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? This is tough because no one that promotes this idea will ever define it for you, so even if I run the risk of being accused of making a strawman argument, I will have to infer its definition from the arguments that people that promote it make. 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.
Now, if the state is morally good, as people that work for the state and people that like the state claim, then the source of it’s power must also be morally good. The justification for the state’s power is the social contract, so the social contract must be morally good. 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.
So lets say I want to set up a business. I will call it “Social Contract HTML Programming”. My business plan is to initiate a social contract with everyone in my building. According to this contract everyone in the building will give me half their income, and in return I will help them clean up the HTML on their website. Or not. Whether or not I actually provide the service of helping them clean up the HTML is entirely up to me, and they have to pay even if they don’t have a website, internet or a computer. If they don’t pay I will send armed men to their apartment to make them pay, and if they try to defend themselves these men will kill them. According to supporters of the social contract, this business plan is based on a high moral principle. If you support the social contract, you must also agree that “Social Contract HTML Programming” is morally good. How could you not? On what basis would you oppose it?
How would the state react to “Social Contract HTML Programming”? Would they agree that this was a valid business based on a valid contract? No. They would say that I was a criminal, that I was evil, that I was possibly crazy and put me in jail. The state would say that I was evil for creating exactly the same kind of contract that it claims is the basis of its power. So according to the state itself the social contract must be morally evil. How can statists resolve this contradiction? As far as I’ve seen they cannot. Therefore 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.
If you disagree and you support the social contract I would be interested to read your arguments and see if you can deal with the logical and moral problems associated with this concept.