When did I sign the Social Contract?

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When did I sign the Social Contract?

#1  Postby truth » Nov 21, 2018 8:22 pm

I'm interested in any and all legitimate, valid rebuttals to Lysander Spooner's 'The Constitution of No Authority'.

Does such a rebuttal exist? I have yet to find even a comprehensive critique.

Note: I chose this forum because it seemed the most logical place but if the admin thinks there is a better location, please feel free to move it.
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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#2  Postby Macdoc » Nov 22, 2018 2:40 am

When you were born a citizen.

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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#3  Postby Thommo » Nov 22, 2018 3:52 am

Being born is the same as giving consent? I'm not super convinced by that, I have to say.
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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#4  Postby laklak » Nov 22, 2018 3:52 am

You didn't, but it doesn't matter. They got more guns, so what they say goes.
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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#5  Postby Thommo » Nov 22, 2018 4:03 am

This might have been a useful link to provide:
http://praxeology.net/LS-NT-6.htm
The Constitution has no inherent authority or obligation. It has no authority or obligation at all, unless as a contract between man and man. And it does not so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now existing. It purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago.


And this:
https://www.iep.utm.edu/soc-cont/
Social contract theory, nearly as old as philosophy itself, is the view that persons' moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement among them to form the society in which they live. Socrates uses something quite like a social contract argument to explain to Crito why he must remain in prison and accept the death penalty. However, social contract theory is rightly associated with modern moral and political theory and is given its first full exposition and defense by Thomas Hobbes.


I have to admit that I'm not familiar with the document, and it's rather long. With no argument presented in the OP I'm not motivated to read the whole thing to formulate a reply as to whether a rebuttal has been found, or indeed is required. I guess my answer to the OP is "I don't know".

From some lighter background reading I have to say it doesn't seem intuitively persuasive enough to worry me all that much, for example:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Treason
Natural law, as Spooner saw it, was to be part of everyone's life, which includes the rights given at birth: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The framers of the United States government also saw natural law to be a good basis for the creation of the Constitution. Its preamble implies that the powers of the U.S government come from "the People". Spooner believed that "if there be such a principle as justice, or natural law, it is the principle, or law, that tells us what rights were given to every human being at his birth".[2] This means that Spooner believed that everyone has the same rights from birth, regardless of color or sex or state decree.


Whence come the assumptions that there are rights at all? For a challenge to the assumptions of the constitution it seems like an awful lot of alternative assumptions are being made with no justification. Why should contracts be binding? Why should contracts be the only possible form of legal authority? How to resolve a conflict between someone who believes you have the right to life (or liberty, or the pursuit of happiness) and someone who does not?

I think there's probably a lot of truth in laklak's answer. The constitution counts because the government can make it stick. They can make it stick by speaking softly and carrying a big stick.

As far as the USA is concerned it's perhaps also a consideration that they won't stop you leaving under most circumstances. A point that in places looks blurred with the concept of secession.
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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#6  Postby BWE » Nov 22, 2018 8:24 am

It's hard for some people to understand that they live in a society that has gone on for a long time and will continue for a long time.
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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#7  Postby gobshite » Nov 22, 2018 9:47 am

It was signed on your behalf.

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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#8  Postby Thommo » Nov 22, 2018 10:01 am

I wonder if the opening post could do with some context. I'm assuming there's a (an American) libertarian/anarchist context to this. Maybe this is colouring the sort of replies that are being induced.

One of the problems is it's very hard to see intuitively (well, for me at least) in what framework we might say that the social contract is a legal fiction (or social construct), but that the concept of contracts being "binding", or the concept of "natural rights" is not.
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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#9  Postby Thommo » Nov 22, 2018 10:12 am

gobshite wrote:It was signed on your behalf.


This does seem, at the least, highly relevant.

If we take a lot of the discussions of analogies such as corporations from Spooner, e.g.:
NT.6.1.9 It cannot be said that the Constitution formed “the people of the United States,” for all time, into a corporation. It does not speak of “the people” as a corporation, but as individuals. A corporation does not describe itself as “we,” nor as “people,” nor as “ourselves.” Nor does a corporation, in legal language, have any “posterity.” It supposes itself to have, and speaks of itself as having, perpetual existence, as a single individuality.
NT.6.1.10 Moreover, no body of men, existing at any one time, have the power to create a perpetual corporation. A corporation can become practically perpetual only by the voluntary accession of new members, as the old ones die off. But for this voluntary accession of new members, the corporation necessarily dies with the death of those who originally composed it.

seriously then we have to accept that something being a legal fiction (which a corporation is in the way we might suppose a nation is, or the constitution is) does not rule it out of validity within Spooner's text.

