On Contracts and States

Anarchists often hear the argument that they simply want to regress states to the point that some local authority acts as the state. That these local communities hold the monopoly on legitimate use of violence for which everybody acts. This is incorrect. There are many ways that anarchists speak about what makes their anarchism anarchistic, but there are three lines of thinking they often follow: individual sovereignty, abolishment of a hierarchy of power, freedom of association (voluntary association). None of these three modes of thought allow for states to exist since all states are an involuntary monopoly on the use of force which necessarily violates individual sovereignty and necessarily puts the decrees of the state above the individual in a hierarchy of power.

Anarchists have heard before that such a situation has (A) never occurred before (B) politically impossible (C) completely undesirable. People in the camp of (B) believe such a thing is politically impossible because they believe that either (B1) trade cannot be carried out (B2) trade can be carried out, but without an authority determining property, it cannot be protected. There are many other arguments, but I will address those later. Both (B1, B2) are false. Trade is possible without an authority and can be protected without one. This is true just as consensual sex is possible regardless of whether you agree or disagree as to it being carried out. If some authority was necessary for any trade to take place, how do you explain states engaging in a trade before international authorities? All that matters in a trade is that the two parties agree as to what their property is. As long as that holds they can trade. As for (B2) property protection would have to be up to the two parties engaged in the trade. There is no property in the material world, it is merely a social relation that can always be challenged and is no less secure in states. Property can be protected by either party as long as they have the ability to protect it. That won’t ever change and doesn’t change whether you are in a stateless or a state situation. As individuals are sovereign they are responsible for the protection of their property and this is no less different in a state. To repeat, anarchists merely recognize that this doesn’t change whether you have a state or not.

State Apologetics And The Purpose of A Social Contract

The social contract is mythical thing meant to justify state authority and control that it doesn’t actually have. There is no such thing as a violent implicit contract. Contracts are voluntary agreements between parties, and while you might boil down certain social mannerisms or etiquette as implicit contracts they are not violently enforced nor universally upheld. It can also be said that speaking as if all human behaviour is in some way, shape or form all contracts is a form of reductionism. There are many nuances to social behaviour that defining things as contracts might obscure that nuance. It is like think of all problems like nails when you have a hammer. Doing so reduces both the notion of what a contract is, and what it describes. If everything is a contract, then nothing is.

The biggest justification for the social contract is that it is necessary for an arbitrator to hold authority over the parties engaged in a trade so that they can be assured that their contract can be upheld. This is done when neither of the parties can agree to trust each other and while usually people just didn’t engage in trade with people they didn’t at all trust now an authority can step in to mediate. This arbitrator is called the Leviathan (hey, I didn’t come up with the name). However, even when people don’t trust the other party to uphold their side of the deal in a trade they still have no need for a Leviathan to do so. A much more reasonable alternative to a Leviathan which enforces contracts in the way that it deems valid is to voluntarily choose an arbitrator that you both agree to uphold your contracts! The Leviathan it must be stressed is never chosen by the people engaged in trade. The form of contract and the clause of the contract are enforced by the Leviathan. The whole point of the arbitrator is to allow people who don’t trust each other to engage in commerce. If the only way to do that is possible is by being forced to have an arbitrator, you don’t trust and being forced to pay for that arbitrator’s service then it makes little sense to make the trade in the first place. The Leviathan is at best only slightly worsening the ability for people to trade and at worst stopping it completely.

The Obsolescence of Arbitrators and the Emergence of Trustless Systems

The ability to trade with people you don’t trust is becoming more and more reasonable and possible without an arbitrator in the first place with peer-to-peer trustless networks like cryptocurrencies. Even if the premise was true that you need an arbitrator in the past to engage in trade with people you don’t trust that is no longer the case. Trustless networks are being developed more and more. The state has lost all function. Its days are numbered. Do I know for sure? No, but I think a good case can be made here.

A Few More Things…

One of the major problems with the Leviathan that I didn’t mention was that nothing at all guarantees its good behaviour. The social contract never solves the problem it says that fundamentally exists in human relations, that being you can never guarantee that any contract will be upheld no matter who it is with. There is some fundamental uncertainty involved. Even if you were to say that the Leviathan is more trustworthy, that again would be false because otherwise you would have consented to the engagement and it would not need to be upheld forcefully.

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diogenesoftoronto

Who am I? A ghost in the machine. Or maybe not even a ghost in a machine because on here I have no machinery, I am the symbols in your head. Your ghost gives me life.

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