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A Critique of the Social "Contract"


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#1 AnCapistan

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 08:50 PM

Alright guys, so I was bored and decided to write this. What do you think?

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Definitions

State: An institution with one (almost always both) of the following qualities: 1. Acquires income through coercion, 2. Obtains a monopoly or asserts a legal dominance over legal institutions

Statist: An advocate for a state

Anarchist: An advocate for the removal of the state

Voluntaryism: Synonym for anarchism, holds that the only ethical human interaction should be interaction which is voluntary

Contract: Voluntary agreement made between two or more parties

Voluntary Agreement: An agreement free of coercive consequences if one does not enter into the agreement (ex. if I offer to sell you my ice cream for $5, and you refuse, and I leave then the proposal was voluntary, however, if I make the same offer but threaten to shoot you in the head if you do not make the exchange, then the exchange was not voluntary)

Social Contract: A concept created by statists giving an ethical justification to the validity of the state, asserting it arises through contractual interaction between the state and its subjects

Introduction

It is impossible for any anarchist to discuss the legitimacy of the state without hearing mention of the social contract from a statist. Any skilled apologist for the state quickly pulls this argument out of their bag of tricks, quickly silencing the ignorant critic who had the nerve to question the foundation of the state. The modern statist eloquently weaves a fine web of deception which holds that there exists a social contract, between the governed and the government which justifies the existance of the latter. This contract is displayed in the election of government officials through the democratic system. Unfortunately for the statist, we shall soon find that the social contract is one of the most fallacious ideas ever fabricated in political science.

A History of Social Contract Theory Part I: Hobbes, Leviathan, and Monarchy

The social contract was first developed by British philosipher Thomas Hobbes in his 1651 seminal work Leviathan. In Leviathan, Hobbes first begins by stating the irrational fears of anarchism that will encapsulate statist rhetoric for centuries to come by stating that "During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe [anarchy], they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man." He then goes on to describe the disastorous results of living in this anarchist world:

"Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man, the same consequent to the time wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short


Hobbes' chilling warnings lead him to justify the existance of the state upon these utilitarian grounds. The contract between the state and the subject results from protection, Hobbes says, "The obligation of subjects to the sovereign is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth by which he is able to protect them." Hobbes has now repudiated the viability of anarchism, established the need of the state, and established his social contract. However, this argument falls apart upon closer historical and experimental lenses.

Hobbes fails to note that many of the principles of his hypothetical anarchist world were those observed throughout the history of European Statism. For the average inhabitant of the sub-continent, life was indeed poor nasty and short. People did live in fear of violent death, either through the actions of their fellow man or through disease. Industry was primitive, trade was primarily overland, technological development was slow, the church dominated culture, and even the most erudite intellectual was ignorant of the existance of two large continents on the other side of the ocean (believing instead that the earth was flat and the corners of it were inhabited by mythical beasts). In fact, what Hobbes finds "worst of all" about Anarchism was more indicative of his statist societies of Europe then the comparable stateless society of Medieval Ireland, whose wars were sparse in comparison to its statist counterparts.

Hobbes' social contract based upon protection is too flimsy and prone to reductio ad absurdum to be taken seriously. If the ability to protect a subject determines the validity of the state, does a citizen become free of his obligations if he is robbed? Can the state recover its privledges to exploit an individual by regaining its protective ability? If yes, how would it do such a thing? Indeed, what Hobbes has done is give an ethical carte blanche to criminal institutions such as the Mafia, giving it a justified ability to coerce in its protection racket so long as it actually protects the victim of the racket from outside harm.

However, if the modern statist does not find these argument against Hobbes formulation of the social contract satisfying, then he should at least understand a crucial fact, i.e., Hobbes advocated absolute monarchy and made the argument that it was far superior to aristocracy and democracy, the latter of which he viewed as to close to his hypothetical view of anarchy. The modern statist holds that a free democracy is an important component of the social contract. But in fact, social contract theory has its roots in providing a justification for monarchy and authoritarianism, not democracy.

A History of Social Contract Theory Part II: Locke, Rousseau, and Democracy

The modern statist generally pieces together his social contract through the writings of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The two men established their social contracts based upon democratic ideals: representative for Locke and direct for Rousseau. To the chagrin of the statist, the statements of Rousseau and Locke, taken in a certain context, does not justify the state, but justifies anarchy!

