Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Where is the social contract and where is my signature?

A common myth amongst statists is the belief in the social contract. I have addressed this topic before, but I would like to look at some other arguments they use to justify such a belief.

I won't try to find where such a curious depraved beast might be located, since we already know the answer from the origins of the concept. Hobbes' original argument- that without surrendering our freedom to an almighty state we could have no society and no order- is strictly statist propaganda. Of course, the idea that we need the state to have society is the exact reverse of the truth- the state, as the process of legitimized coercion, is the opposite of society, which is the process of peaceful trade. The more state we have, the less society we have.

The concept of the "social contract" originates in statist propaganda, and ends there.

Now what common arguments are used? One idea is that the social contract is a form of tacit consent. What is tacit consent? It's when you don't object to a point being discussed, consent by silence. The notion of tacit consent implies that the person who is silent is part of the decision-making process, and has simply decided not to intervene in the process in this particular instance. Are we in such a situation? No, definitely not. Most of us are not part of the ruling class and have no place in the decision-making processes of the state. So we do not, and indeed cannot, give "tacit consent" to the existence of the state.

Another brillant idea they have is that being in a "country" means you accept the "social contract" of that "country". Of course, since "countries" are statist fictions enforced by coercion, this is nothing more than a "might makes right" argument. But let's go along with it for a minute. Suppose that this is actually the case- that everyone who enters a country, or decides to stay there, agrees to the exact same contract. Now how likely is it that every single person in a population of 32 million people agrees to follow the exact same contract? Either we are all ignorant of this supposed contract that we all agree on, which is absurd if the contract actually exists, or every single one of us agrees on it, which is improbable to the Nth degree.

And being in a certain area does not make a contract enforcable. One reply I have heard to this is that we have an implicit contact when we enter a store, for example. If this is so, I'd like to know what this contract consists of. I can just as well enter and leave immediately, without breaking any such fictional contract. I have to follow the rules set by the owner (for example, the store closes at such and such hour, and I can't barge in afterwards and demand stuff), but that's not a contract, that's a parameter. We're not exchanging anything- the parameters of the exchange come before the exchange proper. The owner establishes what kind of exchanges he'll do and how they will be done, then we trade, not before. If we lived in a market anarchy, the same principle would apply to land.

How about democracy? By electing someone, do we bind ourselves to him by a "social contract"? Well, that's easily defeated if only by the fact that there are many, many people who vote against an elected official, or do not vote at all. If a vote is consent, then none of those people consented. If we are all bound by the consent of the majority, then it is not a contract at all but rather "might makes right", once again. Or is the law the "social contract"? If that was the case, then no one could change the laws without everyone else's support. Since this never happens, we must assume that this is just yet another version of "might makes right".

So what is it, in a market anarchy, that links us all together? What weaves the fabric of society? Values. More specifically, the values we do have in common with the people we trade with, the common goals that make us want to trade. Fundamentally, whatever our value system, our common goal is to have more possibilities of value-expression, and for most people that means more resources, more technology, more knowledge, more relationships. In short, progress. That's what holds society together and makes it work. Not a "social contract", not a "common good", and not even natural rights. Just progress.

It's simple, but it works!

1 comment:

joaquĆ­n said...

i like this reminds me of a long-running feeling i've had, and a song i wrote when i was 19, called Pretty Cage, some of the lyrics are:

who asked you to build your pretty cage?
who asked for your fear-fillled judgment upon my rage?
I don't recall no invitation to this crazy maze...