108. What Is The Social Contract?

Are individuals living in civil society obligated to give up their liberty for the security of government? According to some people, yes. This belief that society forces us to exchange freedom for safety is centered on something called the “Social Contract,” and it’s a rather controversial topic.


Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Brittany: Hi Connor.

Connor: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: So we have said a few times in the past that we never shy away from tackling, you know, somewhat controversial topics as they are. Yeah. So this topic might not seem very controversial on face value, but the social contract, as it’s called, elicits or triggers a lot of many different responses from people. So I thought today we could talk about, first of all, what it is and why there are so many opposing views or why some of, there were so many strong views rather about this thing. So first off, Connor, yeah. What in the world is a social contract? It feels very legal and official.

Connor: Yeah. You know, before I answer that a few weeks back, we published an e-book. a 115-page e-book called The Tuttle Rebuttals. And, we rebut 20 political and 20 economic myths that are very common, that you’ll hear as a way to help your family better understand why these ideas are wrong, how you can explain responses, the rebuttals and better understand, you know, free market economics, the ideas of freedom. And so, of course, one of the political myths was this very concept, which I’m excited to spend a little bit more time on the podcast talking about. If you’d like to check out the ebook, head to Tuttletwins.com/products. Go down to the eBooks section and you’ll find the Tuttle rebuttals. So what is the social contract? Well, the social contract, it’s this idea about whether the authority of the state or the government exists over an individual over you, whoever’s listening out there, right? We’ve talked about this a lot. What is the proper role of government? When and under what circumstances do governments have authority? Now, if there’s a contract, then that implies that two or more parties have agreed to something, right? If you go to Verizon and you want to get a subscription and their cell phone plan, they’re gonna have you sign a contract. If you wanna buy a home, you’re gonna sign a contract. If you are gonna work somewhere, you’re gonna sign a contract. And, so agreements are had all the time contracts are always had, right? And so that’s what a contract is. We understand that. But a social contract, this, muddy’s the waters a little bit, right? so the social contract is this idea that individuals give up some of their freedoms to the government, in exchange for living in, you know, that society, being protected by, that government, benefiting from the benefits, that government provides. Now, you know, this may sound a little familiar to some of you. We’ve talked so much about the importance of not trading liberty for security, right? This idea of surrendering freedom to the government in exchange for security. But the problem with the social contract, Brittany, is that no one’s actually signed it. It’s not an actual contract. There literally is no social contract, no document. It’s not like the constitution where you can go in, you know, on vacation to Washington DC and you’ve got your family and they’ve got this, like

Brittany: like for the social contract.

Connor: Yeah, well guarded a little display. Oh, look, mom, it’s the social contract. Like that doesn’t exist at all. It’s just this idea, this assumption that by living in society, everyone has agreed to, I don’t know what right? To, whatever happens, to be in this social contract. Now, the Declaration of Independence, which we’ve talked about before, Thomas Jefferson and others, right? They signed off on this idea that legitimate governments, just governments have to have the consent of the governed because if the consent of the government doesn’t exist, it’s an illegitimate government. It’s an unjust government. I don’t know about you Britney, though, but I just didn’t sign any social contracts. So how are we giving consent to the government?

Brittany: That’s what’s so weird to me. And I used to get in arguments with this, with people in my constitutional studies classes in college, because this is, a lot of people do assume, well, you know when you’re born into society, living in society, opts you into this social contract. But then you have to think about it. And it’s almost like they’ve criminalized not living in society. So what are your choices? Your choices are to sign on to this thing that doesn’t exist. So you couldn’t really sign on to it or go like, live out in the mountains, but you can’t even really go live out in the mountains anymore. Like the government will find a way to say that that’s illegal and you’ll get in trouble for it. So where does that leave us? And that’s why I get concerned because that essentially says that just by living in society, by me not doing anything but having to live where I have to live, I have to obey by these rights where I trade liberty for security, which we have talked about over and over again. It never ends. Well,

Connor: I agree and I think it’s always very important that we understand terms. right? When we’re talking about consent, what do we actually mean? The consent of the government because that’s this idea with the social contract. We’ve all consented to be governed in certain ways that no one can actually define or tell us. And so the rules are always changing. And then when we object to the rules changing, the new laws and new taxes and so forth, everyone defending that law or tax or whatever says, oh, social contract right? Like, we can do whatever we want because of this social contract that you can’t actually see. So I think terms are important, and for a term like this, especially to understand how the founding fathers interpreted it in the Declaration of Independence, I often like using a dictionary that was written in 1828 by Noah Webster. So the Webster’s dictionary

Brittany: The dictionary guy? Yeah. Okay.