Rousseau believed that the only just form of government would be a direct democracy. He explicitly states, "The legislative power belongs to the people, and can belong to it alone.". The Social Contract in the Rousseauian Democracy is born through individuals sacrificing freedoms for the good of the collective will. Rousseau lamented that modern society had made men subservient to each other (summarized in the phrase "Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains."), and proposed that men should deal with each other voluntarily to form social bodies. This is the core principle of Voluntaryism, and while Rousseau probably did not understand that this was what his statements lead to, we can deduce that Rousseau's statements do not justify a state.

Similarly, John Locke proposed that governments could only justifiably rule by the consent of the governed, that is, if the governed voluntarily agree to be governed. What does this mean? Logically, it must mean that the only just system of governance must be anarchy. If 51 out of 100 people vote for Candidate A, the regime of Candidate A certainly does not have the consent of the 49. What if the 49 decided they did not wish to be governed? If Locke was an advocate of majority rule, then he clearly violates his own principles. Furthermore, due to the short-ballot movement of the progressive era and the never ending expansion of the state bureaucracy, it is clear that "majority rule" is not even justified.

It is important to note, that both man (especially Locke) saw the initiation of force against nonviolent people as unethical. An important thing to consider when constructing any system of ethics is that they should be axiomatic, i.e, they should not have arbitrary cut-off points where the principles no longer apply. If a basic ethical principle of non-violence is to be held and someone then decrees violence against red heads as justified, then their ethical system must be discarded. If violence against red heads is okay, why (logically) is violence against blondes not justified? What about those with green eyes or yellow skin? Thus, if the ethics of Rousseau and Locke are to remain consistent, then they can only advocate anarchism.

The Social Contract is a Unilateral Initiation of Force

In the end, all of this is irrelevant. The statist seeks to substitute words with positive connotations (much like his use of the phrase "Intellectual Property") to make his views seem acceptable. Thus, the statist uses the word contract to produce the illusion of voluntary consent. But again, this is just another lie. The Social Contract, by the admittance of the statist himself, is a unilateral agreement. It does not require the approval of the subject to be valid. Therefore, it is not a contract by definition.

Conclusion

The social contract is an interesting idea to consider when considering the justice of the state. However, it is also a ridiculous proposition based upon arbitrary cut-off points in ethical systems. While the average modern statist claims Locke and Rousseau as their influence in social contract theory, their beliefs more clearly mirror that of Hobbes, both in their irrational treatment in considering anarchy and their glaring contradictions in their social contract theory. If there does indeed exist an ethical justification for the state, it will not be found in social contract theory. It behooves the modern statist to consider an alternative theory and cease repeating the same oft-refuted talking point.

#2 KainIIIC

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 09:27 PM

1) Wouldn't you just love if you could define everything for yourself, so that your world could fit neatly into it? :smug:

2) Those are quite big leaps in logic to say that Rousseau and Locke advocate anarchy. Rousseau did see direct democracy as the best form of government, and didn't see the state of nature as brutish as Hobbes. That doesn't make him an anarchist. Especially when he advocates for things like public education or the "general will". Locke himself was pretty libertarian in philosophy.

#3 AnCapistan

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 09:33 PM

1) Wouldn't you just love if you could define everything for yourself, so that your world could fit neatly into it? :smug:


I'm not really redefining things. Just posting definitions for quick access in case anyone is confused by what I mean. If you take offense at those definitions, you're free to criticize them, and if that is indeed the case, I encourage you to do so.

2) Those are quite big leaps in logic to say that Rousseau and Locke advocate anarchy. Rousseau did see direct democracy as the best form of government, and didn't see the state of nature as brutish as Hobbes. That doesn't make him an anarchist. Especially when he advocates for things like public education or the "general will". Locke himself was pretty libertarian in philosophy.


You're misunderstanding what I'm saying. For the record, I believe Rousseau was akin to more of a radical social democrat and Locke was, as you said, a modern-day American Libertarian. I'm saying that logically, the statements which form the core of their ethics, point to Anarchism, so they're caught in a definite contradiction.

