6. The Social Contract:
You're Either In or Out
You're Either In or Out
Benjamin said... SOCIAL CONTRACT THEORY IS MYSTICISM
No it's not. It's scientific fact, fully established by game theory and evolutionary biology. Learn something for a change: read up on the grounding science in Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, ed., Moral Psychology, vol. 1, pp. 53-119 and pp. 143-64 (MIT Press, 2008) and the grounding logic in Ken Binmore's Game Theory and the Social Contract: Vol. 1 (MIT Press, 1994), Vol. 2 (MIT Press, 1998).
Your life, liberty, and property only survive when there is a social system in place to sustain and protect them. Yet there are certain ways social systems must operate or else they fail. Period. You can't escape this reality, no matter how many halos of bullshit you attempt to surround yourself with.
Civilized vs. Brute Force
Richard Carrier said... There is no contradiction for me because your second proposition describes no actual fact. There are no "thugs" and no one's money is taken "against their will." There is a civilized system in place for adjudicating disputes. And there is no taxation without representation here. People chose to be taxed.
Benjamin said... Actually there are thugs, and there is money taken against peoples' will. The system is not civilized because it initiates force against the minority.
You are confused. There is a difference between a civilized use of force (law enforcement; constitutional democracy) and an uncivilized use of force (wanton murder; torture; anarchy--think Somalia, or street gangs). I'm talking about a civilized adjudication of how to employ shared resources and pay for shared benefits. The difference between that and "thugs taking what they want" is vast.
If you'd ever actually been raped or robbed by thugs you'd know this. But I suspect you are just a freeloading assclown who has never had a hard day in his life and takes all the goods you enjoy for granted, all the things that wouldn't exist for you if not for our armies and police and courts and sanitation laws and clean water and clean air and clean soil and every other thing. Try living a month in the slums of Mumbai. Then a month in Mogadishu. Then we'll talk about what's "civilized."
Voters Are All Club Toting Brutes?
Benjamin said... If 51% of people agree on taking money from everyone's pockets to pay for a service and 49% disagree, then the gun gets pointed at the 49%. They did not agree to it, and that is not choosing to be taxed nor is it mutual negotiation.
They certainly did agree to it: by agreeing to be a part of our community, they agreed to abide by community vote. If they no longer agree to abide by that social contract, then they are no longer agreeing to live in our community, in which case we have every right to kick them out. Because then they are criminals: literally thieves, stealing our joint resources (such as peace, clean air, clean water, and everything else we built together).
Your notion that all democratic votes entail "an initiation of force" against the minority is bullshit for two reasons.
First, the Constitution establishes rights that cannot be taken away from the minority (thus what the majority can do is not unlimited but in fact strongly circumscribed, which requires a government, specifically to protect those rights from the abuses of the majority, or anyone else), thus the use of force is regulated. That's the whole purpose of government. The alternative is wholly unregulated force, i.e. murderous chaos.
That difference remains even when the majority retains some rights over the minority. Because among the rights the minority retains are the right to complain (to seek "redress of grievances"), to persuade the majority to change their mind ("freedom of speech"), and to have available to them a peaceable and fair means of deciding who pays what and what laws govern whom (democracy and civil courts). See my complete discussion of the underlying logic of this in Sense and Goodness, pp. 375-79.
Second, the exact same principles obtain even in the free market. You cannot in fact have a free market without granting majorities the right to outvote minorities. The current paradigmatic example is the corporation: thousands of people own a corporation, each one having a certain number of shares of ownership. So how does the corporation decide to spend money? The shareholders have to vote on it (and like our representative democracy, this is typically wholly impractical in real life and hence the shareholders elect representatives, called a board of directors, to represent their wishes for them; but they can still vote new ones in if they don't like their decisions).
If the majority of shareholders vote one way (e.g. to sell the company at a specific price, or to borrow money, or to split the stock and thus halve the value of every share, thus in effect taking money and property away from the minority), the minority must abide by that vote. Their only recourse is to sell their shares and leave. Just like in a community: if you don't like the fact that the majority can outvote you, your only recourse is to leave (or, of course, you can declare war on us, but just see how that works out for you). It's exactly the same in a free market, when you must trade with others for all the things you need: you will not be able to dictate prices; the majority will always outvote you. You can't escape this reality. Unless you intend to outlaw all joint private ventures like corporations and business partnerships. But you couldn't do that anyway, since in your world there would be no government to outlaw them!