Connor: Absolutely. So Webster’s dictionary was Noah Webster. He wrote the First American dictionary in 1828. And so it’s a great way to capture the meaning of words that, were used at the time of kind of the founding era, because a lot of times, words change over time. The consent hasn’t really changed. But, here’s, here’s how consent was defined in this 1828 dictionary. There’s two options. The first is, so consent means agreement of the mind to what is proposed or stated by another, a yielding of the mind or will to that which is proposed. You’re yielding your mind, right? Think of like when you’re driving, if you yield the way to the pedestrian or the bicyclist, you are pausing and saying, I’m allowing you to do what you want to do, right? That’s yielding. the second definition is an accord of mines or agreement, a unity of opinion. Now, I don’t know about you, Britney, but when I watch, you know, I don’t actually watch, but you know, back in the day when I watched Fox News or msnbc, or I didn’t really see any unity of opinion. when I watched C-SPAN, I don’t really see any unity of opinion of, people in Congress. Okay? So, agreement of the mind, a yielding of the mind. Have you ever yielded, like Brittany, has there ever been a time in your life when you look at all the taxes and all the wars and all the regulations and the restrictions on your property and all these kinds of things, has there ever been a method whereby you could yield your mind and or will to that which was proposed? Could you ever act? Have you actually ever consented to all of these rules and laws and so forth?

Brittany: Never in fact, like, especially when you think about tax rates, I don’t think I have ever once consented to any of those. So no I have signed nothing.

Connor: And that’s an important question, right? Because if the Declaration of Independence says that we need to have the consent of the government, we need to really pause and think like, okay, how does that consent actually happen? Like, I mean, it was Thomas Jefferson and others who thought that the constitution should only last like 20 years, right? So that every generation could kind of have a much more participatory process. In other words, they could be engaged much more in determining what type of laws that they would live under. How, do we, like, okay, so for the kids listening, right? You were born x number of years ago and you’re growing up in America, or I guess maybe not. We got listeners all over the world actually. So you’re growing up wherever you are and you live under the laws of your, you know, city or state or province or country, and how do you give consent? You know, you kind of just have to abide by that. And then your whole life goes by where other people are deciding what the laws are gonna be and what the taxes are. And okay, you get to vote, but, is, okay, let’s, actually pause there, right? cuz a lot of people would say that, well, but, you get to vote. and so that is consent.

Brittany: Consent.

Connor: How do you respond to that, Brittany?

Brittany: No, I don’t think it is because that’s actually almost worse because then you’re imposing your will on other people. Like you’re actually, it’s the opposite of that because you are, you’re going to the polls and you’re saying, I believe in this so much that I’m gonna force it on my neighbor. And what you’re really saying is, if my neighbor disobeys, whatever this new law is, I am giving the state permission to come in and put ’em to, you know, take to jail, whatever it is. So it is the opposite of consent.

Connor: So let’s actually use an example. Imagine you live in a town that is extremely libertarian conservative and someone moves there for, you know, job reasons, let’s say, and they’re a Bernie Sanders, AOC socialist supporter, okay? So they now live in your conservative town, they have the right to vote just like everyone else. And the elections roll around and they vote and they can’t stand anything. They don’t like any of the candidates, they don’t like the laws, they want socialism, they want more taxes, they want free parks and more roads and all these things, right? Has that Bernie Sanders supporter, we’ll call him Bob, has Bob yielded his mind or will to what is happening in that town? I mean, flip it around, right? If you’re a super libertarian person living in, I don’t know, New Jersey or California San Fransisco.

Brittany: Anywhere.

Connor: You know anywhere, right? Have you yielded your mind or will like really like Lysander Spooner, which we should probably dedicate it.

Brittany: Yeah, How we should.

Connor: at some point. he has some great quotes on this issue. It’s like, you know, basically, a gun is being held to someone’s head and if you’re giving them the ability to through voting, say, I’d rather you not hold the gun to my head, or I’d rather you, you know, point the gun at my foot instead of my head. Like, is he really yielding his mind to the whole situation? Or is voting really just kind of a defense mechanism? In other words, I don’t like that everyone wants to raise my taxes, so of course, I’m gonna go vote and say no to the tax increases, but I haven’t yielded my mind to the tax increases that everyone else is voting for. If anything, I yielded my mind to the exact opposite, right? And, through voting, through elections, everyone else, the tyranny of the majority, they’ve all said, yes, more taxes. We wanna make Connor pay for our new park. I haven’t yielded my mind, I haven’t yielded my will. if anything, I’ve yielded the exact opposite. So Brittany, I don’t, I don’t know if you have a different take, but in my opinion, voting can’t. The fact that you get to vote, you know, does not provide us the ability to yield our mind or will. we don’t know what’s going through voters’ minds if they’re voting because they legitimately agree with whatever’s being proposed or if they’re doing it cuz it’s like the lesser of two evils, right? Like, but they think it’s evil or there’s no other good option. Like we don’t know what’s in people’s heads. So we have no way of knowing if they’re actually consenting or not.

