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phonon

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The NAP is A Social Contract
« on: October 03, 2014, 01:18:07 PM »

There was a topic on a recent show about "The Social Contract" and I wanted to see if anyone was willing to discuss the concept here.

I think that during the discussion, the hosts kept getting very close to a certain conclusion but never quite landed on it so I want to see what people think.

It seems that everyone as in their mind a certain thing when they hear the term "The Social Contract" and it seems to involve a state that enforces it and citizens/serfs that must obey it under threat of penalty. Usually there is some sort of obligation put onto the individual that involves some sort of sacrifice on behalf of others. But I want to step back from that and look at the concept a bit more generically. Let's not think about THE Social Contract, but let's think about A social contract, which may take different forms within different societies.

Mark got the closest to the conclusion that I want to address here when he said, "That's called manners." What the discussion seemed to almost hit on but didn't was the notion that the Non-aggression Principle and respect for individual "rights" constitute a social contract, which could be defined as the generally understood way that people should treat each other (manners).

Is there some truly objective property of an individual's person or possessions that require that another person treat them a certain way, ie with respect and non-aggression? I don't see it. The only thing that seems to enforce that kind of mutual understanding between two people is the fact that practically no one likes having what they consider their property be taken or destroyed by someone else. Same goes for their own body, mind, etc. "You don't like it. I don't like it. So let's not do it."

But, that doesn't mean that there could be someone that doesn't believe this way, someone who doesn't draw those same lines that you do around "their" possessions or "their" person. What requires that this person follow your social contract, the NAP?

Their version of the social contract is much less demanding than yours. They don't have so many rules as to who does what and which boundaries they will ultimately be forced to respect. "Hey, you can't build your house on my land! I own it legitimately and you have no right to it." "Oh yeah? Well, I didn't sign any contract agreeing to recognize your property rights! I didn't sign your social contract!"

Now, most if not all liberty minded people who adhere to the NAP believe in a social contract of negative rights. You have the right to "your" stuff and I have a right to "mine" and if we all respect those property assignments then we'll all get along. But, others may start veering into positive rights territory. Maybe a liberty minded person believes that a child has a positive right to be kept clothed and fed by his parents and not abandoned in the middle of the woods. By their version of the social contract, the parent has a duty to protect and raise the child. You can see where I'm going here.

Some others, who libertarians would not consider to be liberty minded, might believe that "society" has a duty to its "members" like a parent has with its child, and that this duty is part of the social contract. In other words, I don't see any fundamental difference between one social contract or another. It appears to be a difference in degrees. You might say that the dividing line is negative rights versus positive rights, but that really doesn't mean that both forms of social contract aren't social contracts or that there isn't some sort of implicit expectation of compliance.

In summary:

The NAP is a social contract. People can claim that they never signed any contract agreeing to follow the NAP so why should they.
It's the same logic used when claiming that if you didn't sign some other social contract that you don't owe taxes.


disclaimer: I support the NAP and generally do not support the concept of positive rights.
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dalebert

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Re: The NAP is A Social Contract
« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2014, 12:10:32 AM »

Treating it like it's a law of nature is a fairly religious perspective. We should be arguing why the NAP is key to having successful societies that we all benefit from from a self-interest POV. It's not a law of nature. It's something we invented that's useful.

SeanD

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Re: The NAP is A Social Contract
« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2014, 01:46:02 AM »

The NAP is not a Social Contract.  If it were people would be forced to follow it.  Such force would in fact be against the NAP and anyone forcing it on others would not be a follower.
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phonon

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Re: The NAP is A Social Contract
« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2014, 12:04:56 AM »

Treating it like it's a law of nature is a fairly religious perspective. We should be arguing why the NAP is key to having successful societies that we all benefit from from a self-interest POV. It's not a law of nature. It's something we invented that's useful.

A person who advocates for a coercive state might say the same thing. It's just something they believe works best. A lot of them would also argue that they are willing to put up with some degree of force used on them if they believe that it's the reason for their society being so successful, as they see it.

 Many who are libertarians or voluntarists believe that coercion is immoral. It may not be some law of nature but the fact that it violates their moral code says they value it for some reason. I don't know if they necessarily believe that it's immoral because of some utilitarian reason. If everyone were a little "worse off," say economically, but lived in a completely voluntary society, some folks (like me) would argue that this is still better. I don't know if there is some profound reason that I believe that coercion is wrong other than I sure as hell don't like to be coerced.

Anyway, what I think I'm getting at is that some people use the social contract concept to insist that you owe something to a mostly unaccountable monopoly state, and that is how the whole concept originated, but that doesn't mean that this is the only use of the concept.
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phonon

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Re: The NAP is A Social Contract
« Reply #4 on: October 06, 2014, 12:13:54 AM »

The NAP is not a Social Contract.  If it were people would be forced to follow it.  Such force would in fact be against the NAP and anyone forcing it on others would not be a follower.

In a society where the NAP is valued and followed, it would be enforced by some mechanism, would it not? Like the example above, if someone starts building a structure on your land, they are violating the NAP. Everyone in this geographical area values the NAP and wants to defend it. They see this person as a thief and he would likely be tried in some form of court and told that he must remove his structure, return the land to its original condition, and pay court costs (maybe some extra restitution). If he refuses he would be stopped forcibly and forced to pay. Since he did not abide by the social contract, he would be forced to follow it.
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dalebert

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Re: The NAP is A Social Contract
« Reply #5 on: October 06, 2014, 02:24:57 PM »

In a society where the NAP is valued and followed, it would be enforced by some mechanism, would it not?

Well then you're talking about a society; not the NAP itself. A principle can't be a social contract. In the simplest form, the only enforcement of the NAP is self-defense, e.g. lots of people carrying guns and each of them having a personal policy that they'll only use them in self-defense. That naturally leads to certain social repercussions such as if a group of people sees a person get attacked, they are justified by but not obligated by the NAP to assist the innocent party against the aggressive party. It's technically everyone's responsibility to defend their own rights but odds are many people would come to the aid of others out of human nature because we're social creatures. Likewise, organizations would form to offer defensive services that could take all sorts of forms or even be funded charitably from people wanting to help others. So if a bunch of people defensively use violence against you, that's just a repercussion of your aggressive actions in a world where lots of people follow the NAP. Getting bitten is a potential repercussion of poking strange dogs.

Typically the term "social contract" is used to explain why all people have obligations to do something for other people. Strictly speaking, NAP followers believe one's only obligation to others is to abstain from aggression against them. It's not really "doing" something since you can fulfill it by doing nothing, but I suppose if you wanted to pick nits, that's still a social obligation of a sort and hence a society based on it still has something of a social contract.

dalebert

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Re: The NAP is A Social Contract
« Reply #6 on: October 06, 2014, 11:45:22 PM »

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