Indeed, even if somehow you could magically eliminate private joint enterprises, you still get stuck with commerce: if you need lumber and your neighbor won't come down on his price, according to your theory he is thus "initiating force" against you by deciding what you must pay for those goods (just as by voting on taxes we decide what you will pay for the community goods you enjoy). You don't get a say. You pay, or you don't get the goods. That's true in every private commercial interaction, no less than in a democratic government. So you can't escape that harsh reality by abolishing government. You are stuck with it no matter what. So the only rational decision left is how best to manage and navigate that reality. And that decision always comes down on the same conclusion: it is best managed and navigated by collective, cooperative enterprise. The alternative is Road Warrior.
Thus there is no escaping the use of force against you. Either you have unlimited use of force against you, or regulated force against you. Only a moron would prefer the former to the latter. And once you choose the latter, you have to answer the question: regulated how, by whom, and to what end? And that's politics. Which entails a government. Which entails accepting a common social contract among all members of a community. You might not like it. But Churchill's Law kicks you in the ass anyway.
Rights Are a Community Enterprise
Benjamin said... I should not have to persuade someone not to take my property, it is my fundamental right to fight for it because it is mine according to my will and mine only. This is the fundamental problem with your philosophy: it's collectivist. You have no respect for individual rights or freedom.
Notice your bullshit black-and-white hyperbole. You seem to pretend I must either oppose all government whatever, or support the total suppression of all rights and freedoms. That's a fallacy called a false dichotomy. A whole lot of reality exists in between those two extremes. And I live in reality. You, clearly, do not.
Indeed, your notion of "rights" is illogical. In what sense do you have a "right" to fight for "your" property? Only if the community sets up institutions to define and protect those rights. Otherwise you don't have a right to jack shit. The very notion of property, of things "belonging" to a person, is a social convention. Take away all government, and those conventions vanish. People can kill you, rape you, take any of your property they want. You can whine about your rights being violated but no one will give a shit. Try it. Go to Mogadishu and when your hand gets chopped off to steal your watch, shake your remaining fist at the guy and bitch about your rights. See how that works out for you.
Richard Carrier said... People are necessarily incurring a debt to their community when they use that community's resources... We get together as a community and decide what they will cost. Then we agree to pay what the community decides.
Benjamin said... All of those services can be provided by a free market economy, on a truly voluntary basis.
The end result of which is the Third World. The rich get laws and benefits, the poor get enslaved and impoverished, and rights become commodities that can only be bought and sold by those with means. It doesn't work. Misery is the universal result and everyone gets screwed. Even the rich, whose odds of survival and security plummet, until only the lucky get away with anything.
The mere fact that you would never choose to go live in the very governmentless world you desire (like Mogadishu) and instead freeload on the government-built world we maintain for you at our expense, is proof enough of your hypocrisy, and the complete bankruptcy of your political worldview. You can't walk the walk. And you know it. That's why you cower here. Instead of live there.
Governments Are All Just Club Toting Brutes?
Benjamin said... Governments initiate force to pay for themselves and to prevent competition. Pointing to Syria or Mexico as cases of free markets is plain stupid.
No. It's fact. It's what happens when the rich get to buy the services they want (like law enforcement or roads) and the poor (being poor) don't. That's what a free market is...absent any reliable government as a check against it. Mexico and Syria are perfect models of this. You still don't realize that when there is no government to regulate force, the rich can buy anything they want, including all your rights, and including raping the land and robbing the people (who in such conditions get no real vote at all, much less the freedom to complain) precisely "to pay for themselves and to prevent competition."
In other words, the evil you decry, of "governments" simply avariciously paying for themselves and securing monopolies on all resources, is exactly what "individuals" do in the absence of government. So you can't avoid it. The only choice available to you is this: shall these decisions (of what to take and what to do with it) be regulated by democratic vote and civilized systems of debate, communication, and adjudication, or shall they be unregulated, and sold to the highest bidder or surrendered to the strongest spear? You want the latter. And that's foolish.
Richard Carrier said... The purpose of government is to ensure everyone is protected from fraud and harm, equally.
Benjamin said... You can't protect peoples' property and freedom by violating property and freedom. That's called a contradiction.
