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A libertarian’s driving concern is with maximizing the fundamental rights of all people. I often find myself bumping up against the “Social Contract,” which works as a circuit breaker to that logic. Up until now, I’ve tried to wave away the Social Contract, as most radical libertarians tend to do because of its inconvenience.
I have since concluded this is the wrong way to go about it. It’s foolish to ignore the utility of the Social Contract and the good that has come about under it, even if it is correct that it ultimately should be replaced by something better.
Part of what makes the Social Contract so useful is that it attempts to guarantee the rights of those under it. Presumably, the Social Contract does not give us fundamental rights, but instead asks us to curb some of our fundamental rights for guaranteed benefits. We give the state the power to coerce taxes from us so that it can protect us from harm and run a system that respects our private property.
The question I have is: when does the Social Contract overstep its bounds? I think we all agree that there are curtain rights that can’t be taken away (even if they can be slightly limited) by The Contract – namely life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So, under the Contract we are necessarily safe to travel around the land to live life and pursue happiness. But, is “traveling” a human right we had before we entered into the Social Contract, or is it a benefit? Do you have a right to travel from your private property to another’s that would accept you? Would society be justified in not letting you personally travel for any reason, as long as it properly passed a law?
If travel is a fundamental human right, is part of the Social Contract to guarantee our benefits at the expense of the rights of foreigners? Is that necessary to ensure the viability of our Contract? If a foreigner would respect your property as much as any native, does our Social Contract allow us to infringe on his fundamental human right, even if he agrees to abide by our Social Contract? An agreement most of us had no choice in?
I hope this sparks discussion because I would like to get a better understanding of what exactly the Social Contract entails.Published in