Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
determinist

My Social Contract Debate

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

This continues to ignore the distinction between government and the market, operating on the premise of anarchy.

According to Wikipedia, citing a textbook, two people may trade but it takes at least three persons to have a market, so that there is competition. The government only ever deals with a citizen one-to-one and there is no competitive bidding in law enforcement. There is no market.

This drops the context of the injustice of having to initiate the cause of payment for the desired effect of not being victimized as a product of extortion. You do not say “He deserved to have his rights violated because he failed to enact the cause of failing to pay his extortionist.” Justice forms a direct link with the principle of individual rights and the latter cannot be dropped.

Where there is no right to act in the first place, there can be no possibility of rights violation. No citizen has the right to enforce his own laws or contracts. There is no rights violation. Trade is always voluntary, including undertaking trades without contract protection.

Your argument about rights would entail that the government could never charge for any service whatsoever lest it violate some right. It could not charge for registering deeds to land, it could not charge for trademarks or patents, it couldn't charge for lottery tickets or souvenirs at the gift shop.

Your argument has exhausted itself. You continue to offer us the same false dilemma between taxation and anarchy. You are embracing statism in order to conduct an argument against anarchy. Luckily, Ayn Rand already provided us with a different option than no government or statism:

Since the imposition of taxes does represent an initiation of force, how, it is asked, would the government of a free country raise the money needed to finance its proper services?

In a fully free society, taxation—or, to be exact, payment for governmental services—would be voluntary.

Ayn Rand claims payment for governmental services should be voluntary, and then you claim the system she proposes to accomplish that is not voluntary. What you regard as an arbitrary imposition and rights violation is the condition of citizenship, that no citizen has the right to enforce his own laws or contracts. You cannot without contradiction both attack that relationship and disavow anarchism. Nor is the relationship of citizenship between an individual and his government evidence of statism. Statism is the premise "that man’s life and work belong to the state". When authority over the retaliatory use of force is delegated to the state that does not create state ownership of citizens' lives and work.

All citizens have delegated that power to the government by voluntary contractual agreement.

  • Those who write the government's constitution and ratify it participate in a contract like any normal contract.
  • Succeeding generations gain citizenship by birth. "In that case, your parents or guardians are contracting for you, exercising their power of custody."
  • "Immigrants, residents, and visitors contract through the oath of citizenship (swearing to uphold the laws and constitution), residency permits, and visas."

People who do not agree to the conditions of residency while remaining resident do not "opt out" of the system or retain an authority to resort to force as if they lived in an anarchy. Acts that violate the law make them outlaws to be hunted then imprisoned or deported.

This is how civilized men live together in a semblance of harmony, a life of man qua man.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
According to Wikipedia, citing a textbook, two people may trade but it takes at least three persons to have a market, so that there is competition. The government only ever deals with a citizen one-to-one and there is no competitive bidding in law enforcement. There is no market.

If we follow the premise to its end, that only emigration constitutes withdrawal of consent, then we have to come to regard a contracted state as a voluntary institution on par with private business firms. (And indeed this is the view adopted by modern social contract theorists such as Buchanan and Tullock. See The Calculus of Consent, 1962) If there is to be no market in law enforcement, then why is your tax-funded state is acting on the premise of a company selling its services and refusing those services to those who don't pay up? That is the same premise of competing agencies of protection under anarchy, the only difference being that your state outlaws competition to preserve its monopoly. The anarchists point out here that the government is right to only protect its voluntarily paying contractual customers, but it is unjust to prevent others from contracting with a competing agency. A government that derives its justification from a contract between private property owners is proper, but a compulsory monopolistic agency of taxation is incompatible with that end, they say.

Since there is no right to retaliate according to one's whim, the state is correct in preserving its monopoly insofar as the monopoly is needed to place the retaliation against aggressors under objective rules, but since it denies protection to people who do not pay taxes, it is therefore in principle like a mafia protection racket that has monopolistic control over its turf, and can charge monopoly prices in order to ensure protection against against itself. If it wishes to act on the premise of a morally proper government, then it must retain the legal monopoly on the use of physical force to place the retaliation against aggressors under objective rules, it must be funded voluntarily, and it must afford equal protection to all within its jurisdiction. It must either operate on those later premises or cease to have the grounds to call itself a fully morally proper government.

The point here is about the principle involved. You actually are the one that cannot continue to disavow the principle of anarchy and simultaneously claim that the state is any kind of voluntary arrangement. The state is not voluntary because it is an organization with a monopoly on the use of physical force. The morally proper state is such because it protects voluntary interactions by upholding individual rights as its principle for existing and acting, because that and only that principle is itself the basis of voluntary arrangements, such as contracts.

Where there is no right to act in the first place, there can be no possibility of rights violation. No citizen has the right to enforce his own laws or contracts.

Well that's good. Good thing I never said that then. You have for the third time now used this straw man in this argument. The options are not limited to:

(A.) Each citizen enforces his own laws

(B.) The government enforces the laws and taxes the citizens in order to have the means to do so. Non payment of taxes includes either (or both) criminal punishment or denial of protection.

But there is another option:

(C.) The government enforces the laws and is funded voluntarily. There is no criminal punishment, including denial of protection, for non payment.

Elsewhere you haven't refrained from admitting this option (C.) exists, you just claimed it would be impractical, so why ignore it now and keep attacking your straw (A.)?

Your argument about rights would entail that the government could never charge for any service whatsoever lest it violate some right. It could not charge for registering deeds to land, it could not charge for trademarks or patents, it couldn't charge for lottery tickets or souvenirs at the gift shop.

This is false because charging for lottery tickets and souvenirs does not represent an initiation of physical force. Selling rights-protection, including deeds to land, trademarks or patents, however, does.

Ayn Rand claims payment for governmental services should be voluntary, and then you claim the system she proposes to accomplish that is not voluntary.

She explicitly stated that she did not propose a system to accomplish that. Consider the following:

The question of how to implement the principle of voluntary government

financing—how to determine the best means of applying it in practice—is a

very complex one and belongs to the field of the philosophy of law. The task

of political philosophy is only to establish the nature of the principle and to

demonstrate that it is practicable. The choice of a specific method of

implementation is more than premature today—

As an illustration (and only as an illustration), consider the following

possibility.

This particular “plan” is mentioned here only as an illustration of a

possible method of approach to the problem—not as a definitive answer nor

as a program to advocate at present. The legal and technical difficulties

involved are enormous...

Secondly, all I claim is seeing that her example of a contract fee includes denial of redress for fraud in the law courts as a consequence of non-contribution, then it is inconsistent with her stated premise of voluntary funding (force is used only against initiators of force), and inconsistent with her later conclusion of protection being guaranteed to all regardless of payment status, not as a moral duty or obligation by the benefactors of government funding to the poor, but as being in the rational self-interest of the contributors themselves to avoid the state of anarchy and the state of depriving the right to life from non-payers, who then receive the protection services as a bonus, not as a sacrifice.

What you regard as an arbitrary imposition and rights violation is the condition of citizenship, that no citizen has the right to enforce his own laws or contracts. You cannot without contradiction both attack that relationship and disavow anarchism.

You are the master of straw men. For the fourth time, the disagreement is not about having the right to enforce your own laws or contracts, and not about having the right to “opt out” of any government whatsoever, but about the conditions under which the government refuses to enforce contracts. That is explicitly what I've been disagreeing with you on (I even put “NOT” in all capitals in a previous post.) Is there any point in continuing such a conversation where you continue to ignore the objections against your position and just argue yourself in a circle? Obviously, you just don't want to deal with the objection.

Nor is the relationship of citizenship between an individual and his government evidence of statism.

The relationship between and individual and his government is the sole gauge of statism. The principle that a man's life belongs to the state is exactly the one employed in the social contract theory of the state.