Then you don't even know what a contradiction is. Because not only can you protect people's property and freedom by violating property and freedom, you can only protect people's property and freedom by violating property and freedom. (Like I said before: you can only stop a murderer violating your right to life or liberty by violating his right to life or liberty--for if you don't, by definition you can do nothing to stop him.)
Paying Our Debt to the Community
Benjamin said... I never said that retaliatory force is immoral. The initiation of force is.
When you use our resources without paying for them (such as benefiting from our maintenance of peace and lawfulness and roads and clean air and water and soil and so on), you have initiated force against us. We therefore have the right to retaliate and take our stuff back. We settle for its equivalent in cash. In fact we're even nicer than that, since we only ask an amount commensurate with what you can afford, and we defend and thus provide you the right to talk about what this fair amount should be and to persuade others to agree and thus vote on what it should be, just as is the case in any joint private enterprise, like any corporation. And yet we're even nicer than that, because we don't give you the number of votes you can afford to buy (as happens in a free market, e.g. as decides the control of corporations), but give everyone, including you, the same number of votes (one man, one vote), no matter how rich others may be. And this in fact protects your rights--from the rich who could otherwise buy the right to violate them.
Benjamin said... So when I'm forced to pay for someone else's retirement, someone else's health care, or someone else's education it's preventing me from becoming a slave?
You aren't doing any of those things. Any more than when you voluntarily pay car or home insurance you are "paying for someone else's cars and homes to be replaced." Sure, per the principles of fungible currency, that's what you are in a sense doing, but it's not what you are paying for. When you send a check to an insurance company you are paying for the right to claim payment when your car or house gets wrecked. If your house or car never get wrecked, you don't get your money back, because you were paying for the right to claim reimbursement only if they got wrecked. You enter that arrangement willingly and wisely (unless you are too foolish to buy insurance, which you may well be).
If you were a shareholder in a corporation and you opposed that corporation buying insurance on its new factory but the majority shareholders outvoted you, you would be compelled to accept that some of the income owed you will instead go to paying for that insurance you didn't want. But you have no rational grounds to complain...because you have no more right to oppose that payment than the other owners had to enforce it. But they outnumbered you. That's how it works even in a free market. It's also how it works in a government, but even more fairly (since everyone can only buy one share in the corporation: and that by simply standing up to be counted).
Fact is you are only able to make an income and keep property because we pay for the institutions that protect and foster the prosperity and property rights you depend on. Therefore you are taking our shit (which shit being: the services of the institutions that protect and foster the prosperity and property rights you depend on to have an income and keep property). Therefore we have a right to demand payment for what you took. Or else to lock you up as the thief you then are.
In other words, you have to pay a toll to use our economy. Otherwise you don't get to use it. Just like you said you would have it be for roads: don't pay the toll, don't get to use the road. It's just the same: don't pay the toll, don't get to use our country. It's irrational of you to argue for the former but against the latter. Because it's the same damn deal. You must pay your fair share, or else you're a thief. You are either in our social contract, or out of it. In it, you get rights. Out of it, you get nothing from us, not even a recognition of your liberty.
Your only recourse is to leave. Which you are welcome to do, BTW. Quite frankly I'd be relieved if you got the hell out of my country. At any rate, as in free markets, so in nations. We the people own this country. If you don't like what we're doing with it, leave. Because our nation is like a corporation, in which each one of us holds one share, which we inherited from the Founding Fathers, whose last will and testament (for the property--the American Colonies--that they seized by force from the King of England) is now called the Constitution. That's the agreement, the contract, you were born into, and inherited from your parents, which they inherited from their parents, and so on. Like any inheritance, you inherited the debts of this national family as well as a share of the corporate ownership of its goods, a share of the roads we built, the police we hired, and every other thing. You inherited the contractual privileges and obligations your parents inherited, and so on all the way back.
You should be thankful that this contract guaranteed you would always have the same share of this country as the rest of us (instead of the rich owning more and thus getting more say about what rights you will even get to keep), and that it guaranteed certain things could never be sold or bought, such as your right to speak freely or vote, and made arrangements for the people to pay for an army and legal system that would protect those rights and thus ensure you get to keep them.
