Portrait of Adam Smith

Adam Smith claims that exorbitant taxes imposed without consent of the governed constitute legitimate grounds for the people to resist their rulers (1763)

Found in: Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue and Arms (1763)

In his Lectures on Jurisprudence (1763) Adam Smith discusses the "very figurative metaphoricall consent" that people are supposed to grant the ruler to tax them. When taxes become "very exorbitant" he believes the people have the right to resist as the Americans did in 1775:


It is in Britain alone that any consent of the people is required, and God knows it is but a very figurative metaphoricall consent which is given here. And in Scotland still more than in England, as but very few have a vote for a Member of Parliament | who give this metaphoricall consent; and yet this is not any where reckoned a sufficient cause of rebellion. No doubt the raising of a very exorbitant tax, as the raising as much in peace as in war, or the half or even the fifth of the wealth of the nation, would, as well as any other gross abuse of power, justify resistance in the people.