by Subject) chapter four: Rousseau's Arguments for Boundless Political Authority - Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments
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chapter four: Rousseau’s Arguments for Boundless Political Authority - Benjamin Constant, Principles of Politics Applicable to All Governments 
Principles of Politics Applicable to a all Governments, trans. Dennis O’Keeffe, ed. Etienne Hofmann, Introduction by Nicholas Capaldi (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2003).
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Rousseau’s Arguments for Boundless Political Authority
Rousseau defines the social contract as involving the unconditional surrender of each individual, along with all his rights, to society as a whole (Constant’s emphasis).29 To reassure us as to the consequences of this total handing over of every aspect of our lives to the advantage of an abstract entity, he says that the sovereign, that is, the social body as a whole, cannot harm either the collectivity of all its members, or any one of those members individually; that every person makes a total surrender, so that the condition is the same for all members and none has an interest in making it onerous for others; that each person, giving himself to everyone else, gives himself to no one; that everyone acquires over all other members the same rights he cedes to them, and gains the equivalent of all he loses, along with more strength to protect what is his own.30 But he forgets that all the life-preserving properties which he confers on the abstract being he calls sovereignty, are born in the fact that this being is made up of all the separate individuals without exception. Now, as soon as the sovereign body has to use the force it possesses, that is to say, as soon as it is necessary to establish political authority, since the sovereign body cannot exercise this itself, it delegates and all its properties disappear. The action carried out in the name of all, being necessarily willy-nilly in the hands of one individual or a few people, it follows that in handing yourself over to everyone else, it is certainly not true that you are giving yourself to no one. On the contrary, it is to surrender yourself to those who act in the name  of all. It follows that in handing yourself over entirely, you do not enter a universally equal condition, since some people profit exclusively from the sacrifice of the rest. It is not true that no one has an interest in making things hard for other people, since some members are not in the common situation. It is not true that all members acquire the same rights they give up. They do not all regain the equivalent of what they lose, and the outcome of what they sacrifice is or may be the setting up of a power which takes away from them what they do have.
How is it that these obvious considerations did not convince Rousseau of the error and dangers of his theory? It is because he let himself be misled by an oversubtle distinction. A double hazard is to be feared when we examine important questions. Men go wrong, sometimes because they misconstrue the distinctions between two ideas and sometimes because they base on a simple idea distinctions which do not apply.
[29. ]Constant is quoting from memory. The exact text is: “the total surrender of each member with all his rights to the whole community.” Du contrat social, Livre I, Ch. 6, éd. cit., p. 360.
[30. ]Here is the complete passage to which the author is referring: “For first of all, each person giving himself entirely, the condition is the same for everyone, and this being so, no one has an interest in making it burdensome to others. Moreover, the alienation taking place unreservedly, the association is as perfect as could be and no member has any longer anything to demand: For, if certain individuals retained some rights, since there would be no superior common authority which could judge between them and the public, each person being in some respect his own judge, would soon claim to be so in everything, the state of nature would continue and the society would necessarily become tyrannical or futile. Thus, each person giving himself to everyone, in fact gives himself to no one, and since there is no fellow member over whom one does not gain only the same rights one also cedes to him over oneself, one acquires the equivalent of everything one has lost with additional force for preserving what one has.” Ibid., pp. 360–361.