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Ayn Rand wrote "Modern collectivists... see society as a super-organism, as some supernatural entity apart from and superior to the sum of its individual members." Those who support freedom are often told that, if they live in society, they agreed to a "social contract" and, so, they should just stop complaining about the government. The government never asks for your consent to this social contract - it is implicit just by existing. You can't "take it or leave it." Just as the children of slaves became the property of the master, so too does the government claim ownership of you just by being born. (Lysander Spooner wrote a wonderful essay called No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority on the subject.) What are the logical and moral issues with social contract theory?


I've often been engaged in arguments with statists when in frustration they tell me that according to the "social contract" I've actually agreed to everything the state does because I continue to live within the boundaries of the state, and that I am free to leave at any time so I should shut up and just stop complaining. Usually people that say this sort of thing are open minded liberals who believe that everyone has a right to be heard and everyone's opinion is valid.

The first thing we need to do is identify exactly what the social contract is. What are its terms? How is it defined? ...Not only will statists refuse to define it for you, but they will interpret you asking them to define it as an act of aggression or anti-social in some way.

First of all the social contract applies to geographical areas, since people tell you that if you don't like it you can leave the geographical area in which it is in force. Second, the social contract is unilateral, one party can initiate this form of contract with any other party, or every other party within the geographical area. Third, consent to this contract is implied. The other party in a social contract need not give explicit consent or sign their name to any document. In fact, no document exists. Consent is implied by remaining within the geographical bounds of the contract, and the terms of the contract can change at any time without notice. And of course the last point is that the terms of the social contract will be enforced with violence, and this violence is completely at the discretion of the initiating party...

People that promote the concept of the social contract would probably agree that it is morally good. If they didn't think so, why would they be arguing in favor of it?

If something is morally good, then anyone, whether they are part of the state or not, should be able to do it. How could you argue against this? If it is morally good to give to charity, then I can do it, you can do it and the state can do it, and all of us would be engaging in righteous behavior. So then if the state is morally good, the basis of it's power must be morally good, the social contract must be morally good and therefore anyone must be able to make social contracts with anyone else. I must be able to make a social contract with you, you can make one with me, my neighbor can make one with my other neighbor and all of us can make one with the state.

...the state must be an evil and self-contradictory institution, and it must be so according to its own premise. If you claim that the state can tax me and that based on the social contract I've agreed to this tax by not moving away, and that this is a morally good situation, then you must agree that based on the social contract I can tax the state for an equal or even greater amount than they can tax me, and that unless the state moves away they have agreed to this tax and I can enforce this tax with violence and that must also be a morally good situation.

The "social contract" is an empty concept


Original posting by Braincrave Second Life staff on Sep 21, 2010 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=331

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