Revolution, Right of

The right of revolution, according to classical liberal thinkers, is derived from the natural right of self-preservation. Because the purpose of government is to protect individuals against assaults on their lives, liberty, and property, governments lack legitimacy if either they fail to offer such protection or attack the individuals they were created to safeguard. In such cases, individuals owe their government no loyalty, have no obligation to bow to its unjust measures, and may choose to dissolve the old regime in order to create a new government that performs its legitimate role. Thomas Jefferson stated this argument most famously when, in the Declaration of Independence, he wrote, echoing Locke, that “governments are instituted” to secure “inalienable rights.” If a government “becomes destructive of these ...

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