With the news that the men behind the November 13th Paris attacks were able to enter Europe because of the Syrian refugee crisis, Americans are concerned about falling into the same situation. Many wonder, will the acceptance of Syrian refugees open up the U.S. to more terrorist attacks? Will letting Syrian refugees in open the floodgates to an external enemy ready to destroy and dissolve our government and way of life?  

Such a fear is well-founded if the refugees were an invading army superior to ours or the remote chance that one refugee was really a terrorist with a nuke. For as John Locke notes in his Second Treatise of Civil Government, “The usual, and almost only way whereby this [governmental] union is dissolved, is the inroad of foreign force making a conquest upon them….” 

But Locke cautions that there is a second way with which our nation could be dissolved, and that is from within.

“There is one way more whereby such a government may be dissolved, and that is: When he who has the supreme executive power neglects and abandons that charge, so that the laws already made can no longer be put in execution; this is demonstratively to reduce all to anarchy, and so effectively to dissolve the government. …

There is therefore, secondly, another way whereby governments are dissolved, and that is, when the legislative, or the prince, either of them, act contrary to their trust. First, The legislative acts against the trust reposed in them, when they endeavour to invade the property of the subject, and to make themselves, or any part of the community, masters, or arbitrary disposers of the lives, liberties, or fortunes of the people.”

Viewed through the lens of Locke, could the behavior of our government in recent years – all branches, both parties, and many special interests included – be a more serious threat that we need to be on guard against?