Check Your Premises

Column by tzo.
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Apologists for government, along with uncritical government participants (most citizens), claim that just governments exist by way of a social contract. The idea is that the people voluntarily cede a portion of their freedom to government in exchange for social order secured by the government’s rule of law. The members of government, who are designated as representatives, are entrusted by the governed to secure society in exchange for the powers granted them.
One might venture to say that the social contract is just another way of expressing the granting of the power of attorney. The principal (citizen) entrusts and empowers the agent (representative) to make decisions for him that are in the principal's best interest, in exchange for compensation. Let's consider what should be expected of the social contract if it indeed is analogous to granting power of attorney.
Let's say you give power of attorney to Agent A, and he is now in charge of your finances. You instruct him to do his best to maximize the return on your money, and in return you will compensate him based on his performance.
Upon entering into this voluntary agreement, you both have an understanding that you are acting in each other's best interests. You are placing your trust in the agent by transferring the control of your money over to him, and he is to perform his duties to the best of his abilities in return for compensation based on his performance.
Now quick—check your premises. You have entered into a voluntary agreement with another individual, and as is the case in all voluntary human interactions, you both do so because each perceives that he will benefit from the transaction. If at any time either one of the parties feels that he is no longer benefiting, the agreement can be ended. There is a measure of mutual control in this arrangement.
So what should you expect from this set of premises? You should expect fair treatment because of the voluntary nature of the arrangement that was made for mutual benefit. The participants are free to part ways at any time if dissatisfied.
Now let’s consider how parallel the social contract may be to this type of interaction. Imagine giving power of attorney to Agent B, wherein this agent has the legal right to keep the relationship intact ad infinitum, and that furthermore, you have no choice but to live with the actions undertaken by the agent. You cannot revoke the power of attorney that you grant him, you must pay him regardless of if he earns money for you or not, and since he controls your money he can do what he wants with it, including keep it for himself.
I'll bet you would really want to find an agent who you could trust, no?
But imagine further that Agent B is legally able to pass along his power over you to other agents, and this transfer process takes place every four years or so. Your agent, no matter how sweet a guy he is, quickly becomes some stranger who has complete control over your finances. Would you be surprised to find that this agent just might view the situation as something that he might take advantage of? He does not know you. He does not care about you. What he has is control over your money and the freedom to use it in any way he sees fit.
This is the social contract in terms of power of attorney. Not so attractive now, is it?
Again—stop here and check your premises. Is the nature of your agreement voluntary? Do you expect to benefit under these conditions wherein the agent possesses all the power and you none? Conditions wherein you cannot withdraw from an “agreement” with a total stranger no matter what happens?
No one should have to explain to you what you should expect.
If you complain that the agent should use common sense in how he treats your relationship, that he should take care of your interests because that is the reason why you vested him with that power—that he should restrain himself from abusing the privilege because it is best for everyone to be treated fairly, well... Really?
After all, the agent has the law on his side. Whatever he does is legal. You cannot opt out of the relationship. Explain to me why he should care about you when he has all the power to do whatever he feels is best for him? How naive must you be to complain or be shocked and outraged by whatever behavior you witness this empowered individual make?
Human beings respond to incentives. This explains the inevitability of someone taking advantage of the situation. It doesn't matter how many good people there are, if there is an opportunity for taking advantage of people, the good people will generally shun such an opportunity and the bad people will trample each other trying to get it.
Government is a way to take advantage of others. Some individuals get to spend other people's money to impose their ideas on everyone with force. This will attract the worst elements of society, who will crowd out and make these positions unavailable to the good folks. They will make the process so disgusting (because they make the rules, remember?) that good people will not be able to endure the odious path required to reach the seats of power.
Again, please check your premises when you consider government action. If you view it as a contract entered into in good faith between principal and agent, where both are working honestly each toward their own mutual benefit, you have premised incorrectly. Very badly so, in fact.
Since government is a monopoly on force and whatever "services" it decides to provide, you are forced to "give agency" to this organization that has the law on its side and can do whatever it wants with whatever it decides to take from you. This is the correct premise from which to begin an analysis. You should expect abuse, as you cannot legally defend yourself against such treatment that will inevitably be dished out by the all-powerful agents.
Interacting with government is not a voluntarily-transacted contract entered into between two consenting parties designed for mutual benefit. It is the imposition of force from "agent" to "principal," and since the principal has no legal recourse against the agent, then abuse of the relationship by the agent is the only reasonable expectation.
Thuggery with fancy lipstick smeared on it.
The evidence of this is abundant in the world around you. Don't give power of attorney to strangers. Authority is yours to delegate or to keep, and no one can take it from you. Revoke your delegation of authority where it is not warranted. Notice this will not stop those on the "service" end of the "social contract" from demanding your submission to their force.
But at least now, you're awake. Eventually, that will count for something.

