The “Social Contract” Excuse

There are zero rational justifications for the existence of a ruling class (“government”). So what the believers in the Divine Right of Politicians have, instead of logical arguments, is contorted retroactive excuses for why they still believe things that are patently ridiculous. And one common lame attempt to legitimize the presence of coercive parasitical ruling classes is the “social contract” theory, which basically states that by merely existing in a particular geographical area, you are “agreeing” to abide by the rules of whatever ruling class claims it as their domain. And if you don’t like it, you can just leave! (Or so say the broken-record statists.)

Demolishing that bit of statist mythology is quite easy. Observe: “I hereby declare all of North America to be mine. By being here, you are agreeing to be ruled by me. So either give me half your money, right now, or get out!

Who would accept such a claim and such a demand as legitimate and righteous? I’m guessing no one … if I’m the one who made the claim. Everyone would recognize it as silly and invalid. However, if an equally absurd assertion was made by a bunch of long-since-dead wig-wearing political opportunists, suddenly most of the country views it as not only legitimate, but as sacred and profound. So the “Founding Fathers” sat down, said some stuff, wrote some stuff, did some rituals, and then magically had the right to coercively govern and control a million or so acres of land, the vast majority of which they had never even seen? Wow, that’s some powerful magic. (Or some utter bullshit.)

Viewing the U.S. Constitution as being at all like a “contract” makes exactly no sense. To state the obvious, a contract is a formal agreement between (at least) two parties. By definition, one cannot be contractually bound by a “contract” that he never agreed to, and in fact had nothing at all to do with. For example, I can’t just decide to sign a contract on your behalf, and pretend that that makes you obligated to do something. (For the most thorough annihilation of the notion that the Constitution was some sort of contract, read No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority, by Lysander Spooner.)

The idea that a bunch of people could make you be bound by a “contract” that you had absolutely nothing to do with is ludicrous. And equally silly is the notion that one party can decide what “counts” as the other party “agreeing.” “If you set foot anywhere between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, that counts as you agreeing to this!” No, it doesn’t.

(There also seem to be a number of people who get obsessed with “patriot mythology,” and cling to all manner of theories about how you “accidentally agreed” to be ruled, by getting a Social Security Number, or a driver’s license, or using Federal Reserve Notes, or calling yourself a “citizen,” etc. But no, you can’t “accidentally” become contractually bound by something that someone else arbitrarily declares “counts” as agreeing to something. If you doubt it, then I hereby declare that by wearing socks last week, you accidentally agreed to give me half your money. So hand it over!)

The arguments put forth by statists (and in particular constitutionalists) imply that somehow a small group of politicians, by mere decree, acquired legitimate ownership of half a continent, and so may now tell anyone in that geographical area what to do. Again, that is no more reasonable or valid than it would be for me to just unilaterally declare that I personally own North America, and that everyone here has to either obey me or leave. And if I decided to preface my lunatic decree with, “On behalf of the people, I hereby decide that North America belongs to me,” that wouldn’t make it any more valid. Or sane.

But now we get to the point where the constitutionalists really shoot themselves in the foot, without even noticing. The entire “social contract” mythology relies on the assumption that somehow, through various documents and rituals, the U.S. Congress made half of North America their rightful territorial jurisdiction—essentially their property—such that now they have the right to issue and enforce rules upon those who choose to reside in their domain. And if you don’t like it, you can get out! In fact, constitutionalists often come right out and compare the national jurisdiction to private property: “If you’re on my property, you have to follow my rules, or leave! The country is like our collective property, and our representatives decide the rules! So obey their laws or get out!

But that is where their position completely implodes.

Allow me to explain. If I am in your living room, ultimate I have one right: the right to leave. That’s all. Whatever else you allow me to do is completely up to you. (To own something means to have the exclusive right to decide what is done with something, and if you own your house, that means you have the right to decide who can be there.) For example, while I think it would be silly and rude, you have every right to tell others that they may only enter your house if they wear huge purple top hats, and eat lots of moldy asparagus. The only real power you have is the power to make them leave, but because you have that right—the right to decide who can be there—that means you can make up any bizarre, daffy “rules” you want, and then others can decide if they want to be on your property enough that they will choose to follow your rules. (The only thing you can’t do is forcibly prevent them from leaving.)

So, for example, I have no unalienable right to carry a gun in your house, if you don’t want me to. I have no unalienable right to speak my mind in yourhouse, if you don’t want me to. I have no unalienable right to do anything in your house, because I have no unalienable right to be there at all. Whether I am allowed in, and what I am allowed to do while there, is utterly and completely your choice. (Again, this is only because you can always tell me to leave if you don’t like what I’m doing, or not doing.) That is how private property works.

So what happens when we apply this to political jurisdictions? If, for example, Congress has rightful “authority” over this huge piece of dirt known as “The United States”—if it is their turf, and everyone here must either obey their “laws” or leave—then the notion of citizens having “unalienable rights” is out the window. Who the hell are you to tell someone else what requirements he can put upon you on his property? If living on this piece of dirt constitutes “agreeing” to abide by the “law of the land”—as the bogus “social contract” theory dictates—then you have exactly no rights, except the right to leave.

(As it happens, to make things a degree more ridiculous, the U.S. parasites don’t even just allow people to leave in peace. They can deny passports, demand back taxes you supposedly owe, or continue to rob (“tax”) you even after you leave.)

And by the way, if the magical, mystical (non-existent) “social contract” makes you beholden to the U.S. “law-makers,” then “your” house isn’t yours. It’s theirs. If they get to decide what you’re allowed to do in your “own” house, then by definition, it’s not your house. This is one more way in which proponents of the “social contract” theory manage to inadvertently but thoroughly disenfranchise themselves. Whatever intrusive or repressive crap your political masters want to impose upon you, you can either meekly obey, or you can get the hell out! That, according to you, is what you “agreed” to just by being here.

And if we are going to accept the “social contract” garbage, why would it only apply on this particular piece of dirt? I guess everyone in North Korea, by merely existing there, is “agreeing” to be oppressed, controlled, monitored, robbed, assaulted, etc. Right? Isn’t that how the “social contract” works? And yes, the constitution of the DPRK uses the same sort of bogus euphemisms and propaganda about “representing the people” that American politicians do.

If you actually believe in “social contract” theory, then stop complaining about what any “government” does to those who have chosen to stay within its jurisdiction, thereby agreeing (according to you) to be subjected to whatever arbitrary and oppressive crap the parasite class there wants to inflict upon them. After all, according to the excuses constantly parroted by constitution-worshipers, by happening to be born on that piece of dirt, those people consented to that arrangement.

Of course, they didn’t really. Of course, it’s not okay for them to be oppressed. Of course, robbing and terrorizing people, and saying they “agreed” to it by setting foot on a huge piece of a dirt that you just unilaterally declared to be your rightful domain, is bat-shit crazy.

And it’s just as bat-shit crazy when Americans do it.

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Larken Rose is an anarchist author best known for challenging the IRS to answer questions about the federal tax liability of citizens, and being put in prison with no questions answered. He is the author of The Most Dangerous Superstition.