So when we as a corporation vote to buy everyone insurance (whether health or retirement), you are bound by the agreement you inherited from your parents (or swore to voluntarily, if you are a naturalized citizen) to honor that vote, just as you would if you were a shareholder in a private company. But that same agreement also guarantees you the right to bitch about this and to persuade other voters to change their minds and no longer buy anyone insurance. Likewise when we as a corporation voted to buy everyone an education, which you probably benefited from (I suspect you were educated in a public school; probably a lousy one, given your incompetence so far), and thus owe us for, quite directly, but even if not, by living in our community you steal the benefits of universal education (such as lower crime rates and increased economic wealth, of yourself and the community you live in), and thus you still owe us for what you took, and continue to take. And the agreement establishing our right to claim what you owe us is the same agreement you inherited from your parents (or swore to upon naturalization).
Dispute Resolution Organizations
Benjamin said... You should read about these things called DROs (Dispute Resolution Organizations) to get a glimpse of how a free society could work.
So when your neighbor refuses to abide by a DRO's ruling, what do you do then? Ooops. Doesn't work, does it? DRO's only function because governments exist to back them up, enforcing their contracts (ultimately, literally, with force), or enforce default protections (e.g. your rights to life, liberty, and property), when parties to DRO contracts refuse to honor them. That's why there are no DRO's in Somalia. And never will be, until Somalia gets a functioning government.
Indeed, you can't even know what you are talking about, since DRO's entail allowing the majority to outvote the minority, and thus allow the majority to use force against the minority, the very thing you were bitching about was unfair. This happens anytime a DRO arbitrates the interests of more than two people. Since every community consists of more than two people, if DRO's arbitrated how shared property like air and water and police got used, you'd be stuck in the same shit: the majority asking for their shit back, when you keep using it without paying for it. Sounds like a government, doesn't it? Indeed, expand a DRO to the point that it no longer needs a government to enforce its own contracts and guess what you'll end up with...a fucking government.
Paying for Sidewalks with Kneecaps or Taxes
Benjamin said... I never agreed to the "social contract."
Then you are a thief: someone who takes our stuff without being a party to our contract. We have the right to treat you accordingly.
Benjamin said... And in a free society, I doubt that anyone would see a person treading upon a sidewalk for instance as an act of aggression because sidewalks would be managed differently.
According to your principles (a la roads) you would not be allowed to walk on sidewalks without paying a toll. So whether it's a toll or a tax, there is no practical difference. You're still stealing if you use the sidewalk but refuse to pay for it.
Benjamin said... Communities would accept free-riders since walking on a sidewalk actually results in no loss on the part of the owner(s).
That's false. Even in the most obvious sense it causes wear and tear, which is a real and measurable economic loss. But that's not even the half of it. Surely you would not say I or anyone can just come in and sleep in your house any time we want as long as we don't damage anything. We are causing you a loss in economic terms in several ways: not only in causing wear-and-tear, but in causing you a loss through inconvenience, crowding, and usurping of your priority of access to goods like the bed, sheets, bathroom, etc. (thus we have laws regulating crowding and right of way on sidewalks, just as you would lay down rules for our use of your house).
Moreover, you spent all that money building and maintaining that house, yet we get to benefit from those expenses without paying any part of them? That's universally recognized as a form of theft: we are usurping your property rights by claiming benefits you paid for. As for your house, so for all our shit: sidewalks, roads, police, armies, sanitation, etc.
Benjamin said... A select few individuals would likely maintain them for actual trauma like earthquakes or road accidents - perhaps via contractual fees as part of a housing community or business association most affected by it.
Which would give them the right to tell you you can't walk on their sidewalks--until you join their social contract and pay your share. Exactly my point. Not only is that exactly what happens in private communities (where the sidewalks literally are owned privately and you literally are banned from walking on them without an owner's permission), but it's exactly what happens nationally: if you refuse to join our contract, we kick you out. You then don't get to walk on our sidewalks anymore.
So it's the same result whether public or private. Your bitching about it is retarded, since all you end up doing is replacing one obligation for exactly the same obligation, replacing one government (a city) for just another government (a "business association"). You can't escape the same result. So claiming you are "put upon" by a state requiring you to pay your fair share for the sidewalks you walk on is ridiculous. Without government, you'd just be "put upon" by the owner of a sidewalk to pay your fair share for walking on it.
So you really just seem to me to be a freeloading thief who only wants to complain about paying your fair share. Because your objections to government (a public sidewalk that you own one share of) would entail the exact same objections to the absence of government (a free market sidewalk you don't even own one share of). But if the outcome is the same, how can the latter be "better" than the former? It can't. And that's why your worldview is illogical.
