The Social Contract is based on the notion that government is formed by agreement between the citizens of a nation, and that, because it was created by the People, if the government violates the terms of that contract, the People not only have a right but a duty to change or abolish that government. This right to contract is part of Natural Law, which is derived from Natural Right, which grow out of those gifts granted to every person by their Creator. These rights are inherent in every individual and cannot be justly trampled or infringed upon by another. If they are, this gives the injured party a just claim to redress for that injury. This is also the source of the People’s authority to change or abolish their government should it violate the Social Contract which created it. However, Natural Rights and the Natural Law which governs them is founded upon the acknowledgment that there is a Creator. This places the Creator not only over the individual, but also over those persons who are placed in positions of authority over the People. This does not set well with those who would replace God with themselves, which is what we do when we claim He does not exist and then pretend to ‘re-write’ His Natural Laws. Every would-be dictator in history has rejected the notion that the People are his master, and many have attempted to rationalize a defense of their desire to be God. Unfortunately, history has repeatedly shown that all attempts to reject the Social Contract inevitably result in the loss of individual rights and liberty and, in far too many cases, atrocity.
The rejection of the Social Contract has always existed. Every tyrant, despot and dictator in history has operated on the assumption that they had the authority to rule over anyone they had the power to conquer, and so they did — until someone stronger came along. But the attempt to rationalize this desire to play God didn’t really start until the dawn of the Enlightenment. One of the first to argue against the notion of the Social Contract, or individual rights of any kind, was Niccolo Machiavelli. In his work, The Prince, Machiavelli argued that politics must be totally divorced from moral concerns of any kind:
“Men ought either to be indulged or utterly destroyed, for if you merely offend they they take vengeance, but if you injure them greatly they are unable to retaliate, so that the injury done to a man ought to be such that vengeance cannot be feared.”
Thomas Hobbes agreed. In his work, Leviathan, Hobbes allows that there is a Social Contract, but he negates any usefulness it may have had for the People by arguing that, once formed, it is irrevocable. What’s more, Hobbes argues that the Sovereign can do no wrong:
“Nothing the sovereign representative can do to a subject, on what pretense soever, can properly be called an injustice or injury, because every subject is author of every act the sovereign does.”
Therefore, according to Hobbes, if the State were to put an innocent man to death, there is no wrong because the benefit of government outweighs any possible harm. What’s more, the People cannot object because they gave consent to the government to act in their place when it was formed. But here is the flaw in this notion that there is no Social Contract in which the government is held accountable to the People: after a generation or two, no one subject to the government gave their consent to be governed by it. This means Hobbes’ argument is null and void as he is arguing that the State is legitimized by a consent that was never given.
However, Hobbes recognizes this and tries to rescue his argument by saying everyone gives their consent by accepting the benefit of the government. However, Hobbes is again defeated by the fact that, if the next generation does not consent, he has already said there is nothing they can do because they gave their consent before they were born. In short, Hobbes argues for total despotism and then tries to defend it with a ‘catch 22.’ But this is fallacious. it is reductio and it does not hold up under logical scrutiny.
Still, others continued the attempt to justify the government’s right to do whatever it wishes and to deny the People any claim to change an abusive government. Men such as Jeremy Bentham and John Austin eventually developed a philosophy that became known as legal positivism. In short, legal positivism states that the law is whatever the government says it is. Morality has no place in any of it. What’s more, legal positivism says that there is no such thing as human rights. What rights or privileges an individual has are only those the State decides to grant, and they can be taken away any time the State decides to do so.
However, this ideology eventually caused problems for the supporters of legal positivism because it justified slavery, the Dred Scott decision and abortion, among other things. It also justified NAZI Germany and the Holocaust; Lenin and Stalin and their purges, Mao’s purges; and just about every major atrocity in the 20th Century — the vast majority of which were the direct result of societies that had rejected God and the moral aspect of His Natural Law and the Natural Rights of the individual. This is because Dostoevsky was absolutely correct when he said:
“If there is no God, then all things are permitted.”
But then, he was only echoing Voltaire, who was getting at the very same thing when he said words to the effect of:
“If there were no God, it would be necessary to invent Him.”
This brings us back to the necessity of accepting the Social Contract. Even if you do not believe in God, it is in your best interest to accept and support the Social Contract, Natural Law and Natural Rights. they are the only means by which morality can or does exist. Without God, there can be no such thing as morality, rights, justice — nothing but ‘might-makes-right.’ This makes God necessary to liberty. Reject God and you reject any and all claim you have to redress any perceived wrongs committed against you. However, under Natural Law, you have a Natural Right to reject God. This does not mean you have a Natural Right to be free from religion, but it does mean you have a right to reject it. If you reject Natural Law, then you cannot reject anything the State mandates unless the State allows it or you are stronger than the State. but, if you live under a Social Contract where the laws are written in accordance with Natural Law, then you will not only have a right to reject religion, you will have a right to seek redress and the government will have a duty to enforce your liberty to reject religion.
