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DAVID GAUTHIER (1986) – Social Contract by Rational Self-Interest

His point of view is that cooperation between self-interested parties is possible when it comes to morality and politics. Based in game theory, it is possible to reach the conclusion that cooperation between two rational people will yield maximum benefits by self-interest alone. Therefore, a social contract can be constructed based on trust, rationality and self-interest. These very same properties will keep the people from breaking the social contract.



We are again confronted with ideal, laboratory conditions yielding laboratory-conditions results instead of real-life results.

To begin with and as we mentioned before, people are not rational. If they would be, a Social Contract would be unnecessary to begin with! We would all realize that our maximum benefit lies in rational cooperation!

Secondly,  although people are socially biased (this is, they naturally tend to form groups), that does not mean at all  that they trust each other within the group.  Group bias is a biological principle for survival and gene spreading. It has nothing to do with trust.

Thirdly, we are all self-interested. We do concur with this one. People are essentially self-interested due to biological imperatives. We also talked about this in the past.

And so this author tells us that if we could have rational population that trust each other but act in their own self-interest, we could have a Social Contract that would work. OK. And as my grandma would say, if pigs could fly they would be ducks!


PHILIP PETTIT (1997) – Social Contract by Opt-Out Clause

He believed that the concept of a social contract being based on the consent of the governed should be changed. He believed that as explicit consent can always be manufactured, what matters is the absence of rebellion. Is this absence that legitimates governments.



Right! By the way, I just charged your credit card $5 for reading this article. If you disagree with this charge, please rebel against me. How do you feel? Do you think that just because you did not rebel against me my $5 charge is legitimate? Of course not! This is ridiculous!

Even today, the practice of forcing people to Opt-Out of money charges is outlawed in most civilized countries. Yet, it would seem that when it comes to legitimizing governments it is OK. Speaking about a double standard!!!

This author believes that Social Contracts come with Opt-Out clauses. If you don’t like them, all you have to do is to rebel. Now, realistically speaking, all Social Contracts give rise to governments. All governments operate based on laws. Laws are enforced by people with badges and guns. The purpose of law enforcement is to enforce the law. Rebelling against the law automatically implies punishment. In other words, rebellion is not free and there is no guarantee of success. So my options are essentially to rebel against a theoretical concept with almost no chance of success and an almost guaranteed punishment or self-preservation? Guess what is going to happen!

As we have written many times before, people only rebel when economic conditions are bad enough. There is a vast difference between agreeing to something and not rebelling against it.



There are many other critiques, but these are some of the most interesting.



Some critics agree with the notion that consent of the government is the ideal basis to legitimize a social contract. However, they point out, this has almost never happened or if it did, it happened to a substantially lower degree than required.

We don’t agree. Consent of the people leads to majority decisions. These decisions undermine minorities by definition. This is simply not acceptable. Even if a government would be created by 100% explicit consent, its subsequent laws may not necessarily be so. Think about it. If a government is created by the agreement of all participants and all subsequent laws are also agreed by absolutely everybody, then why do we need a government at all? It would just be faster and simpler to create whatever rules we want and then create some sort of police force to enforce them. No government required whatsoever!


Territory and Laws

Other critics have pointed out that just because a person enters a territory with a government, this does not constitute consent. This is so because consent requires agreement to three different laws

  • Law of Nature
  • Law of Society (unwritten rules existing before a government was created)
  • Law of the Government

Each one of these may be rejected by the entrant.

A similar theory holds that just because a person enters a territory to join a society (and abide by its laws), this does not mean that the Laws of  the Government are consistent with the Laws of Society and Nature. If they are not consistent, then there is no tacit agreement to the former because they do not agree with the Laws of Society that one consented to in the first place.

We don’t agree. They are both cyclic theories: consent is not given by entering into a territory because consent is not given. The truth is that if one enters a territory with a government, we are not actually entering “government property” but private property. Remember that all government property is actually property of the citizens, simply administered by the government. We do not know what terms or conditions has the owner enacted to become active if we enter. Until this topic is elucidated, it is impossible to determine if consent was given or not.


Contractual agreements

Another criticism indicates that Social Contracts are… well… contracts. As such, they are only valid if the parties enter into them (tacitly or explicitly) without coercion. However, Social Contracts are executed by laws. Many laws are enforced by force (remember those people with badges and guns?). This means that these laws cannot be voluntary. If they are not voluntary, they cannot be part of a Social Contract. Which means that any and all laws enforced by force are invalid. If we remove all these laws from any government, we find that whatever is left is simply civil law, which is based on common law, which originated when governments did not exist. If this is the case, then why do we need governments altogether? The answer is that we don’t!

A different criticism indicates that a Social Contract is indeed a contract. We give (mostly taxes) and receive (social benefits). As such, this is a valid contract. However, what is not acceptable is that we inherited this contract from our ancestors. A contract is an agreement between parties. If one of those parties dies, the contract automatically becomes void. It is not possible to inherit the obligations and benefits of a contract without our voluntary and un-coerced agreement. As this is precisely what is happening to people born is a governed territory, this people are not under a Social Contract because they simply did not agree to it. Ergo, for them, the Social Contract is invalid and they are fee to do as they please.



We have traveled through the most important philosophies of Social Contract and found them failing, and failing miserably. All governments that exist today (Democratic, Monarchic or Communist) are the children of these failed ideas. They don’t feel the need to justify themselves. They exist in a vacuum. They exist simply because they exist. This debate is long dead and people simply don’t care. However, you know better. Any human construct must be based on valid ideas if it is to work. As governments are based on invalid ideas, they don’t work. Therefore, there are only two options:

  1. A new, correct theory of Social Contracts is found which validates Governments
  2. Governments must be extinguished in order to prevent further damage to humans

Now you know. It is your choice. You can teach your children the truth or you can just play dumb. The future is yours. You decide.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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