That is that it could be that the constitution creates an entity (the nation state of the USA) which is then an ongoing concern even after those persons who created it have died (and I have some reservations about the way in which Spooner inserts his own reading of the term "the people" that he insists upon rather than relying on the text, particularly in NT.6.1.1, I would say). The rules governing the relationship between that entity and the secessionist Southern states might thus be binding as contracts between those entities in the same fashion recognised as legitimate in Spooner.

So whilst we might question the legitimacy of the social contract preventing the individual citizens of the Southern states packing up and leaving - they did not "sign" this social contract themselves - that does not speak directly to the actual question of the states being entitled to change their relationship in law with the Federation as a whole. The Southern states and that relationship also being subject to the same charge of being legal fictions.
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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#10  Postby Thommo » Nov 22, 2018 10:47 am

Maybe this is the sort of objection the OP is looking for:

https://oll.libertyfund.org/pages/lm-spooner
In my book Restoring the Lost Constitution, which is dedicated “to James Madison and Lysander Spooner,” I join with Spooner in rejecting these and other tacit consent arguments. I contended that though “genuine consent, were it to exist, could give rise to a duty of obedience, the conditions necessary for ‘We the People’ actually to consent to anything like the Constitutions or amendments thereto have never existed and could never exist.”[35] And yet, another of Spooner’s arguments in The Unconstitutionality of Slavery points the way to how a constitution that lacks genuine consent might nevertheless be legitimate.

The key move is to recognize that a constitution does not bind the people themselves; instead, a constitution is supposed to bind those who govern the people. To the extent that consent is relevant, each and every office holder takes an oath to obey the Constitution and thereby consents to its terms. So what matters is not whether a constitution was assented to by the people, but whether the laws that are imposed under its auspices bind the people in conscience to obedience.

In short, people need not consent to obey the law to be bound by it. Instead, a law can bind in conscience if it does not violate the rights of those on whom it is imposed—so their consent is unnecessary—and if it is necessary to protect the rights of others—so it is obligatory for the same reasons our rights are obligatory.
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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#11  Postby zoon » Nov 22, 2018 12:44 pm

truth wrote:I'm interested in any and all legitimate, valid rebuttals to Lysander Spooner's 'The Constitution of No Authority'.

Does such a rebuttal exist? I have yet to find even a comprehensive critique.

Note: I chose this forum because it seemed the most logical place but if the admin thinks there is a better location, please feel free to move it.


An HTML copy of Lysander Spooner’s 1867 booklet “No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority” is on the Gutenberg website here. He was an anarchist, and objected strongly to taxation, regarding it as robbery. He also objected to slavery, and felt that the recently ended Civil War, although it did end slavery in the US, had not been fought for that reason, though it should have been. He seems to think that effective government of large numbers of people could exist without coercion, as stated in section 53 of the link above, near the end:
If their object had really been to abolish slavery, or maintain liberty or justice generally, they had only to say: All, whether white or black, who want the protection of this government, shall have it; and all who do not want it, will be left in peace, so long as they leave us in peace. Had they said this, slavery would necessarily have been abolished at once; the war would have been saved; and a thousand times nobler union than we have ever had would have been the result. It would have been a voluntary union of free men; such a union as will one day exist among all men, the world over, if the several nations, so called, shall ever get rid of the usurpers, robbers, and murderers, called governments, that now plunder, enslave, and destroy them.


I disagree with the view that a government which made taxation voluntary would be effective, because it would be helpless against mafia-style organisations which I imagine would immediately appear. This is what happens in failed states, where the government has lost authority.

Lysander Spooner also underestimates the extent of group coercion among hunter-gatherers, which is a reasonable error for someone writing in 1867. From section 45 of “The Constitution of No Authority”:
Among savages, mere physical strength, on the part of one man, may enable him to rob, enslave, or kill another man.