Unfortunately, too many people want there Natural Rights, but they also want to reject the Source of those rights. This simply does not work: never has, and never will. You can either accept God and His Natural Laws, or you must accept a world where there is no right or wrong, no rights, no redress for injury — only ‘might-makes-right.’ And in today’s world, that means government tyranny — because the People simply are not strong enough to repeat the American Revolution again.
5 thoughts on “THE CONSEQUENCES OF REJECTING THE SOCIAL CONTRACT”
An inspiring post, my question is there away to logically, as you put it, checkmate not necessarily the recognition of God as the authority of Natural Law, but using logic and the rules of nature and man’s state of nature to recognize those laws. Of course, in doing so, supplying logical argument to deflate libertarian critiques on the social contract.
You write, “Now, a person need not agree to the terms of the Social Contract, but that individual needs to understand that, should they choose not to agree to it, they are not entitled to any of the benefits of the contract.” Is this in essence a person declaring themselves a sovereign state or person? As an example, Kokesh, the gentleman that I previously referred to in a comment, drives on roads, uses public property, receives 70% disability pay from the military, department of defense. When he declares that ‘taxation is theft’, yet he receives all of these apples from other members of society, is he not truly advocating for theft. Those who advocate for the dismissal of the idea of the social contract use methods such as the socratic method to put supporters of any form of good government on the defensive. Those who advocate for small government often fall for this intoxicating rhetoric; however, explaining this in such a way would reverse that trend.
First, you have to understand that logic is neutral. I can always design a sound, valid and rational argument to defend anything I want. Libertarians often appeal tot he work of John Stuart Mill, but his theories of Utilitarianism can be used to defend NAZI Germany, as well as Stalin and Mao. That is precisely because logic is neutral. It cannot prove or disprove anything. It is only a tool, and how well we use that tool can guide us, but it can never ‘prove’ anything. For that, we need wisdom (see my post on wisdom vs. knowledge).
This leaves you in the place of trying to deal with people who want to reject God. You cannot counter their argument because you cannot prove God exists. So they will always be able to create a rational justification for their argument. But you can mount some very strong attacks. The problem here is, if they are intellectually dishonest, they will not recognize them for what they are.
First, using your example: to claim taxes are theft while availing yourself of everything they pay for is theft in itself. You cannot claim a ‘right’ to use public property without paying for it. This is because — if you reject the Social Contract — YOU ARE NOT PART OF THE PUBLIC! You are outside that society. the CITIZENS have all contributed to the cost of the public good, but you — as outside society — have not. So you are a trespasser and this gives the society the authority to arrest and jail you — if it so wishes. This is exactly the heart of the matter with illegal aliens: they are not part of that society.
Next, to claim that taxes are theft is to admit to the existence of right and wrong. Inherent in the notion of theft is the claim that something has been unjustly taken away. Look at everything this guy is admitting to without even knowing it:
1 — that you can own something.
2 — that it can be unjustly taken away
3 — that there is a moral component to such actions (otherwise, you cannot call it ‘unjust’)
This brings our libertarian buddy face-to-face with a logical conundrum. Either you have a moral law, or you do not. But the only way to have a moral law is to have a Law giver. An appeal to nature as a person is fallacious, as nature is inanimate. And, even if you ignore this, to argue that nature is the Law Giver of moral right and wrong is to place one in the position of having to arrest the lion for murder when it kills the zebra. That is an absurdity — because we know the lion is not a moral agent.
And there is the trap for the Libertarian: what is it that makes man a moral agent. The answer is that Natural Law does exist, it has been established by a Law Giver Who is over nature, and we are bound to obey these Natural Laws. This brings you face-to-face with God. And to reject Him leaves you back trying to explain why you have a right but the zebra does not. You can try it, but those who acknowledge the Creator will know you are wrong and those who do not will just shoot you because they know that, without God, the only measure of right/wrong is what you are strong enough to force on others.
Does this help you any?
LEGIT’IMATE, a. [L. legitimus, from lex, law.]
1. Lawfully begotten or born; …
2. Genuine; real; proceeding from a pure source; not false or spurious; as legitimate arguments or inferences.
1. To make lawful
2. To render legitimate; to communicate the rights of a legitimate child to one that is illegitimate; to invest with the rights of a lawful heir.
The Social Compact is proclaimed with The Declaration of Independence. The “Social Compact” is affirmed with the Constitutiton of the United States adopted in 1789.
The Republic of the United States of America was probably the first “legitimate” government created by “man”. Legitimate because the republic was created by and with consent of the governed, NOT by FORCE of arms.
The British Library, United Kingdom explains:
Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was a French philosopher and writer.
When he came to Paris he became increasingly aware that ordering society was unjust. The rules were made by the rich to suit their own interests not those of the common people.
In The Social Contract (1762) Rousseau argues that laws are binding only when they are supported by the general will of the people.
His famous idea, ‘man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains’ challenged the traditional order of society. Where previous philosophers had spoken of elites, Rousseau became the champion of the common person. His perfect world was one in which the will of the people was most important.
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