Edited by Mr Damsky, 11 March 2012 - 09:33 PM.


#4 Freddy

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 09:55 PM

In the anarchist utopia, what would happen if people disagreed? And they couldn't come to terms through words? Wouldn't these people eventually resort to violence to enforce their 'rights'?

#5 KainIIIC

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 09:57 PM

I'm not really redefining things. Just posting definitions for quick access in case anyone is confused by what I mean. If you take offense at those definitions, you're free to criticize them, and if that is indeed the case, I encourage you to do so.


Why sure you are. Your definition of "state" was clearly an Anarchist-laden definition.

I'll add in my own definition:

Statist: A relatively useless term to lump all non-Anarchists into one designated, pejorative name.

You're misunderstanding what I'm saying. For the record, I believe Rousseau was akin to more of a radical social democrat and Locke was, as you said, a modern-day American Libertarian. I'm saying that logically, the statements which form the core of their ethics, point to Anarchism, so they're caught in a definite contradiction.


and I'm saying that you're conducting a huge leap of logic by stating that their value of liberty and other ethics lead them to Anarchism.

#6 commander thrawn

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 09:58 PM

In the anarchist utopia, what would happen if people disagreed? And they couldn't come to terms through words? Wouldn't these people eventually resort to violence to enforce their 'rights'?


It would be a magical world without conflict. :awesome:

#7 AnCapistan

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 10:07 PM

In the anarchist utopia, what would happen if people disagreed? And they couldn't come to terms through words? Wouldn't these people eventually resort to violence to enforce their 'rights'?


Is this how it works in the real world? If half of the people in my group of friends want to go out for pizza and the other half wants Chinese, do we pull out our 9mm and start shooting each other. No. Of course we do not. There are two reasons why people will not constantly use violence, in a free society, to achieve their ends. One is moral objections and the other is pragmatic objections. The first one is pretty obvious, the second one I'll explain a little.

Essentially, the use of violence is dangerous. This is why burglars carefully pick out their marks. If I want to break into your house and steal your possessions, I have to fear the use of force by you (the homeowner), anyone else in your house (including your dog), your neighbors, and your private security company.

Plus, I hypothesize that the number of trained owners of firearms will skyrocket in a free society. The reason for this is quite simple. Much like how people save money on home insurance by installing burglar alarms, insurance companies (the structure of which PDAs will take on, see more here) would offer rebates for the trained ownership of firearms, which would allow the homeowner to better protect his property and reduce the expenditures the insurance company had to take on.

Why sure you are. Your definition of "state" was clearly an Anarchist-laden definition.

I'll add in my own definition:

Statist: A relatively useless term to lump all non-Anarchists into one designated, pejorative name.


Will wikipedia suffice?

Statism (French; étatisme) is a term used by political scientists to describe the belief that, for whatever reason, a government should control either economic or social policy or both to some degree.[1][2][3][4] Statism is effectively the opposite of anarchism.[4][1][2][3] Statism can take many forms. Minarchists prefer a minimal or night watchman state to protect people from aggression, theft, breach of contract, and fraud with military, police, and courts.[5][6][7][8] Some may also include fire departments, prisons, and other functions.[5][6][7][8] Totalitarians prefer a maximum or all encompassing state.[9][10][11][12][13]Limited government, welfare state, and other options make up the middle territory of the scale of statism.[14][15]


So my definition is correct.

and I'm saying that you're conducting a huge leap of logic by stating that their value of liberty and other ethics lead them to Anarchism.


I'm not saying that it led them to anarchism (it clearly did not), I'm saying that, if they were consistent, it should have led them to anarchism, and if they were consistent it would have led them to anarchism.

Or would have at least led them to reject the position that the initiation of force was moral, but that poses far greater problems for the ethicist.

Edited by Mr Damsky, 11 March 2012 - 10:21 PM.


#8 Hereno

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 10:32 PM

Locke was completely okay with having a Monarchy as long as the contract between the citizens and the monarch was upheld. He argued that all of society - and therefore government - was created to protect private property interests. The right of revolution was the safeguard against tyranny, and Locke said that it was the obligation of the citizens to make revolution against a government working against the interests of the people.