The idea that a collective state contract representing “the united will of a whole people” in the words of Kant forms the basis of politics, is the idea that, as long as free emigration is allowed, the government by means of whatever the state contract consists of, owns the entire territory of the nation (and has a right to keep out all dissenters to the “contract”), and therefore also the life of the men called “citizens” and “residents” and can therefore dispose of his it and his work. If those who write the government's contract-constitution and ratify it to include the idea that the initiation of force, for example coerced levies to be paid to the government's fiscal department, is part of “citizenship” and “residency,” then that is statism. That is, every contracted state is assumed to have unanimous consent of everyone residing in “its” territorial area, and only emigration counts as a “no” and the withdrawal of consent, thus only emigration forms the basis of a violation of any right by government, as long as the action was “contracted” by it. If, so long as free emigration is included, such a contract goes further to include the “clause” that all property belongs to the state, that your children are to be sent to some euphemism for a concentration camp, that your wife violated some contracted “law” and is to be executed by firing squad, that you are to be assigned to a profession, i.e. forced labor, and that even though if you don't like it you can “love it or leave it,” i.e. obey or get the fuck out whilst we take your land and house, then that is statism, not enforcement of anything “voluntary.” Once this contracted state has come into existence, regardless of whether one has expressly agreed to pay its fees or submit to its decrees, no matter what this government does, one has “tacitly” consented to it and whatever it does, as long as one continues to remain in “its” territory. But since morality logically precedes politics, and the principle of individual rights proceeds and forms the basis of the justification for government, how did the state get this moral right to own the entire territory, Grames? Where did it get that right?

Saying that “well if the citizenry is virtuous, then they won't do this” (your objection to any expansion of government power beyond defense of rights in another thread) is an evasion of the moral propriety of the design of such a system, not an answer. Saying “because that would require delegating additional rights to the government” (another one of your objections) ignores the fact that since you base the justification of government on contractual grounds, you have already delegated whatever rights the state-contractarians have unilaterally foisted onto you and your children in perpetuity, whether you consented or not, on principle. What basis do you have then, Grames, to oppose any governmental initiation of force, as by your own premise, we would have to consider any “status quo,” whatever that may be, Obamacare, Social Security, progressive taxation, antitrust, cronyism, regulations, or any outright slavery which in the future will become the new status quo up to and including censorship, executions, concentration camps, and dictatorship, as existing and ongoing implicit socially-contracted consent, so long as you remain in the US, and so long as a majority of your fellow contractors believe you should be forced in any way they please?

Among other requirements, a valid contract, however, requires several things:

1. offer and acceptance, by which one party extends an offer and the other party has an opportunity to freely accept or refuse to accept,

2. consideration, usually understood to mean that there is an exchange of value for value, but at the very least an exchange of wills in accordance with (1),

3. legal intent, that is, the contract may not oblige parties to do anything which is illegal (social contract justification of the state begging the question much?)

4. capacity, that is, the parties are both of mind sound enough to give valid consent and agreement

All contracts require valid offer and acceptance and that no one has a right to represent someone else in a contract that he did not consent to such contract or such representation, or else that is representation without authorization, or as Rand says, “slavery embellished with fraud.” You cannot now say “well all that can't be in the contract because that would be wrong,” otherwise you are abandoning the collectivized contract as the basis of political norms. If it is illegitimate for the socially contracted government to conscript, then it is illegitimate for the socially contracted government to tax. If it is morally right for the socially contracted government to tax, then it cannot be wrong if the socially contracted government includes conscription, total expropriation, and forced labor in its collectivized contract, as long as you can leave the country. Which way is it going to be Grames? This time, logically, no middle ground is possible. Since no individual acting separately can morally use force to destroy the rights of others, it necessarily logically follows that the same principle also applies to the force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces, that is to government, and no contract can be considered valid which claims the opposite, even if that claim amounts to “but we need to use force to get the money to use force defensively.” Such an objection is an abandonment of logic and rational self-interest.

Rather the foundation of government cannot then be contractual, but the entire basis for government and the entire basis of a constitution is a normative moral foundation rooted in rationality and egoism, linked to a social context by the concept of individual rights for the purpose of subordinating society to rational moral law, as wonderfully explained in such greats as “Man's Rights” and “The Nature of Government.” (And others such as Peikoff "Individual Rights as Absolutes," "Government as an Agency to Protect Rights," Branden "Government and the Individual," Smith “The Relationship Between Individual Rights and Justice,” Smith “Moral Rights and Political Freedom,” Hart “Are There Any Natural Rights?” and Bernstein “Individual Rights and Government”) The constitution is law (and laws are rules of action, and rules of action are derived from morality, not from arbitrary collectivized contracts, otherwise you collapse into the subjectivism and circularity mentioned in the previous paragraphs), not any kind of contract and was never intended to be such an instrument (if it were, then on the contractual theory, it has no binding validity except as between those who actually consented; in contrast to on the egoist moral theory, where a constitution has binding validity only insofar is it upholds and objectively protects inalienable individual rights, while specifically forbidding the government to violate individual rights or to act on whim), as Oppenheimer noted, no government has ever been formed on this basis historically, and that notion is in no way consistent with the Objectivist ethics or politics.

The central error of the classical liberals was exactly this attempt to justify government and social norms on the basis of some allegedly self-evident axiom of voluntary submission of the governed (such as one that can be deduced exclusively from "pure reason" without relying on metaphysics and the evidence of the senses), instead of a rational moral basis. The government is not justified because some men decided to contract it on behalf of everyone, but on the contrary, government is justified because men have a moral obligation to respect things like contracts, an obligation which arises from property rights, which itself arises from the conditions required for man's proper survival by his nature. You cannot tell us that contracts ought to be protected because we contracted with the government to protect them, such a response is circular and invalid. Rational egoism is the only justification that both consistent and harmonious with both civilization and man's life qua man, and that requires a government that has no legal authority to initiate force, a government where the initiation of force is banned, not one where the initiation of force is called voluntary “because we made a contract for you and you can get the fuck out of our country if you don't like it.”

This is how civilized men live together in a semblance of harmony, a life of man qua man.

“Civilized” my ass. If you’re willing to initiate physical force (which ultimately means you are willing to murder someone if he refuses to leave his private property), in order to get his money to fund government because you think that is the only way we can “live together,” you’re clearly not interested in “living together” or in the requirements of man's life qua man. You're interested in robbing and enslaving him simply because you can’t, or don’t want to, figure out how to finance what little indispensable government functions men actually do need without coercion.

However, we already know, as Rand cogently pointed out, “how not to fight against” statism:

1. We know that statism can only win because its opponents “concede its basic moral premises,”

2. and that “[w]ithout challenging these premises, one cannot win.”

3. Thus “only a strong, uncompromising stand—a stand of moral self-confidence, on clear-cut consistent principles—can win.”

4. Most people do not originate their own ideas, but “[p]eople can always sense... hypocrisy.”

5. “In any issue, it is the most consistent of the adversaries who wins,” therefore absolute consistency is required to win. But keep knocking over those straw men. Anarchy! Anarchy! Anarchy! It's taxation or anarchy! No alternatives! That man won't pay his taxes! Hunt him down! There is no other way!

Edited by 2046

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The relationship between and individual and his government is the sole gauge of statism. The principle that a man's life belongs to the state is exactly the one employed in the social contract theory of the state.

The idea that a collective state contract representing “the united will of a whole people” in the words of Kant forms the basis of politics, is the idea that, as long as free emigration is allowed, the government by means of whatever the state contract consists of, owns the entire territory of the nation (and has a right to keep out all dissenters to the “contract”), and therefore also the life of the men called “citizens” and “residents” and can therefore dispose of his it and his work. If those who write the government's contract-constitution and ratify it to include the idea that the initiation of force, for example coerced levies to be paid to the government's fiscal department, is part of “citizenship” and “residency,” then that is statism. That is, every contracted state is assumed to have unanimous consent of everyone residing in “its” territorial area, and only emigration counts as a “no” and the withdrawal of consent, thus only emigration forms the basis of a violation of any right by government, as long as the action was “contracted” by it. If, so long as free emigration is included, such a contract goes further to include the “clause” that all property belongs to the state, that your children are to be sent to some euphemism for a concentration camp, that your wife violated some contracted “law” and is to be executed by firing squad, that you are to be assigned to a profession, i.e. forced labor, and that even though if you don't like it you can “love it or leave it,” i.e. obey or get the fuck out whilst we take your land and house, then that is statism, not enforcement of anything “voluntary.” Once this contracted state has come into existence, regardless of whether one has expressly agreed to pay its fees or submit to its decrees, no matter what this government does, one has “tacitly” consented to it and whatever it does, as long as one continues to remain in “its” territory. But since morality logically precedes politics, and the principle of individual rights proceeds and forms the basis of the justification for government, how did the state get this moral right to own the entire territory, Grames? Where did it get that right?