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tzo's picture
Columnist tzo
Columns on STR: 64

tzo now lives in your head.


Suverans2's picture

G'day tzo,

You wrote: "The idea is that the people voluntarily cede a portion of their freedom to government in exchange for social order secured by the government’s rule of law."

"Our legislators are not sufficiently apprized of the rightful limits of their power; that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights . . . and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him . . . and the idea is quite unfounded, that on entering into society we give up any natural right." ~ Thomas Jefferson (c.1816), author of the American Declaration of Independence (Thanks again, Paul Hein)

With all due respect, tzo, as we can see from Thomas' own words, although the voluntary citizenry of a government may "delegate" some of their natural rights, e.g. the natural right of self-defense, they most certainly do not "cede" their natural rights, notwithstanding the usurpers who wish to have dominion over us would love to have us believe otherwise.

By way of example, when you "cede" some of your land to your neighbor, you no longer have authority over that land; you have "yielded", or "surrendered", that authority to your neighbor.

On the other hand, when a SHERIFF "delegates" some of his authority to his representatives, i.e. SHERIFF'S DEPUTIES, he loses not one iota of his own authority.

This is why, when I withdrew my consent from my "deputies", the representatives of man-made governments, I still had all my natural rights. These can only be lost through forfeiture, that is to say, by trespassing on someone else's natural rights.

I will now resume reading your treatise.

Suverans2's picture

"Authority is yours to delegate or to keep, and no one can take it from you. Revoke your delegation of authority..." [Emphasis added]

Declaration of Independence
Formal Notice of Individual Secession

Secession. The act of withdrawing from membership in a group. ~ Black’s Law Dictionary, Abridged Sixth Edition, copyright 1991, page 940

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for a man to dissolve the bands which have connected him with a body politic, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Law of Nature and Nature’s God entitle him, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that he should declare the cause(s) which impel him to the separation.
″We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that [is to say] they are endowed by their Creator with certain Inalienable Rights″[1], rights which can never be abridged because they are so fundamental[2], that among these Natural Rights[3] are Life, Liberty, and justly acquired Property, and that "no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions". To secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men[4], deriving their just powers from the Consent of the governed, – and whenever any Government becomes destructive of these Inalienable Rights, every man has the Lawful Authority to Withdraw his Consent, and to return to the separate and equal station to which the Law of Nature[5] and Nature’s God entitles him. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be Seceded from for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that men are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by Withdrawing from the governments to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to Secede from such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of this Man; and such is now the necessity that constrains this Man to Secede from this Government. The history of the United States Government, rather than securing, has a record of repeated injuries to, and usurpation of, Man’s Inalienable Rights, all having as their direct objective the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over men.

I, Robert Wilfred, therefore, being a Lawful Man, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of my intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the Creator of the heavens, the earth and the seas, and all that in them is, solemnly publish and declare, this Man is, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent, that he is Absolved from all Allegiance to the United States, and any and all States under the authority of the United States, and that all political connection between him and the aforementioned States, is and ought to be Totally Dissolved; and that as a Free and Independent Man, I have full Power to Arm and Protect Myself, my Loved Ones, and my justly acquired Possessions, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Trade, Possess Land, Travel Freely and to do all other Acts and Things which Free and Independent Men may of natural right do.

