Collectivists hold that individuals are subordinate to a group and have value only so far as they serve the demands of that group. Examples are racism, sexism, nationalism, statism, and altruism — second-hand ideologies of guilt and the gun. Because collectivism runs so contrary to the individual autonomy of human beings, collectivists snarl at sincere ambition and genuine loyalty. They can be more rancid at times, like recently when I was having an e-mail discussion with a constitutional scholar. He knows more about constitutional theory that I could ever hope or care to learn. He has an entire framework for the purported necessity of an institution known as government (or the state), a political entity which maintains an individually nonconsensual territorial monopoly.
His particular justification is the social contract (compact) theory, an ex post facto excuse for a dominant majority to subjugate the will of a minority while simultaneously attempting to evade their own psychological trauma for doing so. There are many versions of the social contract, some larger in scope than others, but his happens to be quite limited. He believes a social contract obliges adults to defend the rights of others in the community and to deliberate in an assembly to make legitimate changes to the government.
We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good. — Hillary Clinton
This is all well and good, but I didn’t understand how a social contract could be established or what happens to those who disagree that a social contract had been established. As it turns out, individuals agreeing to pool their resources to defend against threats to their liberty (or rights) are forming a social contract. In doing so, a society is innately created, and as children become adults, they inherit this social contract and further these obligations of protection and deliberation onto their children, and so on and so on. Already, we can see the circular argument in this theory. Liberty and rights are a function of living in a society; societies cannot be formed for the protection of liberty since the concept of liberty is meaningless and has no value before joining a society. (For someone concerned about protecting liberties, forming a government is doubly confusing since governments are the greatest violators of liberty to have ever existed.) Ludwig von Mises said, “Society is division of labor and combination of labor.” The protection of liberty is not the purpose of society, but it is a fortunate consequence. Instead, the purpose of joining or maintaining a society is to form a division of labor, making the efficient protection from criminals one of the society’s many byproducts. Society is a mental pursuit, first. It is an attempt by individuals to quell some easiness about their existence, to improve the material conditions they experience. Some individuals in a society may make an explicit loyalty oath among themselves to defend each other from criminals, to educate the young, or to share their food in common, but those are not a necessary condition for a society to be created. In theory, a group of self-sufficient families who otherwise never interacted could form a self-defense compact, but they would get none of the benefits of a society. If an obligation of protection were a necessary component of forming a society, then it could equally be stated that there is an obligation to feed, to house, and to care for, and to educate the less fortunate, neccessitating an intrusive government that redistributes income. While I agree that it is moral to lend assistance to those who are deserving, I also agree with Lysander Spooner that those are acts “which each man must be his own judge, in each particular case, as to whether, and how, and how far, he can, or will perform them.”
Another justification, I was told, was that the majority support the social contract, yet the vast majority of people are not legislators. By what right may legislators make laws if they are so greatly outnumbered? Supposedly, these legislators are chosen by the people in the society — who have reached a certain age, have not committed one of the several thousand vague laws or regulations, have filled out paperwork correctly within a certain number of days before the election, have citizenship approval of the government, and have attended the polling station on a certain day within an allotted number of hours every two years. In 2008, only 31 percent of United States citizens chose who would be in control of the government’s thermonuclear warheads, and most polls give Congress a job approval rating of less than 30 percent. Worse still, government regulators — the ones who interpret and enforce the laws to their own liking — never stand for election. Setting aside the immorality of majoritarianism, it is impossible to prove the intent of those supporters. It is possible that the support of anyone who chooses to remain within a territory was contingent on preserving some liberties or being made a slave. If my only options are to live in a neighborhood prone to terrorism or a neighborhood prone to vandalism, I could probably live with some random vandalism. That decision is not an approval of vandalism as much as it is an objection to being killed. In a stateless society, there exists an additional option, to form your own community or not participate, just as individuals can provide their own services, which ensures that the market has the possibility of satisfying the smallest minority of one.
I don’t know of anyone who believes that the majority will should be followed all the time, so there must exist a higher standard. Others believe that the will of the majority may be fallible but nevertheless should be given priority. Can the will of the majority be accurately determined by the political process? Voters are never given the choice of none of the above, so it is impossible to determine if a candidate won an election because he or she was the true favorite or if he or she was the “lesser evil” who actually stood a chance of winning. Determining the will of the majority is preposterous, but perhaps this centralized bureaucracy with no financial incentive to provide timely, efficient service had a crystal ball in its possession that could read the mind of every resident. It would still be necessary to prove that the will of the majority had not been tampered with by bribes or propaganda from the government. Nothing could be less true. Those in the government give one another special favors; they bailout failing companies, stymie competitors, offer discounted credit, and give preferential treatment to politically connected laborers. That is what they do. Government-approved education is compulsory during a child’s most formative years. In 2008, H. Walter Croskey, a California appeals court judge, in essence made homeschooling illegal in the state, saying that “A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare.”
Well, maybe the government’s crystall ball can see past the theft and propoganda of the government. Even still, a social contract, since it is not material, in no way makes clear that the agreement is perpetually binding on everyone except those who intentionally opt out. Implicit contracts are unenforceable because the terms of the agreement are not objective, so any enforcement is capricious. If someone is obliged to defend the rights of others in the society, how many times, to what extent, and by what means? Who knows. For this reason, individuals ought not enforce implicit contracts; and individuals acting in concert under the guise of a government have not moral claim to enforce them either.
If nothing else, the social contract is a self-defeating idea because it violates the premise of its own existence, the protection of liberty, since a coercive majority may impose the social contract on a minority. (There are also the tiny discrepancies that no government has ever been established this way and that United State Supreme Court justices have ruled since 1855 and subsequently that agents of the government do not have an obligation to protect residents from “killers or madmen.”)
When I confronted the scholar with some of these seeming contradictions in the social contract theory, he said that if I knew of a mortal threat to the community, “[Y]ou had better respond and do your part, or I will hang your ass.” At that point, I knew there was no purpose in continuing the discussion. Once a person resolutely accepts evil and proudly brandishes it (at your throat no less), rational discussion ceases.
He continued that the social contract exists to serve “the group” as a whole since it “may not be rational for the individual member.”
How many things that are good for you, that you will benefit from, need to be imposed on you … with force? — Brett Veinotte
Contemplating the risk and reward of negating the peaceful will of another human being for the sake of the collective is moral cannibalism, giving man the same status as a sacrificial animal. Insofar as force is applied, the only tool available for human beings to progress and flourish — his reasoning mind — is lost.