I'm not sure how I fall in this argument yet, but my initial reaction to this sentiment would be the following: one could maintain the position that a social contract is only morally binding in the situation where the government actually sticks to the proper role of government; i.e. the protection of individual rights. Saying that social contracts are valid in some contexts (the context of a proper government) is not the same as saying that all social contracts are potentially valid. You are correct that morality logically precedes politics, and individual rights defines the role of a proper government, but the argument could still be made that if the government passes the individual-rights-only purpose for functioning, then a social contract with that government may be valid.

From my perspective, I see enormous practical problems with a government which provides equal protection services to everyone but depends on voluntary funding. This creates a huge incentive problem, one which I am not convinced can be surmounted. If it indeed cannot be surmounted, then morality cannot demand a government of this form, because morality is not divorced from practicality and cannot demand the impossible.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure how I fall in this argument yet, but my initial reaction to this sentiment would be the following: one could maintain the position that a social contract is only morally binding in the situation where the government actually sticks to the proper role of government; i.e. the protection of individual rights. Saying that social contracts are valid in some contexts (the context of a proper government) is not the same as saying that all social contracts are potentially valid. You are correct that morality logically precedes politics, and individual rights defines the role of a proper government, but the argument could still be made that if the government passes the individual-rights-only purpose for functioning, then a social contract with that government may be valid.

If the collectivized contractual agreement binding upon all people is the normative justification for the existence of government, any limits placed on the role of government are strictly arbitrary. To then invoke the principle of individual rights as the normative principle which defines the role of a proper government would require the notion of “social contract” itself to be abolished as force and fraud. For reasons why, refer back to the post.

From my perspective, I see enormous practical problems with a government which provides equal protection services to everyone but depends on voluntary funding. This creates a huge incentive problem, one which I am not convinced can be surmounted. If it indeed cannot be surmounted, then morality cannot demand a government of this form, because morality is not divorced from practicality and cannot demand the impossible.

This is dealt with in the post: “But we need to use force to get the money to use force defensively.” Such an objection is an abandonment of logic and rational self-interest

This is true that morality cannot demand the impractical. But what this means is simply that which is good and right is that which is appropriate to the conditions of reality and man's nature. Such conditions for example, that one should protect oneself by forming a proper government, and that no one (such as the government) owns one's life and work. And, as has already been pointed out, why should it be assumed that incentives to parasitism should be a more powerful motivator than one's rational self-interest?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...the fraudster who cheats you can be tried by the government while simultaneously you are denied the legal standing to sue to recover losses because you (voluntarily) did not pay up front for contract protection. Seized assets would simply be kept then liquidated by the government instead of being restored to you the victim. This scheme does not violate any rights. Your right to self-defense is inalienable, your right to personally retaliate and repossess goods is not.

I believe you have already retracted this point, but Rand's commentary regarding Social Security (and theft in general) is relevant to this:

It is obvious, in such cases, that a man receives his own money which was taken from him by force, directly and specifically, without his consent, against his own choice. Those who advocated such laws are morally guilty, since they assumed the "right" to force employers and unwilling co-workers. But the victims, who opposed such laws, have a clear right to any refund of their own money—and they would not advance the cause of freedom if they left their money, unclaimed, for the benefit of the welfare-state administration.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If we follow the premise to its end, that only emigration constitutes withdrawal of consent, then we have to come to regard a contracted state as a voluntary institution on par with private business firms. (And indeed this is the view adopted by modern social contract theorists such as Buchanan and Tullock. See The Calculus of Consent, 1962) If there is to be no market in law enforcement, then why is your tax-funded state is acting on the premise of a company selling its services and refusing those services to those who don't pay up? That is the same premise of competing agencies of protection under anarchy, the only difference being that your state outlaws competition to preserve its monopoly.

That monopoly, which you denigrate as unimportant with the phrase "the only difference", in fact is an essential difference which makes government fees-for-services utterly unlike a anarchic free-for-all of "competing protection agencies" which hypothetically also work for a fee. It is essential as the term is used in the Objectivist epistemology. That monopoly is what distinguishes government, any government at all, from the condition of anarchy. The similarity you point out is a non-essential and thinking premised on non-essential similarities will be in error by misclassifying things.

Dr. Peikoff proffers a definition of essential in his "Art of Thinking" lecture, a lecture filled with things edited out from OPAR.

The anarchists point out here that the government is right to only protect its voluntarily paying contractual customers, but it is unjust to prevent others from contracting with a competing agency. A government that derives its justification from a contract between private property owners is proper, but a compulsory monopolistic agency of taxation is incompatible with that end, they say.

Since there is no right to retaliate according to one's whim, the state is correct in preserving its monopoly insofar as the monopoly is needed to place the retaliation against aggressors under objective rules, but since it denies protection to people who do not pay taxes, it is therefore in principle like a mafia protection racket that has monopolistic control over its turf, and can charge monopoly prices in order to ensure protection against against itself.

So you agree with the anarchists that the proposed method of government financing is unjustified and immoral, but for a different reason.

If it wishes to act on the premise of a morally proper government, then it must retain the legal monopoly on the use of physical force to place the retaliation against aggressors under objective rules, it must be funded voluntarily, and it must afford equal protection to all within its jurisdiction. It must either operate on those later premises or cease to have the grounds to call itself a fully morally proper government.

The point here is about the principle involved. You actually are the one that cannot continue to disavow the principle of anarchy and simultaneously claim that the state is any kind of voluntary arrangement. The state is not voluntary because it is an organization with a monopoly on the use of physical force.

The government's monopoly on retaliatory force is voluntarily created and voluntarily continued. Compliance with the contract fee is always voluntary, no one can possibly be sent to jail for non-payment of the fee.

It is a form of context-dropping to postulate a person suddenly confronted with no recourse to a broken agreement. He knew going in what the consequence could be of not buying the contract insurance and did it anyway willfully and knowingly.

There are counter measures available against the other party in a broken informal contract that do not involve force. Denial of your repeat business, telling your story to others to discourage their business, organizing a boycott, maybe others. It is not true that a supposed "victim" is utterly without recourse.

A criminal gang might have enough physical control over an area to provide some relative orderliness and exclude competitors, a de facto monopoly similar to a government. A tyranny is objectively a type of government, and a strong enough criminal gang might be classified as a tyranny. The world has many instances of these and has always had them, at scales from neighborhoods to city-states to nation-states. You are arguing your own reductio ad absurdum by in effect claiming that all governments must be tyrannies by the nature of their monopoly on retaliatory force.

Well that's good. Good thing I never said that then. You have for the third time now used this straw man in this argument. The options are not limited to:

(A.) Each citizen enforces his own laws

(B.) The government enforces the laws and taxes the citizens in order to have the means to do so. Non payment of taxes includes either (or both) criminal punishment or denial of protection.

But there is another option:

(C.) The government enforces the laws and is funded voluntarily. There is no criminal punishment, including denial of protection, for non payment.

Elsewhere you haven't refrained from admitting this option (C.) exists, you just claimed it would be impractical, so why ignore it now and keep attacking your straw (A.)?

When you write "The state is not voluntary because it is an organization with a monopoly on the use of physical force." that is an attack on the legitimacy of any and every possible government because every government in order to be a government must have that monopoly. You are not advocating a type of government (C.) in good faith, because there can be no recognizable government without that monopoly.

And your (B.) is wrong. The government enforces the laws and taxes the contracts. There is no taxing of citizens. There is no criminal tax evasion unless someone has in fact collected the money for a contract (so he could have paid) and then not forwarded it, a form a fraud that harms everyone party to the contract. You imagine yourself arguing against tax collectors evicting people out of house and home, seizing assets left and right to fund the engines of oppression. It is ridiculous, no such thing is being advocated on my part because no persons or property would be taxed in the first place.