All this thread really did was say what I've been saying all along; that libertarians today are liberals who borrow all of Locke's stuff but reject everything that he founded his theories on.

#9 Ethan Smith

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 10:33 PM

I would also say that Hobbes isn't as pessimistic or certain about human nature as people think he is. It's clear from Leviathan that Hobbes believed in a malleable human nature: if human nature was 'set', then the existence of a state wouldn't matter: anarchy, a war of 'all against all', would just continue through the state. However, it's pretty clear (to most of us) that this isn't true: people generally don't kill each other. This is because there is a normative aspect to the state, which over time becomes the largest part of the state. We don't routinely kill each other over political issues because we think that the state will crack down on us if we do, and although it will, the normative part of it is more important.

Edited by Ethan Smith, 11 March 2012 - 11:06 PM.


#10 Freddy

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 10:47 PM

So violence will be the ultimate solution and the threat of violence the ultimate deterrent. And whoever has the most capacity for violence will have a monopoly on being 'right'. If you don't pay that monopoly for protection they may harm you.

The philosophy of this is very simple, somebody will always be there to twist your arm.

#11 AnCapistan

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 10:54 PM

So violence will be the ultimate solution and the threat of violence the ultimate deterrent. And whoever has the most capacity for violence will have a monopoly on being 'right'. If you don't pay that monopoly for protection they may harm you.

The philosophy of this is very simple, somebody will always be there to twist your arm.


Are you criticizing statism or voluntarism?

#12 KainIIIC

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 10:58 PM

Will wikipedia suffice?



So my definition is correct.


so is mine :smug:

I'm not saying that it led them to anarchism (it clearly did not), I'm saying that, if they were consistent, it should have led them to anarchism, and if they were consistent it would have led them to anarchism.

Or would have at least led them to reject the position that the initiation of force was moral, but that poses far greater problems for the ethicist.


Rousseau viewed government or "the state" as the ability of a state's people to carry out its "general will" or "common interest" as is now said; he viewed the state as captured by the elites as corrupt and unjust, and that the best way to carry out the "general will" was through a direct democratic system. Again, just because he liked liberty and would have preferred a government to be less tyrannical closer perhaps to a minarchy, or even a libertarian-left social welfare state. There is still a wide gap in both logic and for what Rousseau argued that would lead him to be an anarchist. Heck, he wrote "The Social Contract" (Du Contrat Social) legitimizing it, yet having a different view of nature and people. Remember, the second part of Rousseau's quote you gave, said: "Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains. Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they." clearly stating the notion of the state there.

I would also say that Hobbes isn't as pessimistic or certain about human nature as people think he is. It's clear from Leviathan that Hobbes believed in a malleable human nature: if human nature was 'set', then the existence of a state wouldn't matter: anarchy, a war of 'all against all', would just continue through the state. However, it's pretty clear (to most of us) that this isn't true: people generally don't kill each other.


What is true however, that as states have become more centralized throughout history, people tend to kill people less. At least according to that guy who was on Colbert earlier I believe (or was it Stewart?)

Chalk one up for 'statists': "Less people die! You don't get killed as often, and you live longer!"

#13 KaiserMelech Mikhail

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 11:00 PM

Statism is the way to go. Soon you shall all see the light.

#14 AnCapistan

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 11:07 PM

so is mine :smug:


Is this a concession? I'm not using it as a derogatory term, I'm using it in its correct purpose. It's proper and much shorter (and easier on the eyes) than "advocate of government in society".

Rousseau viewed government or "the state" as the ability of a state's people to carry out its "general will" or "common interest" as is now said; he viewed the state as captured by the elites as corrupt and unjust, and that the best way to carry out the "general will" was through a direct democratic system. Again, just because he liked liberty and would have preferred a government to be less tyrannical closer perhaps to a minarchy, or even a libertarian-left social welfare state. There is still a wide gap in both logic and for what Rousseau argued that would lead him to be an anarchist. Heck, he wrote "The Social Contract" (Du Contrat Social) legitimizing it, yet having a different view of nature and people. Remember, the second part of Rousseau's quote you gave, said: "Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains. Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they." clearly stating the notion of the state there.


