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
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.
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.