She explicitly stated that she did not propose a system to accomplish that. Consider the following:

She did establish a principle. "The task of political philosophy is only to establish the nature of the principle and to demonstrate that it is practicable", she wrote. You have attacked the principle on principle, and attacked the governmental monopoly on force. Whatever you are doing, it can hardly be construed as defending Objectivism.

The morally proper state is such because it protects voluntary interactions by upholding individual rights as its principle for existing and acting, because that and only that principle is itself the basis of voluntary arrangements, such as contracts.

. . .

Selling rights-protection, including deeds to land, trademarks or patents, however, does. <violate rights>

. . .

Secondly, all I claim is seeing that her example of a contract fee includes denial of redress for fraud in the law courts as a consequence of non-contribution, then it is inconsistent with her stated premise of voluntary funding (force is used only against initiators of force), and inconsistent with her later conclusion of protection being guaranteed to all regardless of payment status, not as a moral duty or obligation by the benefactors of government funding to the poor, but as being in the rational self-interest of the contributors themselves to avoid the state of anarchy and the state of depriving the right to life from non-payers, who then receive the protection services as a bonus, not as a sacrifice.

So you think it is not justifiable to sell property rights, because rights are rights and not for sale or conditional in any way.

But why not? The government and its employees need to earn their way and be productive just like everyone else. As Ayn Rand wrote, if government is to be the servant of the people then it should be the paid servant. Defending rights costs money, and it is entirely feasible for the government as an entity to subsidize one part with revenues generated by another. That is how governments are operated already today.

This impression of yours that government must be free (as in free beer) should be the next main point of contention if the thread continues.

For the fourth time, the disagreement is not about having the right to enforce your own laws or contracts, and not about having the right to “opt out” of any government whatsoever,

By attacking the very nature of government at its monopoly on force you are in fact repudiating all government in principle whether you choose to acknowledge that or not. It is not a strawman, but entailed by the logic of your objection.

The relationship between and individual and his government is the sole gauge of statism. The principle that a man's life belongs to the state is exactly the one employed in the social contract theory of the state.

You are conflating the general idea of a social contract with a particular version of it. Jean-Jacques Rousseau's 1762 treatise The Social Contract does define the idea in this passage:

"The heart of the idea of the social contract may be stated simply: Each of us places his person and authority under the supreme direction of the general will, and the group receives each individual as an indivisible part of the whole...

But if you will glance over the Wikipedia page on "Social Contract" (no "The") you will find a variety of versions including one by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon who was the first person to call himself an anarchist.

What really is the Social Contract? An agreement of the citizen with the government? No, that would mean but the continuation of [Rousseau’s] idea. The social contract is an agreement of man with man; an agreement from which must result what we call society. In this, the notion of commutative justice,[4] first brought forward by the primitive fact of exchange, …is substituted for that of distributive justice … Translating these words, contract, commutative justice, which are the language of the law, into the language of business, and you have commerce, that is to say, in its highest significance, the act by which man and man declare themselves essentially producers, and abdicate all pretension to govern each other.

—Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century (1851)

Having established that a wide variety of theories of government exist with a contract at their center ranging from pure collectivism to anarchism, I am free to put forth my own without having to express agreement or approval with any of the prior versions. There is no single "school of thought" within social contract theory as a field. A version delimited by Ayn Rand's theory of rights and the nature of government would be a novel and significant addition.

The idea that a collective state contract representing “the united will of a whole people” ... yada yada

Strawman, but I will grant that you did it unintentionally since you didn't know that the idea of a social contract formed many theories of government and not just one.

3. legal intent, that is, the contract may not oblige parties to do anything which is illegal (social contract justification of the state begging the question much?)

Hold on. You have been stipulating that the right to contract is prior to government (which I agree with), it is one of the rights that government must uphold albeit at no charge (which I disagree with). It is hypocrisy to turn around now and adopt the pose that all contracts are legal creations with no meaning in the absence of a government. A contract can and has created a legal system many times in history.

Edited by Grames

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That monopoly, which you denigrate as unimportant with the phrase "the only difference", in fact is an essential difference which makes government fees-for-services utterly unlike a anarchic free-for-all of "competing protection agencies" which hypothetically also work for a fee. It is essential as the term is used in the Objectivist epistemology. That monopoly is what distinguishes government, any government at all, from the condition of anarchy. The similarity you point out is a non-essential and thinking premised on non-essential similarities will be in error by misclassifying things.

Dr. Peikoff proffers a definition of essential in his "Art of Thinking" lecture, a lecture filled with things edited out from OPAR.

I know it is the essential difference, because that is how I identified it. Calling it “the only difference” does not imply argument by non-essentials because “only” does not mean “merely,” but “alone in a class or category.” It is literally the only difference in that wider category of social systems, which is the point: there is a certain similarity I am isolating that integrates your theory with the theory of anarchy which has certain logical implications for your argument. The essential difference lies in the monopoly on the use of force, NOT in the “economic link” (services follow only from payment received.) So your sentence “...which makes government fees-for-services utterly unlike a anarchic free-for-all of 'competing protection agencies' which hypothetically also work for a fee,” is false because it is not “utterly unlike,” it is “utterly like,” or exactly the same in that characteristic (method of funding). The only difference is the monopoly. The “directness” or “category 1” is the same, as you yourself in your own words were able to identify as the essential similarity integrating these concepts here. And now dismissing that similarity a non-essential constitutes an error on your part, because that is the characteristic that integrates a government that taxes, an anarchists' private protection group, and the local mafia all on the same operating principle.

So you agree with the anarchists that the proposed method of government financing is unjustified and immoral, but for a different reason.

No, as you can see, you agree with the anarchists' proposed method of funding. I don't. That is the crux of our disagreement. (I do agree with the anarchists that taxation is unjustified, but for different reasons.)

The government's monopoly on retaliatory force is voluntarily created and voluntarily continued. Compliance with the contract fee is always voluntary, no one can possibly be sent to jail for non-payment of the fee.

Your first sentence is an assertion without support. Your second sentence here, if it was intended to be the support, fails because jail for non-payment is not the only sentence that can be exacted with the initiation of physical force. In our example, denial of protection to non-contributors constitutes the punishment. (Which completely nullifies your next paragraph, that he knew what the consequences would be.)

There are counter measures available against the other party in a broken informal contract that do not involve force.

That is true. There are plenty of non-violent methods of boycott and social ostracism. But this is not justice. That is actually how many anarchists propose dealing with rights-violators, but under a morally proper government, the victim has recourse to prosecute fraud in a court of law. He has this right because of the relationship between justice and individual rights mentioned in previous posts, and the government has the obligation to retaliate because of its monopoly on the use of force, which it abandons in principle if it does not retaliate for non-payers.

Again, I find it odd that you, in defense of your position, now claim that actual instances of fraud should be combated with mere social ostracism without use of the law courts, when before you were claiming that social ostracism for certain immoral acts that fall short of rights-violations (such as non-contribution) ought not be subject to social ostracism as I and others such as Yaron Brook support because it would be akin to the story of “Starnesville” in AS.

You are arguing your own reductio ad absurdum by in effect claiming that all governments must be tyrannies by the nature of their monopoly on retaliatory force.

That is clearly not what I'm arguing, so this would be your sixth straw man. My argument is simply that taxation cannot be justified. Taxation, as I have demonstrated, is severable from the necessary monopoly on the use of force.

When you write "The state is not voluntary because it is an organization with a monopoly on the use of physical force." that is an attack on the legitimacy of any and every possible government because every government in order to be a government must have that monopoly. You are not advocating a type of government (C.) in good faith, because there can be no recognizable government without that monopoly.

No, that's not correct at all. I'm not attacking the monopoly on the use of force that is part of the concept of government. When I write: “The state is not voluntary because it is an organization with a monopoly on the use of physical force,” the part after the word “because” is the proof of the part before “because,” not an attack on the concept of government. The following sentence, which you conveniently ignored, constitutes the justification of why a government (an organization with the monopoly on the use of force) is morally required, again after the word “because”: “The morally proper state is such because it protects voluntary interactions by upholding individual rights as its principle for existing and acting, because that and only that principle is itself the basis of voluntary arrangements, such as contracts.”

