The Immorality of the Social Contract

Alexandros A's picture

Today there has been a lot of talk about a "Social Contract". A contract that binds all people and is supposedly something all people must adhere to or else suffer punishment by the state. The Social Contract was a theory first espoused by political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and, thanks to modern wannabe-politicians like Elizabeth Warren, it has become the most recent tool in the Statist's arsenal, being used to justify increased taxation (or just taxation in general), government mandates, increased regulation and infringements on individual liberty. But what are the implications of such a philosophy? Surely preserving and working towards the benefit of society as whole is an admirable thing. How can such a philosophy be bad? 
Rousseau wrote in his most famous work, fittingly named The Social Contract that:
"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..."
Essentially, Rousseau was a collectivist. He did not believe that we humans are each individuals, sovereign beings with individual rights. Rather, he believed we are all an "indivisible part of the whole" or part of a group and that decisions must be made that benefit the entire collective, not the individual. Also the individual must submit him or herself  "under the supreme direction of the general will" meaning they only exist to serve the collective. Nothing more. Not only that, but the individual has no say whether he or she wants to be part of that contract to begin with. 
Now there are three fundamental flaws with this type of thinking:

1. Who or what determines what the "General Will" is? Do politicians? How can we trust politicians to look out for the General Will? Are they not corruptible? From examining the current state of affairs of American Politics we can easily come to the conclusion that politicians are easily corrupted and care more about their financial backers than the people that elected them. So obviously politicians are not to be trusted in determining what is the "General Will" of the people. Does the majority? That's what a democracy is. But as Benjamin Franklin said "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote." Is it really morally acceptable to make policy based on "Majority rule"? Does that mean the 49% don't have the same rights since the 51% can just vote them away? Is everything morally acceptable so long as the majority votes for it?

2. How much must one serve the collective? How much of my personal wealth and property must I give up to the collective? How much is necessary to satisfy the "General Will"? Also, who determines that? The corrupt, self-serving politicians? Or the corrupt, self-serving majority?
3. A contract, as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary is:
1 a: a binding agreement between two or more persons or parties; especially : one legally enforceable
Agreement is the key word in this definition. Agreements, by nature are voluntary. If one party disagrees, then no agreement can take place. If agreements are voluntary, then so are contracts (true enough it says nothing about it being a forced agreement). So how can something that is, by nature, voluntary be forced on all individuals without their consent? Simply because it's the General Will" of the people?
There are other issues with the Social Contract too. It assumes we individuals are not sovereign beings in control of our own lives and our own destiny, but simply part of a group and we are bound to serve that group- regardless of our personal feelings or aspirations. Simply by being born into this world we must serve it, in order to satisfy a Social Contract we have no say in.
It is obvious that this type of thinking is dangerous. This type of thinking paved the way for such monsters as Hitler, Stalin and Chairmen Mao. Those who defend the Social Contract or the State in general may dismiss these examples as "extreme" or "uncharacteristic". Those three dictators used precisely the same language as the modern collectivists. What is so different from the rhetoric the tyrants used from the rhetoric collectivist politicians and thinkers use today? They all believed their actions were for the "General Will" or "The Greater Good". Each dictator had bold plans for his country and people. The individual's rights were not considered because to them, protecting the individual was not part of "The Greater Good".
This rhetoric isn't just used by the Left. It's used by the Right as well. Invading Iraq and Afghanistan was all part of the "Greater Good". So too, was Guantanamo Bay where we are illegally keeping hundreds of prisoners and subjecting them to inhumane torture. Obama's Drone War, is also supposedly for the "Greater Good" yet thousands of innocent people have died. These deaths are simply dismissed as part of the sad reality of war but don't those innocents have rights? Don't they count as individuals as well?
We as Libertarians, believe that each individual should be in control of his or her own destiny. We believe that we are all sovereign beings with a right to our Life, Liberty and Property. We believe that we have a right to defend our Life, Liberty and Property from those that would try and take it or do harm to it. The Social Contract rejects this notion. It rejects the notion that you should have the freedom to the "pursuit of happiness" however you define it. Instead, you exist to serve the State and the "General Will". If you reject this notion, force will be used upon you to ensure you comply. If the "General Will" says that you have no rights, you're out of luck because, in Elizabeth Warren's world, it is the Collective that is supreme above all else.
We have seen in America our government become more and more authoritarian, more and more tyrannical all in the name of the "Greater Good". We are now a nation that tortures. We are now a nation that does not abide by it's own constitution or the rule of law. We are now a nation that has turned it's back on the moral principles on which we were founded. We are now a nation that imprisons people for exposing the truth about our government. We are now a nation that imprisons citizens indefinitely, without trial. All of this has been in the name of the "Greater Good".

The only moral society is a society that recognizes each individual is a sovereign being with individual rights and those rights are not to be trampled on for the benefit of anyone. Until society learns and accepts this we will continue to suffer under the Tyranny of the State. Next time someone tells you it's for the "Greater Good" be sure to ask them: Who is it good for? Chances are, it isn't you.

-Alexandros A (II)

Rate this article: 
Average: 3.6 (5 votes)