The Rationale of Punishment

Book III

Of Privative Punishments, Or Forfeitures

Chapter V

Section VI


I shall say but one word upon a subject that would require a volume.

The loss of political liberty is produced by a change in the condition: not merely of any particular individual, but of the whole community. The loss of liberty is the result of a fresh distribution of the power of the governing body; a distribution which renders the choice of the persons, or their measures, less dependant upon the will of the persons governed. A fresh distribution of power depends absolutely upon a corresponding disposition to pay obedience to that fresh distribution. When superior physical force is in the possession of those from whom obedience is demanded, it is evident that the power of commanding can be exercised only in so far as that obedience is rendered. As this disposition to pay obedience may be produced by the conduct of a single individual of the governing class, it may be, and has frequently been said, that a single man has destroyed the constitutional liberty of a whole nation. But if the analysis of such events be followed out, it will be found, that this liberty can be destroyed only by the people themselves.

[RP, Book III, Chapter V, §5] [RP, Book III, Chapter VI]