Constitutional Authority Over The Individual

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • Author
  • #20632

    They say there are no stupid questions, only stupid people, but maybe I’m missing something.

    I just got back from Washington, D.C., and I took a look at the original Constitution in the National Archives. I can’t seem to find my signature anywhere on or near the bottom of that document. I looked hard, but didn’t find it. By the same token, I don’t seem to recall attending the Arkansas legislature and signing off on the application for statehood back in 1836. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t drinking when Reconstruction resulted in the restoration to the Union in 1868, so I don’t think I would have signed off on that one, either.

    Thus, for the life of me, I cannot figure out why this contract between the states, created almost 200 years before my birth, holds authority over me when I never agreed to it. Why should I be under the supposed authority of people who made an agreement about my life 200 years before I was born?

    I thought slavery was over with, yet I spend roughly a third of my life working for the government (today’s April 15th, tax day), more if you factor in state taxes, inflation, government regulation on goods and services that I purchase and consequent price increases, etc.

    I know I’m channeling a little Lysander Spooner, but I’m genuinely curious what the arguments are by the statists that I AM subject to their unilateral, arbitrary and typically destructive laws. By what logic could I not simply form my own mafia and call it “government” and start extracting revenue from them? I understand the “might makes right” argument that they have the guns, and they will arrest me and steal my property anyway. Yet somehow I can’t buy that this gives them any legitimate standing to govern me.

    And don’t pull out that Pledge of Allegiance crap on me. I also once believed in Santa Clause, too.



    The current government in DC and in your State have legitimacy because they both have the general consent of the governed. The only way to change that is to get enough people to stop giving their consent, and that is going to take time and education.


    I know I’m channeling a little Lysander Spooner, but I’m genuinely curious what the arguments are by the statists that I AM subject to their unilateral, arbitrary and typically destructive laws.

    It boils down to force. You may not have agreed, but they outnumber & outforce you (us). Might doesn’t make right, but it does make might. I mean, I’m as happy to sound off in forums like this as anyone, and pat myself on the back for being bold, but I didn’t scrawl a Spoonerish statement on my tax form and send that in instead of a faithfully-filled out form.

    My guess is most of the people here did that as well including the faculty. My guess is Rothbard obeyed all the tax & other laws all his life, not because he agreed with them but because he had to and because he did not want to give them an excuse to toss him into prison.

    Of course none of that makes this whole edifice legitimate, but it does make it a brute fact of life: as a matter of fact (not as a matter of right) they have power over our lives and we need to persuade enough people and/or the right people that this is wrong.


    Ok though here’s the sort of answer Statists do give to “why YOU are subject to their laws.” (Noting that they would not accept the description that the laws are “unilateral,” “arbitrary,” or “destructive.” Of course, they are wrong, but we’re looking at what their argument would be, and among their arguments would be that this characterization is false).

    Note that on one level, the more philosophically-aware statists, or at least the currently dominant branch of them, actually do accept the fundamental principle that unanimous agreement is required, and the “social contract” cannot be imposed upon hold-outs.

    They also note that social institutions ought to be set up in a generally disinterested way; that is, for example, they shouldn’t (as an ought) benefit those in power just because that is in the interest of those who are in power (and use that power to exact resources from others for their own benefit). Social institutions should (again, in the ought sense) be set up in such a way that everyone would agree to them.

    They then note that in society-as-we-find it, everyone has their particular interests and would want to arrange things so as to benefit themselves, or at least not be made worse off than they currently find themselves. But they note that these particular self-interests are of no philosophical social importance; that is they may or may not be worthy, and the people who hold them may have good reasons to hold them, but they are not of primary significance when attempting to determine what social arrangements/institutions we ought to have.

    From there they construct elaborate thought experiments to find out what institutions “we would all agree to” that satisfied conditions of (social) justice. Thought experiments carefully designed (by them) to lead everyone down a chain of argumentation to arrive at an idealized-utopian version of the modern social welfare beamtenstaat. They then claim everyone would agree to form a social contract on this basis if they were not blinded by their current social interests (so, if, for example, you-in-the-hear-and-now disagree, it’s just because you haven’t sufficiently divorced yourself from your own particular social circumstances): “we” would all want certain social guarantees so that no matter what happened, “we” would not fall below a certain materiel minimum, &tc.

    Note also that among the “givens” (though somewhat argued for) within this is the determinism that neoclassical social welfare/general equilibrium economics has as one of it’s outputs-of-premises, and a philosophical commitment to the belief that all our personal characteristics (intelligence, physical ability or disability, drive to succeed, and so on) are, from an ethical point of view, accidental; that is, we did nothing to “deserve” them (and those who lack the characteristics that society ends up finding valuable did nothing to “deserve” whatever bad fate befalls them), which is one reason why, behind the veil-of-ignorance, we not only do not know our particular social interests (where we find ourselves in society-as-it-is), but when we’re deliberating on what social institutions “we would all agree to,” we are not supposed to know our individual abilities & disibilities, whether we’ll be born to rich parents or poor ones, and the like.

    So then they find that “we” would agree to…Progressivism. Social egalitarianism. The modern social-welfare beamtenstaat (with a superficial level of democracy; note these people all claim to be very pro-democracy, but the logical output of their beliefs is that technocrats – technical experts in scientific public policy, in social welfare economics, in diversity multiculturalism, &tc, will decide all matters of import and the elective bodies are like the toy parliaments in the Soviet world, existing only to ratify what the apparatchiks with technical knowledge claim will produce the most just result – “be of the greatest benefit to the least-well-off in society”).

    Anyhow, in the modern world, when the person-on-the-street with a undergraduate degree starts talking about “the underlaying social contract,” it is a vulgar version of this they are all referring too (consciously or unconsciously). It started (more or less) with Dewey and was formalized by Rawls and various philosophical second-hand dealers in ideas (various people influenced by Rawls and/or Dewey &tc).

    So they all believe that really you would agree with them and if you don’t see that you’re ignorant and/or unjust, and in any case their job is to force you to be free and to educate (“The Uplift!”) you or at least your kids.

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.