[1] Excerpted from: The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
[2] Black’s Law Dictionary, Abridged Sixth Edition, copyright 1991, page 1057
[3] "Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: first, a right to life; secondly, to liberty; thirdly to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can." ~ Samuel Adams, signer of the American Declaration of Independence
[4] “Our legislators are not sufficiently apprized of the rightful limits of their power; that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights . . . and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him . . . and the idea is quite unfounded, that on entering into society we give up any natural right.” ~ Thomas Jefferson (c.1816), author of the American Declaration of Independence
[5] The law of nature is superior in obligation to any other. It is binding in all countries and at all times. No human laws are valid if opposed to this, and all which are binding derive their authority either directly or indirectly from it. ~ Institutes of American Law by John Bouvier, 1851, Part I, Title II, No. 9

Notice to the Agent is Notice to the Principal; Notice to the Principal is Notice to the Agent
Amen and amen.

GeoffreyTransom's picture


It would be helpful to have a version of that Declaration without all the references to some Invisible Sky Wizard; it is impossible for a rational person to approve of a doctrinal statement that justifies itself by appeal to the authority of some genocidal Iron Age megalomaniac who lives in the sky, advocates genocide, loves the smell of burning blood and offal, and exchanges Master Race status for a perpetuity of foreskin-clippings.

After all, 'the Creator' wasn't particularly interested in the property rights (or Natural Rights) of the Amalekites (nor the Hittites, Hivites, Jebusites, Midianites, or Amorites).

Even if there is some entity that is as powerful as believers claim 'the Creator' to be, the worship of power for its own sake is depraved.

Excising the language of religious delusion leaves a perfectly legitimate set of principles that will appeal to both the rational and the religious.



Suverans2's picture

Greetings GT,

Fair enough. I'm sure that can be accomplished, and given your obvious writing ability, I look forward to seeing your end result.

Thanks for the constructive (and humorous) criticism.

You do realize, of course, that all you state above only holds water if we are talking about the God of the Jewish bible, and that none of it, on the other hand, holds true if we are referring to Thomas Paine's "first cause, the cause of all things...and this first cause, man calls God".

THE only idea man can affix to the name of God, is that of a first cause, the cause of all things. And, incomprehensibly difficult as it is for a man to conceive what a first cause is, he arrives at the belief of it, from the tenfold greater difficulty of disbelieving it. It is difficult beyond description to conceive that space can have no end; but it is more difficult to conceive an end. It is difficult beyond the power of man to conceive an eternal duration of what we call time; but it is more impossible to conceive a time when there shall be no time.

In like manner of reasoning, everything we behold carries in itself the internal evidence that it did not make itself. Every man is an evidence to himself, that he did not make himself; neither could his father make himself, nor his grandfather, nor any of his race; neither could any tree, plant, or animal make itself; and it is the conviction arising from this evidence, that carries us on, as it were, by necessity, to the belief of a first cause eternally existing, of a nature totally different to any material existence we know of, and by the power of which all things exist; and this first cause, man calls God. ~ Excerpted from Chapter X of The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine

Paul's picture

"Social contract" is just a euphemism for "I rule, you submit". Government could not exist without euphemism.

Suverans2's picture

The so-called "social contract" is only a "theory", (actually, a number of them), and therefore a "social contract" is a rebuttable presumption in law; the government makes the rebuttable presumption that an individual has consented to their version of the so-called "social contract".

"We give consent, when we yield that which we have a right to withhold." ~ Noah Webster (c.1825)

I do not consent.

Lawrence M. Ludlow's picture

This was a good article and set of responses. I'm going to re-post it and see what happens!