This is based off of a response I had on Facebook regarding the social contract.
I’m allowed to rob you. Don’t believe me? Well I wrote it down on this piece of paper here! Still don’t believe me? What if I type it out? No? What if I make it really official and get all my friends to sign it? I’m not saying that I will rob you too, I’m saying I have the moral right to do so.
The Constitution is even more bunk than the scenario above. Why? Because a bunch of dead guys wrote on a piece of paper “We are allowed to rob you. All future generations of this political class are allowed to rob all future generations as well.” Any legitimate contract must have the consent of all parties involved.
There are two things most apologists of the social contract ignore. The first is that this contract is not voluntary. It is enforced through violence, even if the violence is a few steps removed. We should acknowledge that coerced agreements to contractual obligations under the threat of violence are not valid contracts. Secondly, if it is immoral and unjust to use violence as an individual, individuals are then not allowed to delegate rights they do not have to other individuals in a collective regarding the initiation of violence. Government, which is just a collection of individuals, is not magically immune from the moral principles the individual is under.
Let’s use an example to illustrate. Let’s say at my house I have an ugly sweater rule. Any visitors and guests that come to my house must put on an ugly sweater. If you don’t like it, you can leave. This is fine because I am the legitimate owner of my house, not you, so I can make the rules. Now let’s say I come to your house. Once I arrive I try to enforce my sweater rule on you and tell you that if you don’t like it, you can leave. This isn’t justified since I am not the owner of your property therefore I cannot make the rules. Now let’s say I point to some vacant wilderness. I say, I own that forest and when you go in that forest you have to wear an ugly sweater. Again, I have not mixed labor and homesteaded that land or voluntarily exchanged for it, therefore I can’t make the rules for that land. Government is like the last two examples since it does not legitimately own anything. It has either stolen property or claimed something as its own without first homesteading it.
Therefore it is not allowed to enforce any rules or laws. The only shaky points are on the side that thinks the social contract is a real thing. Let us dig deeper though.
Only the individual acts. The individual acts because they see that their situation could be made better by taking an action (which means the application of scarce means to desired ends) could be made better by taking the action than not taking it. Take Crusoe on a desert island. He takes the action of applying a scarce resource, time, to the collection of berries on an island because he sees the end of having a supply of food as more beneficial than having no supply.
The next concept after human action is that all individuals vary in their preferences. For instance, you (the reader) and I both have different goals and ends we wish to accomplish. This is true for all individuals. What is constant though is that humans act and have ends. From these two points we can then understand that there would be no action and no economics or social sciences without individuals perceiving economic uneasiness in their circumstances, identifying ends and applying means to those ends. Collectives are just individuals working together for the sole purpose of accomplishing their individual ends. Their ends do not have to be the same since the “collective end” (like the earning of profits in a business) can produce something (income) that can be further applied by the individual to accomplish their personal end (buying a sports car).
Thus, if there was no individual identifying ends and applying means, there would be no opportunity for collectives to arise. So most people have it backwards. The individual comes first and the collective is second.
Let us now talk about the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) which states that using violence outside of the defense of one’s self and property is unjustified and illegitimate. Again, like I said above, most people believe this and live out their lives through it. It is part of religion as well. Jesus said to “love your neighbor as yourself.” We understand that using coercion and violence to attain the ends we talked about above is not conducive to a “civil society”.
If it is immoral to initiate violence as an individual, and the collective is dependent upon individual action as I stated above, then it is likewise IMMORAL and UNJUSTIFIED to use violence and coercion as a collective just like how it is as an individual. Statists and social contract apologists seem to either consciously or subconsciously avoid this topic or gloss over it, but it is a major problem for their entire argument.
They can say that the democratic process and the ability to participate in the political system means we consent. This too is fallacious. I do not have the right to beat another person up and take their things. I think most people agree that this is wrong right? Perpetrating violence against another person and their property and a system of “might makes right” is immoral; but this is precisely what democracy is. If I do not have the right to assault someone else and take their things, can I give a right like that, that I do not possess, to someone else or a group of individuals? How can I legitimately give that which I do not have? Likewise, how do individuals give a right they do not have, the ability to initiate violence, to other individuals just like them that likewise lack this ability? As we stated, collectives must follow the same rules as individuals since collectives are composed of them. This means that government, which exercises the right to initiate violence and is a collection of individuals, is illegitimate and unjustified.
Now let us talk about contracts. The definition of a contract is “a binding agreement between two or more persons or parties; especially one legally enforceable”. The problem with the social contract is that legitimate and justified contracts MUST HAVE THE EXPRESSED CONSENT OF ALL THOSE WHOM IT CONCERNS.
What if someone’s great grandparents willfully sold themselves into slavery and signed a contract saying all of their dependents and future generations were slaves? Would the great grand child, who of course was not present to consent to such a contract, be obligated to fulfill it? No? But this is precisely the same line of thinking that many apologists of the social contract use to justify our requirement to adhere to it. 200+ years ago, some now dead men sat down and wrote a contract and had the audacity to say that all future generations would be required to adhere to it. They did this despite the fact that we were not even born yet and could not consent to the terms of the contract.
Let us use a car dealership as another example. Let us say that a car dealership sends out a letter to everyone in the neighborhood saying “We have purchased a new car for everyone! You have a choice of a GM or Honda. If you neglect to specify your choice, we will send you the car that was the popular choice for others. Enclosed with this letter you will find a bill for $30,000. It is due within 30 days. If you refuse to pay this bill, there will be a compounding 10% fee. If you continue to neglect to pay, car dealership employees will arrive at your residence and take you away to our personal debtors prison. The dealership employees will be armed so resistance is not advised. If you don’t like this agreement, you can move away from this neighborhood.”
Would such a “contract” be valid? No because the recipients of this bill for $30,000 never vocalized their consent. But just like the social contract, it is based off of geography and a contractual obligation where a party that is directly affected by the terms was not present to consent to it. Likewise with 230 years, we were not present like the recipients of this bill to consent, therefore, it is not a binding and legitimate contract. It is just “give us your stuff or get a beating”. It’s called mugging by some I think.
Want to learn more? Check out these sources: