PRINCIPLES OF NATURAL LAW: Limits of the Social Contract

This nation was founded on the notion of the Social Contract.  Unfortunately, too few of us know what this is, let alone what its limitations are.  In fact, when it comes to the Social Contract, many people are completely ignorant on the subject — even people who make their living talking about and defending it don’t understand it.  For example, I recently heard a ‘conservative’ radio talk show host, Andrew Wilcow, complaining about people who refer to the Social Contract.  According to Mr. Wilcow, the Social Contract does not exist, yet the man makes his living talking about and defending it.  In the radio spot I heard, Mr. Wilcow was challenging listeners to show him a Social Contract.  Well, Mr. Wilcow, I accept your challenge.  What’s more, I am going to link you directly to the most famous social contract in human history.  Mr. Wilcow, if you read this post, here is the link to that famous social contract: The U.S. Constitution!  Now, Mr. Wilcow, please, stop talking to people about the Constitution and matters of Natural Law until after you have taken the time to educate yourself on the subject.  Once you have done that, maybe you could help the situation by explaining what you learned about the limits of the Social Contract to your listeners instead of making things worse by telling them the Social Contract does not exist.   On the slim chance that you or one of your staff reads this post, I took the time to give you the Cliff Notes version on those limits.  Please keep reading.

The Social Contract is based upon the individual’s Natural Right to willingly enter into a contract with another willing individual.  If you and I agree to terms and draw up a contract, so long as the terms of the contract do not violate the principles of Natural Law, then that contract is valid under the principles of  Natural Law.  When an entire community, or even an entire nation willingly enter into such an agreement with each other, that is known as a Social Contract.  Your City Charter is a social contract, as is your State Constitution.  The U.S. Constitution is also a social contract, though it is once removed from the People as it is a contract between the States, and not a contract directly between the People of the several States.  Still, so long as the People, through their States, continue to support the U.S. Constitution, then the U.S. Constitution remains a valid contract under the terms of Natural Law.  But there are limits to what one can agree to under those terms.

Under Natural Law, one cannot agree to surrender their Natural Rights.  Natural Rights are inherent in your being, and you retain them until you die.  You also retain the right to claim and/or assert your Natural Rights.  Now, if I cannot willingly surrender my Natural Rights, then it follows that I cannot demand that you surrender yours.  Therefore, according to Natural Law, no party to a contract can surrender their own or demand the surrender of another person’s Natural Rights.  Now, while this may sound simple, in practice, it is very difficult to get people to accept the truth of this simple deduction.  Still, if we take it to the extreme, I think we can make the point.

Do you have a Natural Right to your body?  I hope you say yes, because, if you say no, then slavery, rape and murder cease to be immoral; and if you are going to argue that there is nothing immoral about slavery, rape and murder, then you have no place in civil society.  Therefore, I am going to assume that we can agree that we each have a Natural Right to our own body.  So, how can we vote to force each other into slavery?  If we all vote, and 51% say it is now ‘legal’ to enslave the other 49%, it would be immoral; and since morality is based on the principles of Natural Law, this means that vote would violate those principles of Natural Law.  Thus, we cannot construct a Social Contract that allows slavery without violating the very principles upon which the contract rests.  yet, we have done exactly this and we wonder why our Social Contract does not work.

Are you wondering why I said we have legalized slavery when the 14th Amendment prohibits slavery in the United States?  It’s because we have violated other principles of Natural Law.  We just don’t see those violations because we are so utterly ignorant of Natural Law in general.  In this case, I am talking about the plain meaning of words.  What if I tell you I have totally illuminated rape, but I have had to make ‘other-service’ (as in: to serve another person) legal.  What would you say to that?  What is ‘other-service’ you ask?  Oh, nothing much.  It just means that, if another person asks, you must have sex with them — for the sake of serving their needs, of course.  Now, would you still accept my claim to have illuminated rape?  Why not?  I mean, don’t you see that I have totally eliminated the heinous act of rape while making it mandatory that we all provide for each others needs by making it illegal to refuse to serve each other?  This is a great thing I have done, isn’t it?  Well, if you say no, then why do so many Americans change their mind when I make a small change to this assertion.  Or do you recognize that this is the same argument I just made about rape, it is just put in different terms:

I have totally eliminated slavery, but I have had to make ‘other-service’ legal — only, this time, ‘other-service’ means “working against your will to give goods, services and money to others.”

This is important; please take time to think this one through.  Do you see that the claim is the same in both cases?  In both cases, either slavery or rape were eliminated, but another form of it was made legal under a different name.  Then I claim that the name changes the act.  So rape becomes ‘other-service’ in the first case, and slavery becomes ‘other-service’ in the other.  Who could possibly object to this?  In both cases, immoral acts have been totally eradicated, and in both cases, people have been forced to serve each other by making it illegal to refuse to take care of the needs of other people.  So, are you ready to agree that the whole world should live under such a system?  I hope you said no, but now let me ask you something tougher.  Without just saying “it’s wrong,’ or anything connected to “I don’t feel like…,” can you tell me why such a system is wrong?

You see, if we cannot explain why something is wrong, then how can we know it really is?  In this case, both of these claims — to have eliminated rape and slavery — are wrong.  All we did is change the terms we use from ‘rape’ or ‘slavery’ to ‘other-service’ and then act like they are totally different.  In the first case, we pretend they are horrible acts against the Natural Rights of another person’s body, but in the latter, they are acts of ‘social justice.’  After all, no one can object to serving other people — especially their ‘needs.’  So who can object to ‘other-service?’  Only a horrible monster would object to this system.  But we just agreed that the system is immoral, so which is it: are we right, or are we horrible monsters against social justice and the needs of other people?  Once again, if you cannot explain why this is all wrong, then you must be a monster who wants people to suffer.

Here’s where the Social Contract comes to the rescue!  Our laws are part of the Social Contract.  To be a law, something must conform to the social contract that allows that law to be written and enforced.  If that law violates the terms of that social contract, then it is not a law at all.  In terms most of us understand — at least in part — if a law violates the Constitution, it is “unconstitutional,” therefore, it is not a law at all.  This is just another way of saying the law violated the social contract known as the Constitution.  But the Social Contract has limitations.  It cannot demand that we surrender our Natural Rights, nor can we demand that another person surrender their Natural Rights.  To do so would be a violation of Natural Law, therefore, it would also be a violation of the Social Contract.  So, in the two cases we just discussed — ‘rape’ and ‘slavery’ — both violate the Social Contract because both violate Natural Law.  Any time we force another person to do something for another person when doing it is against their will, we violate both the Social Contract and Natural Law.  In this case, no matter what we call it, rape, slavery or ‘other-service,’ we are forcing people to use their body, against their will, for the benefit of another.  Any and all laws, constitutions or any other form of Social Contract under which laws are written or societies govern themselves which demand such force is a clear violation of Natural Law, thus, they are immoral.  This is how you would explain your objection, and it is a very, very difficult argument to get around.

Now, let’s go back and change just a few words and then see what you might think about the way we currently govern ourselves.  Given everything we have just discussed, what if I had said this:

I have totally eliminated ‘blanks,’ but I have had to make ‘other-service’ legal — only, this time, ‘other-service’ means “welfare, ‘Obamacare, social security…?”

Now, do you see the problem with socialism and/or the whole notion of ‘social justice’ yet?  If you don’t, then you lied to yourself when you said you were against making rape and slavery legal under the term ‘other-service.’  What you really meant is you are OK with those sort of things  so long as you are not the one who is affected by them, in which case, you have no business in civil society.  In fact, civil society — the Social Contract —  was created specifically to protect others from the likes of people who think that way.  And that is why Natural Law places limits on the Social Contract.

10 thoughts on “PRINCIPLES OF NATURAL LAW: Limits of the Social Contract

    1. Phadde,

      Funny you should mention that. Have you ever noticed how kids are ‘pushed’ to go to college, take on MASSIVE debt, then they are not allowed to declare that debt in a bankruptcy? Or how much money colleges make without EVER falling under the “greedy Capitalist” attacks from the media?

      It is a two-pronged attack: they dumb-down our kids while putting them in perpetual debt, then offer government ‘carrots’ of deferment and forgiveness for doing ‘government service.’

      Well, to me, ‘government service’ sounds an awful lot like ‘other-service.’ 😉

  1. There will come a time, just as in Colonial America, this experiment in government of a people based on the social contract defined by the US Constitution will cease. We do not have a crystal ball giving us an exact date but we are fast approaching another Concord moment or serfdom. Call it what you want but most of the World populations are already in the later and have accepted it.

    The U.S. Constitution has been rendered into a massive excess of governmental rules and regulations much like grinding up 5% lean beef and mixing it with 95% fat. You can still call it hamburger meat but it’s no longer fit for consumption. All you can do is feed it to the dogs and start over again. Question of the day, are there enough Americans with the spirit of our forefathers willing to die trying.

    This has been the goal of the Progressive Left starting in the early 1900’s and has been assisted by the Central Banking system that is now in control of the Worlds money supply almost on a global scale. Although there has been some pushback by Russia, China and a few others their ideas will be short lived and they will either fall into lock step or be destroyed. Russia has the resources but not the population and China has the population but not the resources. Neither country is truly sustainable without outside intervention by western central banks all controlled by those driving the One World Government. We are the Borg and you will be assimilated.

    It all lines up with Biblical Prophecy and will be no surprise to those who have read and understand what approaches.

  2. Great post Joe. I had to read it 3 times before it really became clear, but once I really focused it all clicked. Completely agree. Kudos on another fantastic post.

    I want to share some understandings I’ve come to recently, related to this question you posed above.

    “You see, if we cannot explain why something is wrong, then how can we know it really is?”

    I’ve heard an alternate definition of Natural Law as “The Law of Behavioral Consequences.” (ala Mark Passio) Since Natural Law is best defined in the apophatic sense (the negative), it is simplest to define the Wrongs. God created a set of Wrongs, and as long as we don’t do those, any other action is a Right.

    Wrongs are simple – No murder, rape, theft, trespass, etc.

    The Golden Rule is a principle that helps you live in harmony with Natural Law. “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” This doesn’t list the Wrongs, but instead helps you bypass them entirely by using the “would I like them to do this to me?” line of thought as a guide.

    Recently, I created a moniker HeLPS to help identify the Wrongs.

    HeLPS – Harm, Loss, Pain, Suffering

    In other words, “will this action I am about to take cause Harm, Loss, Pain or Suffering?” Bad actions do. On the flip side, good actions ease Harm, Loss, Pain, Suffering in others.

    Behaviors that cause Harm, Loss, Pain, or Suffering violate Natural Law, and will therefore have consequences enacted coldly and dispassionately by the Universe.

    Note I said the Universe, and not God. God created the rules. The Universe is the manifested result of those rules enforced. The consequences of Natural Law are not punishment. It is simply the result of an impersonal feedback mechanism, a mechanistic form of balance, impartial to the reasons or justifications of why an action was taken. Action has Consequence (good or bad).

    Newton’s 3rd law states this quite succinctly:

    “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

    However, this law is also in effect on a socio-emotional (behavioral) level, and adherence (or violation of) Natural Law has consequences. Actions taken on this inter-personal level also have equal and opposite reactions, albeit on a slower time scale. Natural Law is a system of rules set up by God, which drive the circumstances of your life. It is a Zero-sum game of balance. Karma is another description. What you do to others will be done to you (although not as an exact mirror).

    Try running into a brick wall. It pushes back. Thus we all have experience of this law manifesting in the physical realm. Feedback in the physical realm is near instantaneous, as you feel the second you run into a wall. For reasons I have not yet uncovered, there seems to be a cause-effect delay for emotional action-reaction that is much longer, usually in minutes, hours, days or even weeks. Thus an action taken usually takes a while before the reaction materializes in your life.

    Nobody calls gravity ‘unfair’, yet people label the consequences of Morality and Natural Law as ‘punishment’ or personify them somehow ‘judgments from God’. A God of Love doesn’t want you to suffer the result of your ignorance, but ignorance of His Law is no excuse for the consequences that MUST occur. It HAD to be this way, for the Universe to exist in a state of balance.

    In addition, the feedback of Natural Law feedback is not as obvious as physical feedback, as it is not a literal tit-for-tat, but more a metaphorical balancing system. More of a ‘bank account’, allowing deposits and withdrawals. Periodically the account is settled and the balance returned to zero. Hence a zero-sum game, which results in balance.