The idea that the state is a voluntary contractual organization, an organization of protection that sells its services contractually to a voluntary clientele of private property owners (and "taxes" are really voluntary because they are then likened to club dues or rent) is your “attack on the nature of government” and support of the underlying principle of anarchy, in the process of attempting to defend it (government.)

And your (B.) is wrong. The government enforces the laws and taxes the contracts. There is no taxing of citizens. There is no criminal tax evasion unless someone has in fact collected the money for a contract (so he could have paid) and then not forwarded it, a form a fraud that harms everyone party to the contract. You imagine yourself arguing against tax collectors evicting people out of house and home, seizing assets left and right to fund the engines of oppression. It is ridiculous, no such thing is being advocated on my part because no persons or property would be taxed in the first place.

The contract does not pay the tax. Citizens are the ones who are forming the contracts, and citizens are the ones who are paying the fee or taxes, and all taxes are deducted from some individual's cash holdings. Therefore all taxes are ultimately paid by the individual out of his income, and as punishment (including denial of protection) follows from non-payment, all taxes are a coerced transfer, including all excise taxes, including an excise tax on contracts. In the case of denial of protection, the act constitutes extortion.

She did establish a principle. "The task of political philosophy is only to establish the nature of the principle and to demonstrate that it is practicable", she wrote. You have attacked the principle on principle, and attacked the governmental monopoly on force. Whatever you are doing, it can hardly be construed as defending Objectivism.

The principle established by Rand is “that the government of a free society may not initiate the use of physical force and may use force only in retaliation against those who initiate its use.” Challenging whether or not her particular example of a fee placed on contracts (and only challenging it insofar as the consequences of non-payment mentioned) is consistent with that principle is obviously not “attack[ing] the principle on principle, and attack[ing] the governmental monopoly on force.”

So you think it is not justifiable to sell property rights, because rights are rights and not for sale or conditional in any way.

But why not? ...

Selling property rights is not the same as selling titles of ownership to particular pieces of property. Selling rights protection is, again, a stark example of the principle of anarchy that your argument rests on. A monopoly of selling rights-protection is extortion and a protection-racket. Government is not the market. Force is not exchange. The only logical alternative to respecting rights is violating them, so if denial of protection follows from non-payment, then that constitutes a very real violation of rights. Since every individual has a moral obligation to respect rights, then the government may not do this. If a victim of fraud as a right to life, then he has a right to self-defense. If he has a right to self-defense, then he has a right to recover his justly owned property. Since this retaliation ought not consist of vigilante retaliation, then the retaliation ought to occur through the government's law courts (which ought to have a monopoly on the use of force), as that is what morality demands of government. Therefore, government has a moral obligation to protect rights, not sell them on the market.

Rand wrote, if government is to be the servant of the people then it should be the paid servant... This impression of yours that government must be free (as in free beer) should be the next main point of contention if the thread continues.

The point of contention is clearly not whether or not government should be a paid servant, it certainly should, but the point of contention is whether or not the government should initiate force in any manner whatsoever in its financing methods, which Rand argues, and I agree, it should not.

By attacking the very nature of government at its monopoly on force you are in fact repudiating all government in principle whether you choose to acknowledge that or not. It is not a strawman, but entailed by the logic of your objection.

It would be, if it were, but you have failed to demonstrate such a logical connection, therefore your assertion that I reject government is a misrepresentation. Anyone can see above for examples of your strawmanning.

And it should be noted that I have pointed out where the logic of your objection leads inexorably to the principles of anarchy, as should be perfectly clear by now, especially at the end of this post.

You are conflating the general idea of a social contract with a particular version of it. Jean-Jacques Rousseau's 1762 treatise The Social Contract does define the idea in this passage:

"The heart of the idea of the social contract may be stated simply: Each of us places his person and authority under the supreme direction of the general will, and the group receives each individual as an indivisible part of the whole...

But if you will glance over the Wikipedia page on "Social Contract" (no "The") you will find a variety of versions including one by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon who was the first person to call himself an anarchist.

What really is the Social Contract? An agreement of the citizen with the government? No, that would mean but the continuation of [Rousseau’s] idea. The social contract is an agreement of man with man; an agreement from which must result what we call society. In this, the notion of commutative justice,[4] first brought forward by the primitive fact of exchange, …is substituted for that of distributive justice … Translating these words, contract, commutative justice, which are the language of the law, into the language of business, and you have commerce, that is to say, in its highest significance, the act by which man and man declare themselves essentially producers, and abdicate all pretension to govern each other.

—Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution in the Nineteenth Century (1851)

Having established that a wide variety of theories of government exist with a contract at their center ranging from pure collectivism to anarchism, I am free to put forth my own without having to express agreement or approval with any of the prior versions. There is no single "school of thought" within social contract theory as a field. A version delimited by Ayn Rand's theory of rights and the nature of government would be a novel and significant addition.

Strawman, but I will grant that you did it unintentionally since you didn't know that the idea of a social contract formed many theories of government and not just one.

I fully disagree that such a contract theory can be consistent with the Objectivist justification for limited government, but granted that you are trying, then you have simply failed thus far to demonstrate a consistency with Rand's principle of individual rights, or how that principle is to delimit it. Given that such a consistency has not been shown, then my response is not a straw man, or an attack on some other social contract theory, but an accurate summation of your position (at least in the posts of yours to which my post is responding, particularly your support of Hueben's social contract arguments.) At most, we can dismiss my criticism of the failings of the classical liberals' idea of the contractual state (such as Hobbes, Kant, and Rousseau), since you are trying to form a new one, but logically, that does not cancel out the rest of my arguments as they apply to your idea.

Hold on. You have been stipulating that the right to contract is prior to government (which I agree with), it is one of the rights that government must uphold albeit at no charge (which I disagree with). It is hypocrisy to turn around now and adopt the pose that all contracts are legal creations with no meaning in the absence of a government. A contract can and has created a legal system many times in history.

It would be, if that were the objection. But the objection is more subtle, that if we have no further justification for the law aside from reference to a contractual agreement, then we have no idea what constitutes a valid contract, nor even that contracts will be enforceable, and the social contract theory then assumes that which it has to prove, a.k.a. “Contracts ought to be protected because we contracted with the government to protect them.” You cannot make your case, that a contracted-state will even be legally enforceable, without relying on all exchange being voluntary, for contracts can only exist if property rights are protected, which is the very point at issue, and not an assumption you are entitled to make. Otherwise you end up advocating a protection racket that uses “might is right” to justify its own “services” and taxation.

If as you note, the right to contract is temporally antecedent to government, then that logically implies that the right to private property is also temporally antecedent to government. Then we end up as my first and last objections note, that your justification is no different from the classical liberals' social contract justification, and is consistent with the anarchists' theory that if an individual has that right prior to the state, and if the state is a voluntary contractual organization, then it logically follows that an individual is free to voluntarily contract with some other agency for protection. Saying “but he can't enforce his own laws!” though correct, then requires abandonment of the idea that the state is a voluntary contractual organization because a contract can bind only those who voluntarily execute it. Only by pretending it binds collectively on everybody can one surmount this, but this is no more valid than collectivized ethics (objective morals bind everyone individually, but a contractual transfer cannot bind everyone collectively, unless they individually and voluntarily executed it) and representation without authorization. Then one cannot reply "presence in the country constitutes voluntarily executing it," then one has to answer why the government owns the entire country and presence in the country constitutes automatic default “consent” to whatever is “contracted” on my behalf, where any idea of limiting the government will be arbitrary.

Edited by 2046

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have just realized the hidden assumption and error in this taxonomy of positions you created in that other thread:

(1) protection services should follow from payment received

or

(2) equal protection must be provided to all regardless of payment status

Then, if (1) protection only follows from payment received:

[a] a proper government must maintain its monopoly of force and deny protection to non-payers (presumably they still have to follow the law, but they themselves go unprotected)

or

allow competing agencies of defense (that is anarcho-capitalism)

But, if (2) government is necessary and equal protection must be provided to all, then we have the options:

[d] the government's revenue should consist of voluntary contributions

or

[e] the government's revenue should consist of coercive transfers

"Protection services" need not and should not be all lumped together into one package deal. Some are (2), others can be (1). The distinction between the which protection falls into which group is whether the law governing that protection is universal or particular. Murder is law that applies to everyone equally, because the right to life that it protects is universal. On the other hand, a contract or a patent or deed to land only applies to the parties involved.