Brittany: There’s a great meme, I wish I, what did they call? Like non-something players and, something, do you know what I’m talking about?

Connor: Oh yeah, yeah, Like the gray face. Yeah.

Brittany: Like the gray. Okay, so it’s all of them. And some of them have d and some of them have r and it’s like a crowd of ’em and it’s something like, they’re like cheering, like let’s go vote so we can impose our will on other people. I don’t know what, I don’t remember what the catchphrase is, but it reminds me of what you were just saying. I’ll have to find it and link it down. But that pretty much explains it. I think you’re, imposing like you said, it’s the opposite of imposing your will. So I agree, that’s, right?

Connor: Yeah, non-player character.

Brittany: I was gonna say, non-essential worker. Well, that’s a covid term. I’m getting my terms confused.

Connor: Oh, these new terms. So, to me it’s like, you know, voting doesn’t give consent. A lot of people will say, Britney, you’ve heard this as a libertarian, right? If you don’t like it, move, move to Somalia, right?

Brittany: Somalia.

Connor: Right? This is one of the more common ones that are used. If you don’t like it, leave. But, the problem with this argument, right? That it assumes that the authority is, legitimate, that the state can do whatever it wants with, you know, the territory where, where it’s claiming power, your state, your city or whatever, and that if you don’t like it, you’ll leave. But, wait a minute. Like, I was born here or I bought this property, this is mine. I have every right to be here. You have no right to boss me around. It’s like a gang. Literally. It’s like a gang saying this is our turf, you know? And if you don’t like it, if you don’t wanna pay us, then get outta here. That’s not legitimate. And, it’s certainly not consent, right? If someone comes to you and says, pay us what you owe us, or take a hike, or we’re gonna throw you, you know, in jail or whatever, like you’re paying that money under duress is the term, right? In other words, you’re paying it just cuz you want to avoid something bad happening.

Brittany: Which is for. I mean that’s.

Connor: Yeah. It’s, not yielding the mind though. It’s, like being held hostage and complying with, you know, the what the people, what are the people called? The hostage takers? I don’t, there’s a word for it. The people who take other people hostage, I can’t remember it right now. but you know, if you’re complying with the demands of your captor, then you’re not yielding your mind. You’re just trying to survive, right? You’re trying to get through the next day. So again, like that’s not consent. Just because I live where I do doesn’t mean I consent with all the laws that the government is telling me I have to obey and all the taxes I have to pay just because I haven’t moved somewhere else. like you said, Brittany like there’s nowhere else really to move. Like everywhere has a government and bad laws and taxes and so, you know, maybe Seasteading, we’ve talked about Seasteading.

Brittany: Yes, we have.

Connor: But that would be a struggle. So I don’t know, Brittany, I kind of struggle with some of these ideas that, say, you know, oh, based on the fact that you voted or you live here, therefore you’ve consented, it doesn’t really seem to strike at the heart of the problem.

Brittany: No. And I think it’s one of those things. So this is something that I believed in my earlier days of politics. Look, you know, social contract that makes sense. We all give up certain things to live in, blah, blah, blah. And now I just can’t, I don’t really have any how many tolerance for it. Cuz again, if somebody loses somebody is having something forced on them. So at the end of the day, what is it? No taxation or representation. But really what we should say is, you know, no government without, representation or without that consent either. So good things to remember.

Connor: Absolutely. We are gonna link on the show notes page to a book that I wrote, lessons From Lemonade Stand. You can find it on Amazon as well. this book was written for like preteens and teens and certainly the adults as well. It’s written in a simple way. I tried to explain very simply a lot of these exact issues. Okay? So, there’s a whole chapter dedicated to these ideas of what is the consent of the governed actually mean. What does it actually look like? and what’s the problem? Like, why should we care? So, check out the e-book. We mentioned the [email protected] slash products, or you can head to the show notes page at Tuttletwins.com slash podcast and find a link over to Lessons from Lemonade Stand. If you and your family want to keep learning about these ideas of consent of the governed, the Declaration of Independence, this is like fundamental stuff, but no one really talks about it anymore. And it’s very important because the government shouldn’t be able to just do whatever they want. And then when you object point to this like nebulous idea, oh, social contract, we can do whatever we want. You have to abide by it guys. That is literally the tyranny of the majority that the founding fathers warned about. If the majority can say, we’re gonna vote to raise Connor’s taxes, or we’re gonna control Britney’s property, and, we’re in the minority and we object, and when we object, they’re like, oh, but it’s the social contract. You live here, you voted in the election, you have to abide by whatever we wanna do to you now. Like, that is not freedom. That’s not, you know, the America I wanna live in. So a lot of Lear learning resources for you guys to keep learning about these topics. Thanks for joining us on today’s episode. Make sure you’re subscribed to the show. And Brittany, until next time, we’ll talk to you later.

Brittany: Talk to you later


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