Nations Are Joint Business Enterprises
Benjamin said... There's no agreement that comes with breathing or walking on a sidewalk because those are extremely basic things I have to do in order to survive.
You also have to have medical care to survive. You have to have insurance against the inability to procure food and shelter to survive. You also need to be protected against fire. And criminals. And poisoning (via pollution of air or water--you need the air you breathe, and water you drink, not to be toxic). And so on. So how are you going to get those things? By stealing them? Or working your fair share for them? If the former, you are a thief. If the latter, you are a party to our social contract. In or out. Your call. That's how it is.
Instead of recognizing this reality, you make contradictory claims, such as that you should pay tolls to use someone else's roads, but you should be allowed to use someone else's sidewalk for free. How's that? You can force someone to lay and maintain a sidewalk for you, making them your slave, and somehow still claim this isn't an initiation of force against them? You can force us to clean the air you need to breathe, making us your slaves, and somehow still claim this isn't an initiation of force against us? That's bullshit. Plain and simple. We're not your slaves. You have to pay us for these things. Or else you don't get to live in our country.
In addition to the stupidity of all that, you ignore the reality of inherited contracts: if there were no governments, there would still be joint private enterprises, like businesses, which would incur privileges and obligations by contract, which the sons or daughters of the founders of those businesses would have inherited without ever having signed any of those contracts, and thus without having "agreed" to them, as you would say. Yet nevertheless they are bound by them, simply because they have no right to inherit that business unless they agree to abide by all its prior contracts. They can choose to disavow the business, and thus leave. But otherwise they must agree. They have no right to accept the inheritance and reject all the obligations that come with it.
Your nation is a business, with all its properties and rules and signed agreements, owned by all citizens. By accepting our recognition of your citizenship, in other words by accepting our recognition of your participation in joint ownership of this community (and all the rights and privileges that entails), you are accepting your inheritance of that business and all prior contracts attached thereto.
And just as in a private business to which you are a minority partner, you must agree to abide by the majority vote, or else leave the company. In other words, leave the country. Or make war upon it, thus becoming an outlaw. Which can at times be the moral thing to do (hence the Revolutionary War). But you don't really have such legitimate complaints here. Compared to the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence, you're just a selfish wuss who doesn't have the balls to pay for what he takes but wants to enjoy all our benefits without paying for them.
Who Owns the Air?
Benjamin said... My very act of breathing doesn't constitute theft because nobody owns the air.
That's not true. We the People own the air (literally: it's common property, i.e owned by all people in common). That's why we have the right to prevent you poisoning it (or in any other way taking it away from us--a problem more obvious in the case of water, where public water literally can be taken away so no one gets it but the one guy who took it all, thus threatening everyone's life; poisoning, i.e. polluting, the air does the same thing in effect, just as poisoning the water supply also does).
So It All Comes Down to One Question:
Kneecaps or Taxes?
Kneecaps or Taxes?
Benjamin said... Whatever free market solutions arose, the nature of "aggression" would not be so clunky, and no one's money would be taken without the direct consent of the individual.
Until you refused to pay the sidewalk toll and started walking on someone else's sidewalk. Then they would use "aggression" against you, to force you to pay (or restrict your liberty by force so you can't walk on the sidewalk until you do pay). Funny how that sounds exactly like what the government already does. The difference is that in a totally free market, force is unregulated, so they can break your kneecaps if they wanted, or take all your property and claim it's the "fee" for using their sidewalk. Only government can maintain a civilized system that regulates force, so you don't get kneecapped for using a sidewalk without permission, and you are only ever forced to pay what's really a fair fee for using a sidewalk.
I gave you two exams in our discussion (Exam One and Exam Two). You failed them both. In neither case did you even answer the question posed, nor present any solution to the actual problems addressed, nor point out how the government solutions I identified didn't work, or what possible alternative there could have been (or any evidence that one would work). In many cases you even declared as true what is exactly opposite the demonstrated facts in the matter.
Someone who refuses to accept reality or even try to find out what it is shall never make competent decisions in political theory or political reality. And such a person is a complete waste of time to converse with. Nevertheless, I expect you will fill my comments box with hundreds of thousands of words continuing your illogical, factually inaccurate ranting. You are clearly hopelessly delusional, and thus prevented by your insanity from grasping anything I have said. But I hope at least I've inoculated others from your madness. You I'm done with.