The equal protection principle must apply to the universal laws, and is impossible to apply to contracts which name individuals and implicitly exclude everyone not named.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That is an interesting observation, but I don't think it constitutes any error, and in effect we already covered this in previous posts. The encapsulated response is that contract rights can be considered distinct from rights to specific pieces of property, but all rights, even a person's specific right to an asset or to performance of contractually agreed-upon actions can be traced back to the right to life and law of identity applied to the moral nature of man. The right to that specific piece of property comes from the right to contract, which itself can always be traced back to the right to life, a universal protection. The only difference between a universal right and a right to a particular, as you put it, is that one need “do” nothing (including pay the government!) to deserve the root universal right, but one need have chosen some action and/or interaction with another man to deserve the particular, such as contract with him. Since one is the root of the latter, it is not a packaged-deal fallacy, but attempting to divorce the two from practical application can be a stolen concept fallacy.

See before:

The source of any right to a specific thing or particular asset (“contract rights” as you say, between the two parties of an agreement) comes from the individual rights of those parties involved, otherwise again, no contracts would be possible. The very concept of “contract” includes “property” as its genetic root concept, which down the conceptual line includes the moral obligation to respect the rights of others, again otherwise no contracts would be necessary or possible. All morally proper government action stems from the normative obligation to respect the rights of others as a requirement and need of man's life qua man, therefore government a moral obligation to enforce any and all objectively valid contracts, and the need of which forms the most important function a proper government can fulfill.

And earlier:

There are also moral obligations arising from certain actions taken by an individual. For example, a cheat has a moral obligation to restore that property he wrongfully took possession of. The victim has a moral right to that specific property, specifically because he had a moral right to the other person's performance of agreed-upon actions, which he was morally obligated to, and failed to take.

[…]

My point is that the concept of justice is still applicable to both, and stems from the same source. Even the fact that one deserves to possess some specific asset and the other has a moral obligation to turn it over, and the government has a moral obligation to enforce this principle of action in law stems from the same source: the fact that man has a moral obligation to respect the rights of others.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure if this was mentioned yet, but the social contract doesn't acknowledge the fallacy in the proposition that people "gave up" all of their rights when they entered the state. Not only this, but apparently, they gave up the rights of all of their descendants as well. Few people (excepting hardened statists) would voluntarily relinquish all of their rights upon gaining citizenship in any state. This fact would make forming a state very difficult under the social contract theory.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure if this was mentioned yet, but the social contract ...

Which social contract? Your post might have some relevance to Rousseau's version, but not to most others and not to me. I haven't even got a theory beyond "hey, the social contract might work to establish a government and limit it at the outset".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My point is that the concept of justice is still applicable to both, and stems from the same source. Even the fact that one deserves to possess some specific asset and the other has a moral obligation to turn it over, and the government has a moral obligation to enforce this principle of action in law stems from the same source: the fact that man has a moral obligation to respect the rights of others.

What you have written and referenced goes toward the "why", the justification of government action, but does not specify the "how", the means of implementation.

And again, there are no unchosen moral obligations. There is choice and consequences, and a justification that one set of consequences is better than another by an objective standard.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Why not make the government a 'business' for protecting individual liberties?

The government can 'sell' goods and services -- Health-care? Education?

The government can charge 'fees' on public services -- Transit systems?

Heck, the government can even accept donations from individuals, if they truly need it.

But the point is clear: the government cannot initiate force in order to gain value.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What are the main ethical and political arguments from an Objectivist point of view against the theory of social contract?

I'm asking because many political writers in my country are always talking (also writing) about what should be done for the state to function better and everyone is mentioning here and there that we "need a new social contract" whatever that may mean. Also most of my professors, even if they have a tendency towards a classical liberal ideology, either implicitly or explicitly accept the omnipresence and issue-solving power of the social contract, whichever form they might prefer.

Need to clarify: most comments on this thread have already been constructive in helping me grasp the concept from an Objectivist viewpoint, however, they mostly rely on either a strong ethical-political relationship that is mostly absent in European and in generally non-Objectivist contexts or on a status of objective law and legal concepts that are mostly absent, if not in letter, most definitely in practice, in this region.

Edited by Xall

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What are the main ethical and political arguments from an Objectivist point of view against the theory of social contract?

I'm asking because many political writers in my country are always talking (also writing) about what should be done for the state to function better and everyone is mentioning here and there that we "need a new social contract" whatever that may mean. Also most of my professors, even if they have a tendency towards a classical liberal ideology, either implicitly or explicitly accept the omnipresence and issue-solving power of the social contract, whichever form they might prefer.

Need to clarify: most comments on this thread have already been constructive in helping me grasp the concept from an Objectivist viewpoint, however, they mostly rely on either a strong ethical-political relationship that is mostly absent in European and in generally non-Objectivist contexts or on a status of objective law and legal concepts that are mostly absent, if not in letter, most definitely in practice, in this region.

Huh? Have you read the thread? I don't know what other arguments there are. I whipped out every argument I could think of against the social contract, if that doesn't give you some ideas, then I don't know. There is also the Lysander Spooner monograph that provides some more legal arguments from an individualist perspective earlier in the thread.

Of course the ethical-politicial relationship of Objectivism is absent, but that is the point, that it should be made present. One has to ground government on metaphysics (the nature of man and reality) and egoism, and then you can show why pretending there is an imaginary collective contract binding everyone that automatically makes everything we, the statists do voluntary and hunky dory isn't enough to solve the problems of politics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With respect to the idea or theory of a "social contract," in the recent debate between Harry Binswanger and Benjamin Barber, Debate 2 NYC, "'Freedom From' versus 'Freedom To'," at about 01:29:00 into the video, a questioner asked:

"As was stated, our US Constitution is a social contract. I would like for you to address, if possible, the words "We the People" in our Constitution. What does that say to you?"

"It's the people who were authorizing the document. They were speaking in the name of the people of the United States because it was approved in the state ratification. No, I don't think it's a social contract. But it wouldn't matter. I didn't sign it. You didn't sign it. When people vote to do things to you that you don't want done to you that is a violation of your rights if they use force to carry it out."

The questioner continued: "So you didn't sign it so you don't think you have to live by it or under it or abide by it, because you didn't sign it? Is that what I'm hearing?"

"Well I...kind of; you're kind of hearing that. You're hearing the fact that a bunch of people get together and make an agreement doesn't bind the person who didn't make that agreement. It's not a contract; it's a statement of the authorization, of the legitimization of the government of the United States, what they were authorized to do, what they could and mainly what they couldn't do. Ayn Rand always made the point that the Constitution is a limitation on government. Far from the social contract, its sole aim was to constitute a government and to keep it limited. That's why the "necessary and proper" clause is in there: "Congress shall pass no laws except those necessary and proper to carrying out...." Necessary! Not, gee wouldn't it be nice if. But necessary and proper to carrying out the specified, enumerated powers in the government. We threw that out over a hundred years ago. So, it's not a contract; it's the statement of a coercive agency of what they think their legitimate authority is.

Contrast this with Benjamin Barber's reply to the question and Harry Binswanger's response:

I mean, this is again probably not worth debating because in fact this is a position which is deeply hypocritical. If you don't want to accept, as most democratic theorists would, that tacit consent arrises out of our participating in all of the benefits of a democratic society, and then want to say that I want to opt out of the things that I don't particularly like, that is, I think, a violation of your tacit consent even if you didn't personally sign the Constitution. But the fact is that for most people that really is not the issue. The issue is, yes, I agree with you, how big, how small the government, how much government do we need to do the things that need to be done. But by the way, the notion, I know, a group of people, not just Randians, like to talk about the Constitution as nothing but a limitation on government, and it is that, its without question a form of limited government, but its also a form of empowerment. It does say, "We the People." And it does stipulate the kinds of things that can be done and there are a lot of them. And that does allow, because, no, in fact the reason we have this social contract and put aside the social contract earlier that obtained from 1776 on that weak confederation is because there wasn't enough power, because the government couldn't do enough, and we contracted into a society that would do more. But again, if you really want to opt out, then get rid of your passport, never call the police, don't go to any public hospital, don't ask for anything, you know, opt out in that way and that's fine, and then I would respect that position.