In fact, anthropologists have shown that in a band of hunter-gatherers a strong man who starts throwing his weight around by committing murder is very likely to be ganged up on by the other members of the band. There is an egalitarian ethos, but it is not a passive one; anyone trying, for example, to opt out of sharing (the hunter-gatherer version of taxation), will be brought into line, as described here:
According to Boehm, hunter-gatherers are continuously vigilant to transgressions against the egalitarian ethos. Someone who boasts, or fails to share, or in any way seems to think that he (or she, but usually it's a he) is better than others is put in his place through teasing, which stops once the person stops the offensive behavior. If teasing doesn't work, the next step is shunning. The band acts as if the offending person doesn't exist. That almost always works. Imagine what it is like to be completely ignored by the very people on whom your life depends. No human being can live for long alone. The person either comes around, or he moves away and joins another band, where he'd better shape up or the same thing will happen again. In his 1999 book, Hierarchy in the Forest, Boehm presents very compelling evidence for his reverse dominance theory.


Lysander Spooner thinks that a society based on “natural justice” would not involve forced taxation, people could be left in peace. I don’t see how this could work, since every human society has to deal with internal competition for resources. Hunter-gatherers do use coercion all the time (though it’s usually unspoken), but everyone has a say and there is little stratification of society. This probably feels the most natural to us, since we evolved in hunter-gatherer groups of 150 or so individuals, but it’s not clear how it could be managed in societies of millions.
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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#12  Postby laklak » Nov 22, 2018 4:10 pm

It's the basis for Sovereign Citizen shite. I didn't sign any contract, so I'm not bound by your laws and regulations. It's a puerile and frankly silly position. Search "sovereign citizen" on youtube, crack a beer and sit back. It's hilarious.
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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#13  Postby felltoearth » Nov 22, 2018 4:17 pm

Knowing Better just posted a video on this. I watched this in disbelief.

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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#14  Postby Macdoc » Nov 22, 2018 4:22 pm

Yeah - they confuse national sovereignty ( convention ) with individual rights which are granted
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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#15  Postby zoon » Nov 22, 2018 5:54 pm

According to Wikipedia here, the sovereign-citizen movement is the main terrorist threat in the US:
In surveys conducted in 2014 and 2015, representatives of US law enforcement ranked the risk of terrorism from the sovereign-citizen movement higher than the risk from any other group, including Islamic extremism, militias, racists, and Neo-Nazis.
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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#16  Postby laklak » Nov 22, 2018 6:17 pm

They're whack jobs, chemtrails, Illuminati, and heavy armaments. I know a few, wouldn't mess with them.
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The sky is falling! The sky is falling! - Chicken Little
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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#17  Postby Thommo » Nov 23, 2018 2:08 am

I have to admit I have always wondered how "liberty" can be an "unalienable Right" and simultaneously imprisoning 2.2m people constitutional.

In the real world the word appears to have neither force nor scope, as constitutional liberty is always defined as being the freedom to do whatever the constitution says you can do. Which one presumes one would have based on any constitution whether mentioning such liberty or not. Certainly any constitutional restriction must be considered not to be alienation, even where it imposes limits, which seems rather strange to me (just as the death penalty, apparently, is not a limit on one's constitutional right to life - go figure).

All of this seems at least tangentially relevant to Spooner's constitutional originalism.
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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#18  Postby surreptitious57 » Nov 23, 2018 12:09 pm

What would happen were everyone to became a sovereign citizen and not recognise any law they were obliged to ?
How would disputes then be solved given no party would actually recognise any jurisdiction other than their own ?
All shades of sovereign citizens are simpy avoiding personal responsibility so they can behave exactly as they wish
If they do not recognise any jurisdiction they might consider the fact that one day they may actually need its help
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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#19  Postby Thommo » Nov 23, 2018 12:34 pm

felltoearth wrote:Knowing Better just posted a video on this. I watched this in disbelief.



Wow. 300,000 of them allegedly.

That is just batshit fucking crazy.
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Re: When did I sign the Social Contract?

#20  Postby surreptitious57 » Nov 23, 2018 12:56 pm

That woman in the car went absolutely mental when she was eventually pulled out and handcuffed
A completely over the top reaction out of all proportion to the relatively minor offence in question
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