Again, I'm denying absolutely none of this. My point is that the ethical statements of Locke ("Force is to be opposed to nothing but to unjust and unlawful force. Whoever makes any opposition in any other case draws on himself a just condemnation, both from God and man…") and Rousseau ("Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they." and "Even if each man could alienate himself, he could not alienate his children: they are born men and free; their liberty belongs to them, and no one but they has the right to dispose of it.") should logically lead them to accept the Non-Aggression Principle and thus Anarchism.

I'm not saying that Locke and Rousseau WERE anarchists. I'm merely showing how they had obvious ethical contradictions (like all statists do) and how modern social-contract theory continues to hold that ethical contradiction.

What is true however, that as states have become more centralized throughout history, people tend to kill people less. At least according to that guy who was on Colbert earlier I believe (or was it Stewart?)

Chalk one up for 'statists': "Less people die! You don't get killed as often, and you live longer!"


I'm not so sure about that.

Edited by Mr Damsky, 11 March 2012 - 11:08 PM.


#15 Ethan Smith

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 11:10 PM

So violence will be the ultimate solution and the threat of violence the ultimate deterrent. And whoever has the most capacity for violence will have a monopoly on being 'right'. If you don't pay that monopoly for protection they may harm you.

The philosophy of this is very simple, somebody will always be there to twist your arm.

And yet there is such a diversity of opinions within this oppressive order you are describing. There is a huge difference between 'if you try to do commit acts of violence you will be stopped by the police' and what, say, the Stasi did.

#16 Freddy

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 11:24 PM

Are you criticizing statism or voluntarism?


Both. The state is merely the biggest private security firm. Unless your use of -ism was very deliberate. I'm too practical to dream of pie in the sky.

I agree 100% with your perceived problem of the state: coercion. But I don't believe your solution is realistic.

#17 KainIIIC

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Posted 11 March 2012 - 11:55 PM

Is this a concession? I'm not using it as a derogatory term, I'm using it in its correct purpose. It's proper and much shorter (and easier on the eyes) than "advocate of government in society".


I alluded to both the wiki term and my term to be correct ;)

Again, I'm denying absolutely none of this. My point is that the ethical statements of Locke ("Force is to be opposed to nothing but to unjust and unlawful force. Whoever makes any opposition in any other case draws on himself a just condemnation, both from God and man…") and Rousseau ("Those who think themselves the masters of others are indeed greater slaves than they." and "Even if each man could alienate himself, he could not alienate his children: they are born men and free; their liberty belongs to them, and no one but they has the right to dispose of it.") should logically lead them to accept the Non-Aggression Principle and thus Anarchism.

I'm not saying that Locke and Rousseau WERE anarchists. I'm merely showing how they had obvious ethical contradictions (like all statists do) and how modern social-contract theory continues to hold that ethical contradiction.


eh, various quotes by a LOT of different scholars throughout time, take Keynes for example, could be construed in a way to completely misrepresent their theory (Like Keynes' quote on never to debauch your currency - but then later saying that he prefers inflation over deflation). Those quotes would be much more interesting in the context of the sentences that came before and after it. And even if there is minor contradiction or evolution in thought or theories, that doesn't disregard what Rousseau ultimately said and argued about the Social Contract itself and shouldn't in any way disqualify it. Do you think Mises should be completely discredited because of his funky view of women?

I'm not so sure about that.


derp wars! well at least they're alive and not a disappearance like all anarchical societies inevitably lead to :P

edit: I also agree with Freddy: The state is the highest security firm, and also the one who executes the rule of law and/or arbitrage.

Edited by KainIIIC, 11 March 2012 - 11:58 PM.


#18 Ethan Smith

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 01:32 AM

I find it interesting that the Ancap theory of states follows the same lines of thought as the authoritarian theory of states.

If states are mostly about coercion, why is the coercive part of the budget dwarfed by social services and medical insurance?

#19 Dennis Von Bremen

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 01:35 AM

If states are mostly about coercion, why is the coercive part of the budget dwarfed by social services and medical insurance?

Vote buying/legitimizing the state.

Besides, anything gained through coercion is the coercive part of the budget. :lol1:

#20 The Disco Commandant

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Posted 12 March 2012 - 03:35 AM

That's some hilarious revisionism you got there. And there is still no such thing as statism




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