    Again, this is not punishment, it is action-reaction. For disbelievers, it is testable. Try taking actions which cause HeLPS – harm, loss, pain or suffering, and watch what unfolds in your life. Or, observe one known to you who is violating these, and watch what happens to them if you are afraid to take actions yourself which will reap Karmic consequences. They are real, testable, and knowable, although it might take keen sight to see them at first.

    For example a murderer crosses a street, but doesn’t see the oncoming truck and is struck and killed. “Aw, that’s just a coincidence! The guy just had bad luck.” Coincidences. Yep. That is the form this cause-effect system uses. The more adept you are at seeing coincidences and subtle connections, the easier it is to witness this system in effect. Witness (or commit) a violation of Natural Law, and then watch the coincidences that happen. People who are ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’ are anything but. Has nothing to do with luck. Most people are clueless to the mechanism, the rules, thus get ‘average’ results due to some good behaviors and some bad ones (easing Harm, Loss, Pain, Suffering or causing Harm, Loss, Pain or Suffering).

    Because there is a system, there are those who would try to ‘game the system’. On the negative side, rulers entice others (via money, chain of obedience, orders, authority) to do their bidding, so the burden of karmic consequences are shouldered by others not them. On the positive side, I wonder about (selfishly) doing good acts to reap a positive Karmic reaction. I suspect this doesn’t fare well, although I have yet to explore this frontier. Maybe others have experiences here they can share.

    The whole system here is definable, testable, knowable, so I’m curious to see the science of this outlined further.

    1. Liberty,

      Brilliant commentary — except for one little thing that may be nothing more than just a difference of conception. ‘Pain’ is not always a violation of Natural Law. In many cases, ‘pain’ is required for growth. So I would suggest you may need to tweak the way you express your definition of violations of Natural Law in this regard, but — otherwise — I plan to ‘steal’ much of the way you put this 😉

  3. ‘Steal’ away my friend! I’m grateful for a site like this where ideas on Morality can be openly explored deeply in earnest, that we all may learn and grow.

    And thanks for raising the point about pain. I can see I need to go deeper into this, as my understanding of the exact conditions is not yet clear. If I stab someone with a knife and cause pain, that is clearly a violation. Yet if I share Truth you are not ready to awaken to, that might also cause pain yet possibly save a life. So I need to explore this further.

    A few years back I learned ala Marshall Rosenberg, that each individual is the only person who controls your feelings. The same action by one person might elicit joy in one person, and pain in another. So from that perspective, the action is a stimulus, but ultimately it is up to the person to control how they interpret and respond. You own your feelings.

    So I thought maybe “Well, then what matters is what you intend. Do you intend to cause pain?” But in fact, intent can’t be the deciding factor. If my intent is to help a woman in need, so I go steal from my neighbor to give to her, my intent may be noble but my actions violate Natural Law. This is the nature of the welfare state, noble intent (help those in need), but immoral (steal or tax to fund corruption).

    On another note, the social contract discussion reminded me of a fascinating article from 1870 titled “Lysander Spooner, No Treason. No. VI. The Constitution of No Authority [1870]”, found here It is one of the most interesting analyses on the nature of the Constitution, pointing our many reasons it cannot be a valid and binding contract. Well worth reading, and pondering the implications.

    1. Liberty,

      I am glad you found my little hole in cyber-space as you cause me to think, as well.

      Now, on the subject of pain: it might help if you think of injury being a violation. We can inflict pain — even when there is no intent to ‘do good,’ yet NOT inflict an injury. If I come around a corner too fast and run into you and give you a black eye, there is pain, but insufficient injury to warrant legal restitution. in other words, no violation of Natural Law. However, if I run into you — by accident — and I knock out a tooth, then I have caused injury. Anyway, this might help, might not.

      As for the Constitution: I will read your link, but the founders clearly stated the Constitution is not and cannot be binding in the Declaration. However, so long as the Constitution is strictly upheld as intended, then it is binding — but only on the generation which ratified it. It is in violation of the Social Contract that we find the Natural Right to dissolve it, and since this generation cannot bind the next, that is — technically speaking — a violation of the Natural Right to Contract.

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