To which Harry Binswanger replied:

And then I'd be put in jail. Then I'd be put in jail. But why are we talking about this legal issue of the Constitution, which is a valid instrument? We're here talking about what is right and wrong in human relations.

On the issue of voluntary funding of government and the rights of those who do not pay (the fees for the protection of contracts, for example), in his podcast, Episode 54 of March 23, 2009, Dr Peikoff is asked (at about 09:32 into the podcast):

"If government requires payment for its services, would those who choose freely not to pay for government services not have their inalienable rights protected?"

His reply:

In principle, yes. If you don't pay for the services, there is no obligation on anyone to provide you the unearned. The people who pay, get the services; people who don't, have no right to them, have no claim to them. Now, for practical purposes, the government might decide to consider or look into crimes to you, the non-payer, if it has an implication for others. For instance, if you call and say, "My husband was murdered," the government is not going to say, in a rational society, 'Well, you didn't pay, so to hell with it!," because if there's a murderer on the loose, that's a potential threat to everybody else, but then the government there is properly doing it to protect the others, not you, if you haven't paid for it.

The questioner goes on to ask: "Doesn't that violate your inalienable rights for the government not to pay for it?"

Dr. Peikoff's reply:

Inalienable means no one can violate your rights, no one can use force, no one can enslave you or kill you; if does not mean that someone must protect you against others. No one can enslave you, but it's up to you whether you achieve your freedom in your life or not. In other words, inalienable rights doesn't mean rights financed by others or protected by the finances of others.

Now, as a matter of fact, this is a perfectly theoretical, academic question that would never come up because in a lassez-faire society where the government did so few things as Objectivism advocated, the courts, the police and the military, the costs of it would be so miniscule that it would probably not even require payment from all citizens. I've heard discussions that maybe just a few people or maybe just like a half a percent on contracts, voluntarily, would be all that's required, but government financing is not an issue; you wanted a moral one.

Since there is no right to retaliate according to one's whim, the state is correct in preserving its monopoly insofar as the monopoly is needed to place the retaliation against aggressors under objective rules, but since it denies protection to people who do not pay taxes, it is therefore in principle like a mafia protection racket that has monopolistic control over its turf, and can charge monopoly prices in order to ensure protection against against itself. If it wishes to act on the premise of a morally proper government, then it must retain the legal monopoly on the use of physical force to place the retaliation against aggressors under objective rules, it must be funded voluntarily, and it must afford equal protection to all within its jurisdiction. It must either operate on those later premises or cease to have the grounds to call itself a fully morally proper government.

There is no obligation for the government to provide unpaid, equal protection to all within its jurisdiction. Not providing unpaid protection from or against a violator of rights is not itself a violation of rights.

This is false because charging for lottery tickets and souvenirs does not represent an initiation of physical force. Selling rights-protection, including deeds to land, trademarks or patents, however, does.

Secondly, all I claim is seeing that her example of a contract fee includes denial of redress for fraud in the law courts as a consequence of non-contribution, then it is inconsistent with her stated premise of voluntary funding (force is used only against initiators of force), and inconsistent with her later conclusion of protection being guaranteed to all regardless of payment status, not as a moral duty or obligation by the benefactors of government funding to the poor, but as being in the rational self-interest of the contributors themselves to avoid the state of anarchy and the state of depriving the right to life from non-payers, who then receive the protection services as a bonus, not as a sacrifice.

Where did Miss Rand conclude that protection is to be "guaranteed to all regardless of payment status, not as a moral duty or obligation by the benefactors of government funding to the poor, but as being in the rational self-interest of the contributors themselves to avoid the state of anarchy and the state of depriving the right to life from non-payers, who then receive the protection services as a bonus, not as a sacrifice"? [bold mine]

What Miss Rand does say in The Objectivist Newsletter, Vol. 3. No. 2, February, 1964 in the section "Intellectual Ammunition Department" and in answer to the question, "What would be the proper method of financing the government in a fully free society?"

It may be observed, in the example given above, that the cost of such voluntary government financing would be automatically proportionate to the scale of an individual's economic activity; those on the lowest economic levels (who seldom, if ever, engage in credit transactions) would be virtually exempt — though they would still enjoy the benefits of legal protection, such as that offered by the armed forces, by the police and by the courts dealing with criminal offenses. These benefits may be regarded as a bonus to the men of lesser economic ability, made possible by the men of greater economic ability — without any sacrifice of the latter to the former.

It is in their own interests that the men of greater ability have to pay for the maintenance of armed forces, for the protection of their country against invasion; their expenses are not increased by the fact that a marginal part of the population is unable to contribute to these costs. Economically, that marginal group is non-existent as far as the costs of war are concerned. The same is true of the costs of maintaining a police force: it is in their own interests that the abler men have to pay for the apprehension of criminals, regardless of whether the specific victim of a given crime is rich or poor.

It is important to note that this type of free protection for the non-contributors represents an indirect benefit and is merely a marginal consequence of the contributors' own interests and expenses. This type of bonus cannot be stretched to cover direct benefits, or to claim — as the welfare statists are claiming — that direct hand-outs to the non-producers are in the producers own interests.

[bold mine]

There is no "denial of redress for fraud in the law courts as a consequence of non-contribution." There is a denial of the right to unpaid redress.

The resolution to this seeming problem with a fee-for-contract-enforcement proposed method of voluntarily funding the government, a fee paid up-front to the government in order to ensure that the government will enforce the contract, is to realize that even if the parties to the contract do not pay the up-front fee, they can still pay the costs in full in order to have the government enforce their contract. There's no denial to the courts implied in a voluntarily funded government.

Edited by softwareNerd
Edited video time, at poster's request

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

More of interest, perhaps and hopefully, from the Harry Binswanger and Benjamin Barber debate Q&A period (I have tried to transcribe this accurately, but there may well be some errors, in transcription and grammar, etc.):

01:41:38:

Moderator: "Can I ask a context question of both of you? Because we're having this debate in the context of the big political issues of the day in this country, and yet a lot of the Rand positions, I think, are way beyond what John Boehner would say, what Michele Bachmann would say. What do you each think the relevance of this debate tonight, so far, is to the major political fragmentation in this country? Or is it more, you know, is it attached, or is it detached? Harry, in your own opinion. [i'm not including Harry Binswanger's reply to this question, but basically he said that Objectivism is having the effect of pushing the debate further to the right.]

And, so Ben, from your perspective, is this debate something in and of itself, or is the intellectual grounding, whether the members of Congress know it or not, really a surrogate for the larger debate over policies that the country is having?"

Well, certainly, looking around the country today, I think what we really need is more polarization [mocking HB], so we can be grateful for that. But, in fact, it's really not a joke because the Kirkegaardian "Either-Or" that Ayn Rand uses and that the Randian's use, is at the nub, the core of the belief system, and it's an absolutist, dogmatic, intolerant system, and they use the word "tolerationist" as a cuss. I mean, tolerationists are people that you're not suppose to be. 

"Either-Or" is a formula for extremism. It means you're this or you're that and there's nothing in between. Ninety-nine percent of the population live in between as poor, mortal people trying to struggle to make a go of it, together, we live together, we don't have a choice, we have to figure out to do it. And "Either-Or" is a seductive call to heroic extremism that politically is extremely dangerous. You [HB] want to suggest that fascism and communism come out of what, Immanuel Kant [HB: "Yes."] and law? I know, and you just couldn't be more wrong. It comes out of "Either-Or"; it comes out of the absolute dogmatism that I'm right and you're wrong and there are two choices, do this or do that. That is the essence of extremism. It is deeply against the grain of pragmatism, of democracy, of life together, and in that sense, I have to say, Brian, in answer to your question, it is utterly irrelevant, not just as it is, to the politics of today, though Alan Greenspan might have written some letters and participated a little bit in Objectivism, and though Mark Cuban, who owns the Dallas Mavericks, I think it is, has read Ayn Rand, and people who read a little of it and get it and think that it justifies market freedom and you know they do that, but they don't take it seriously. If you take it seriously and you read what it says, then unless you are someone for whom the appeal to "Either-Or," "All or nothing," "Do is our way or the highway," you will find this an obnoxious doctrine that is utterly unhelpful to the political debates we're having today about the size of government.

