Social Contract: The Myth
by Steven Clyde
The myth of the social contract1 is one that has been around for hundreds of years.2 Without first understanding how fallacious the idea is, we will never be able to understand why voluntary coordination through private property rights not only is the best way for individuals to assimilate into societies, but that the government forces its citizens to act as partial slaves to the state, demanding that they give up a portion of their income through coercive and sometimes violent means.
To begin, have you ever found yourself cornered in a debate from the notion that you “implicitly” gave consent to be deprived of your property by government because you “stay” in this country and don’t leave? Have you ever found yourself convinced by the plausibility of the (soon to be seen) faulty logic that without government coordination we wouldn’t have things like roads, schools, decent healthcare, help for the poor, etc?
We’ve all been there, no matter what side of the debate you’re on. On one hand a person on the far right could state “I never consented to paying taxes, therefore I shouldn’t have to pay them” then someone else responds “but you drive on the roads, you’re able to call 911 at your will, and you have at your convenience all sorts of other services you either take advantage of or could take advantage of”. Is this no different than when someone on the far left that claims “I never consented to the wars our government put us in which the taxpayers foot the bill for” then are given more or less the same response? Whether or not the premises are accurate in either case, or any case, the point is that this is the kind of language used to justify arguments in today’s society. It has much less to do with voluntary interactions and rational conclusions then it does implicit control over others and their belongings.
Let us say for example that there is a suspected wild animal that has been terrorizing the town for days and nobody else can seem to catch it or even prove a wild animal is causing this; it’s only assumed because the damage mostly amounts to knocked over trash cans and light damage to property only an animal would cause. Suppose then that I go out and find this animal in the midst of the night and by morning I leave a bill on everybody doorstep saying they now owe me money because I have caught the animal and the damage to their property will cease to exist because of me. Would anybody accept that argument? And furthermore, would those paying the bill be doing so voluntarily or because of the fear of what I might do if I don’t get paid? I can only get away with this type of fraudulent activity by enough people giving in to my demands. And it’s only when we get to a point where nearly everybody is paying in can the individuals start to make the argument that it’s a moral or ethical travesty to refuse to pay in.
This is the basis of the supposed social contract: that because we were born into a society where hundreds of years ago a contract was signed and implemented, its implied that we, the current generations, owe positive obligations to the rest of society. Furthermore, it implies that we the people have signed the same contract by refusing to leave the country we’re currently in. There are several problems with this assumption. First off, even if we were to leave this country, in which one are we to go to where we don’t have to engage in this sort of social contract to exist peacefully? If on one hand, its stated that I should leave but I am not physically forced to, is it implied that I should sacrifice a portion of my labor through taxes here in this country (and not reap any benefits of said taxation) to then acquire capital to move elsewhere to end up doing the same thing there? This is a very problematic assumption, because it overlooks my current violation of rights to justify my future violation of rights elsewhere in the world. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and neither of these two potential wrongs were intended to make it right in the first place. But what if I am forced to leave? If I do not have the capital to pick up and move, does the government pay for me to leave? Would I get shipped off to a random country or would I get to choose? And since the government doesn’t have any resources of its own, namely its parasitic in nature, are we not taking from one man to give to another on the notion that the latter man has simply not consented to be in the position of the former man?
It’s often been said that democracy is quite literally mob rule, which is accurate; but its worthy of keeping in mind that when the Constitution was signed there still wasn’t consent given by the people. A handful of men came together to discuss these ideas at the ratifying conventions, and 39 delegates signed and instituted a whole new government (with better intentions than Britain at least) onto the population of nearly 4 million citizens.3 There is little argument to be had that of those millions of citizens nearly none of them had a say or influence in how the contract was drafted, and there is even less of an argument today that somehow we are to be bound by this document which has not been re-contracted through each generation to attain consent.
To Be Continued…
- an implicit agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits, for example by sacrificing some individual freedom for state protection. Theories of a social contract became popular in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries among theorists such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as a means of explaining the origin of government and the obligations of subjects