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Why do we need to justify theoretically our view of a Social Contract? Because it minimizes our chances of being wrong. Besides, the introduction of common sense in arcane subjects is always a welcomed addition. Of course, the risk we are taking is that we may be oversimplifying and trivializing issues. This is certainly a possibility, but then again, there must be something left for those tireless academics that must justify their existence through publishing. To them we leave the spoils of our thinking. To task.

 

STATE OF NATURE OR ORIGINAL POSITION

This is a theoretical concept trying to define the state in which humans found themselves before any social interaction took place. It is, of course, nonsense. We know this simply because of the biology of human beings. Human beings need proximity to propagate (i.e. sex) and they do exhibit crowd behavior (i.e. there is safety in numbers). This necessarily means that there was always some sort of social interaction, albeit it may have been minimum. This social interaction evolved with humans as humans evolved from proto-humans (i.e. species that were less than humans).  Actually, archeology and paleontology tells us that as far as back the evidence can get us, all proto-humans had some sort of social interaction. Therefore, the chances that there was an aha! moment in human race where they decided to form a society is basically zero.

Of course, we don’t know what this interaction was, but it did indeed exist. To understand the very basics of this social interaction is not difficult. Today, a group of people left in the wilderness will behave in the same manner, simply because we are physical beings and we are threatened by physical elements. At the most basic, we all need the same:

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Safety from predators
  • Procreation

Everything else is extra.

So, our “state of nature” or “original position” is simple.  Humans socialized as most animals do and this socialization evolved from there. There was never a point in time where humans were “alone” in the wilderness. This is reality.

However, Social Contracts are human constructs (i.e. theoretical devices) that require some thought. So, what was the earlier mental state of a human being when Social Contracts did not exist?

This, again, is a misleading question. Since social interaction existed even before humans were humans, there was no “before” state. Social agreements also evolved with human evolution.

If we were aggressive or cuddly, frightened or satisfied it is entirely irrelevant for our Social Contract.

 

RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS

There is something, however, that we can extract from this picture. It is the theoretical definition of freedoms and rights.

As with any other animal, each human is “free” to do as it pleases. In this case we define:

Freedom is simply the physical capacity to do something.

Therefore, a human being in absolute isolation is absolutely free. This person may do whatever he/she can physically do. There are no artificial restrains. No higher authority. No rules, regulations or laws.

However, what happens when we introduce a second human being into this picture?  Now these two humans have a choice to make. They can:

  • Fight
  • Enslave
  • Co-exist
  • Co-operate

They can, of course, take these attitudes sequentially, in parallel or they can blend them. They can change their mind and switch from one position to another whenever they please and for whatever reason. Each decision depends of each human and each pair of humans will take a different decision to a different degree at a different time.

However, it is instructive to visualize each one of these choices in its purest manner.

Fighting essentially means the application of absolute freedom. Each human can do as it may be physically possible to do. In this case, it means attacking the other human for whatever reason, presumably to destroy it.

Co-existing means to reach some sort of agreement as to which freedoms we will be voluntarily abstaining from, in order to gain something, presumably peace. This is essentially freedom curtailed by an arrangement, but nothing more. Person A and person B may be sharing the same geographic location, but they do not help each other. They acknowledge each other’s existence, but beyond that, they are not interesting in working towards a common well-being.

Co-operating means to reach some sort of agreement as to which freedoms we will voluntarily abstain from, in order to build a common well-being, which is superior to our individual state of well-being.

Enslaving means taking a person and restricting their freedoms without their agreement.

And so, from these examples we can obtain the definition of rights.

Rights are simply freedoms curtailed by a voluntary intellectual agreement, in addition to physical limitations.

Freedoms are the totality of what we can potentially do, physics permitting. Rights are simply a smaller sub-group of freedoms voluntarily reduced.

 

WHO HAS RIGHTS AND WHO HAS FREEDOMS

We can now answer this question. As emancipated adults, we all have freedoms but we choose to curtail them for whatever reason, therefore these freedoms now change names and we call them rights.

Non-emancipated children do not have rights simply because they cannot enter into contracts (or agreements). We have explained why it is so in several lessons. Therefore, children have freedoms, or, more precisely, the freedoms that their parents or guardians let them have.

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

Continue to The Absolute Austro-Libertarian Social Contract - Part 2

 

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