01:46:56

Questioner: "I'd like to address this to Ben. Stalin, Lenin, Pol Pot, Mao, Hitler, over the past  hundred years, have produced a mountain of corpses, over a hundred million people. These were all men of the left. I was wondering if you could comment on...yes, Hitler was on the left, National Socialism. I was wondering if you could comment on the cause of this atrocity, unprecedented in history?"

They are dogmatists. They are absolutists. They think they are right and everyone else is wrong. They talk about enemies. They talk about "them" and "the other," and they think enemies are to be destroyed. That is their problem. The superficial reflection on the right, with fascism, or the left, with communism, has little to do with their fundamental dogmatism and their willingness to kill others as sacrifices to their own personal, dogmatic view. That's the nature of totalitarianism. It is a dreadful thing. 

But the temperament I'm talking about is the temperament of "Either-Or" that goes right into the temperament of those folks, and it's the temperament of pragmatism, of democracy, of living together, of creating a commonwealth, of compromise, of politics, tainted as it is and though we have to give up some of what we want to let the other guys have their way, it's John Boehner and Obama, much as they don't really like each other, coming together and saying you got to figure a way out of this. If it was Pol Pot, either one of them, the other would be dead, there would be no need for compromise. 

Life, democracy, is the art of compromise, the art of living together. Those are denied, totally, by the systems that you name, and that is there problem. But to identify them by their superficial: Are they left, are they right, do they talk a socialist game, do they talk a fascist game, do they talk a collectivist game the way the Nazis do, do they talk the way the Marxists do in a more individualist system? That's irrelevant. Look at their absolutism, look at their dogmatism, and you will see people who don't understand: compromise, toleration and the necessities of living together truly in a society.

Well, actually, you're quite wrong about all those figures. Stalin and Hitler were both polylogists. They said that there is no one logic, there is no absolute, everything is relative, we're saying we're right for the Aryan race, but that's not objectively right. Objectivity goes out the window. The official doctrine of Marxism is polylogists, that the bourgeois logic is different from the proletarian logic; there is no one logic, there's just what you're determined by your economic, by the forces of production and by the modes of production to believe. There's no right and there's no wrong. And it doesn't lead to toleration; it leads to mass death. Compromise on the principle of individual rights has another name, it's a "sell-out." If you compromise on your right to not be murdered, to not be robbed, and say, "Okay, you can murder me next week, but not this week, or you can rob me of a third of my money, but not of two-thirds," you're done! You're toast! You cannot compromise or tolerate physical force initiated against you. That's the whole message of what I'm saying tonight.

01:51:10

Questioner: "Mr. Barber, is there anything wrong with the draft as a first principle? [bB: "The what?"] The draft, the military draft? Community spirit and all that, you know?"

I actually believe, I happen to have been a long time supporter of national service...I think that every American, as part of their citizenship, be required to carry the burdens of some form of service so that we do more than vote once in awhile and occasional jury service but represent our participatory citizenship through real deeds and through real acts. So yes, when young people go to die, I think it ought to be spread over the backs of all, not just some. Had we had a, had we not had the draft back in the 60's, we'd still be in Vietnam today. One way to get people to pay attention to the rightness or wrongness of wars is to make sure that every American sacrifices.

Well there you go. This is the black and white difference. He says there are no blacks and whites. Here's the black and white difference: forced sacrifice spread on the backs of everybody; no sacrifice spread on anyone's back. How do you get around that "Either-Or"?

The way you get around it is called citizenship. And with citizenship comes obligations, and we can't be selective citizens. I'm being consistent with my own view. You can't say it's okay to pay taxes and do this and that, but when it comes to a war let somebody else's kids do that. If we go to war constitutionally, and believe me, if we all send our children, we will only go to war constitutionally and probably very rarely then. So this is both a way to contain war and make sure it's not fought for the wrong reasons, and when it has to be fought and we've made that deliberative decision as a people, then it is spread across the backs of all citizens. That is how democracy works, yes.

Edit: punctuation

 

Edited by Trebor

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What are the main ethical and political arguments from an Objectivist point of view against the theory of social contract?

First comes the epistemological argument. The political concept of individual rights is logically prior to the making of contracts, so it is logically fallacious for any version of a social contract to have authority that overrides individual rights, or that claims rights are negated or surrendered in the act of living in society under a government.

The ethical argument is that it is unjust for the state to initiate force against anyone. The political argument is to identify the denial of individual rights as the essence of tyranny, and that once the principle of tyranny is admitted it will grow to consume the entire government as a variety of factions struggle to capture the definition of the "public good".

It is important to understand what is force and the distinction between using force and initiating force. Using force can be proper and even necessary in defense of rights, but initiating force is never proper. Initiations of force are defined by the lack of consent on the part of the victim. Force used in self-defense or by an ethical government in defense of others is not an initiation of force despite an aggressor's not consenting to be interfered with because consent and rights are only to be respected when they are reciprocal, meaning rights and mutual respect of consent are subject to the trader principle.

The trader principle is the only version of an informal social contract in ethics having any validity. Government can be constructed as a formal contract but it is imperative that it be strictly subordinated to rights or it will over time grow to be more tyrannical. A proper government is a political or civic contract constrained in its possible powers and scope of action by the conclusions of ethics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

would it be correct then to say that the social contract is an anti-concept

Well, it's an invalid concept. What does "social contract" mean? Is that different from an "anti-social" or "non-social" or "isolated man" contract? Obviously, no contracts can be made in isolation, so this is not what is meant by "social." What they do mean is "collective" contract, as in everyone in society is automatically amalgamated into their (the advocates') favored political scheme whether they wanted to or not, which obviously destroys the concept of "contract." So you could say it is an anti-concept which ignores the genetic root concept of "agreement" or consent.

Now Grames believes that a contractual government can be compatible with capitalism. And certainly people could try this out. But I don't think this is a good theory consistent with individual rights for the reasons already given: in brief it makes restricting government arbitrary, and it makes unjustified claims of ownership and consent, which the only way to get out of and retain the contractual basis of government is to give up the monopoly on force.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

would it be correct then to say that the social contract is an anti-concept

Yes it is an anti-concept. It is a legitimate but inexact and failed attempt to name the tacit agreement that underlies a society, but which is better known as the trader principle. The technically redundant emphasis on the social aspect is meant to deceive the listener into accepting agreement with a collectivist counter-party to the contract, instead of understanding it as an agreement of man to man. The social contract then becomes a package deal of measures (conscription, taxes, speech and thought crimes, innumerable petty economic regulations) contradicting the motive to enter into the contract in the first place.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

right, a contract is specific as to the parties involved and to the obligations and benefits. By reference to the trader principle contracts are entered into voluntarily. The social contract is not defined by any of these characteristics. For example how can there be a contract if one party, such as an individual citizen, has not signed any such document, and the other party, such as the government, can change the terms of the contract on whim?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

right, a contract is specific as to the parties involved and to the obligations and benefits. By reference to the trader principle contracts are entered into voluntarily. The social contract is not defined by any of these characteristics. For example how can there be a contract if one party, such as an individual citizen, has not signed any such document, and the other party, such as the government, can change the terms of the contract on whim?

Well you have the right principle, but you have to be careful there. If you're in an argument with a statist advancing the social contract, he is likely to point out that there are plenty of contracts that don't require signatures and that can be unilaterally altered. The point is, though, consent and agreement between two parties voluntarily executing their wills are lacking.

Edited by 2046

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

he is likely to point out that there are plenty of contracts that don't require signatures and that can be unilaterally altered.

can you give example(s) of that?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...