The Dunbar's number (see Wikipedia) is the "suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships". Essentially it would seem that for many species there is a maximum number of people with whom we can maintain meaningful relationships. For humans this number is estimated to be between 100 and 250. That's it! What this means is that in the best-case scenario, we can only interact meaningfully with a maximum of 250 people. If we wish to interact with more people we must make use of a different mechanism. It is for this reason that cohesive communities seem to be limited to no more than 250 individuals.
Think about it.
We can only agree with a maximum of about 250 people at a meaningful social level. If we cross this maximum, people become meaningless for us and therefore our social interaction with them drops to near zero.
Why is this important?
Because for as long as people are meaningful to us we can maintain a tacit understanding and agreement on social rules. As we know each other, we can reach agreements and foster cooperation. This much is clear. But what happens when we cross the Dunbar Limit?
Then, we need a different solution because we can no longer reach a tacit understanding and agreement on social rules. We need written rules. In other words, we need contracts. If Miguel does not know Aibek, then this lack of familiarity can lead to disastrous consequences should the both of them be forced to attempt coexistence. Miguel and Aibek will behave by default as it is dictated by their own cultures… which may be intensely aggravating to each other. Miguel may wish to practice violin at 3AM in the morning while lying stark naked in front of his house. Aibek, on the other hand, wants nothing more than peace and quiet and deeply resents Miguel's attitude which he considers religiously insulting. If they are not part of the same community, no rules are in place to prevent aggression through the impossibility of coexistence.
As both Miguel and Aibek eventually learn, it is to their best interest to agree to some basic rules of coexistence, which will prevent mutual warfare. Warfare being costly and destructive and thus a thing to avoid.
Yet, it is clear that neither Miguel nor Aibek belong to the same community. For any intent and purpose they could both have originated in Mars and Saturn respectively. In the short term, the only plausible solution is a written agreement. A contract. Why written? Because both parties distrust deeply the other. A written agreement guarantees that no party will change the terms unilaterally. Negotiation through objective goals. What a concept!
This is yet another reason why spontaneous order originates in free markets. It is to everybody's benefit to behave within a minimum set of rules that will prevent destruction. Coexistence through contracts.
And so in the real world, we have two options: either we are part of a community or we have written agreements.
But, strangely enough, we have a third, massive entity ruling our lives: governments. It is clear that we are not part of a community where we live in (unless we are in a town of less than 250 people) and it is equally clear that we do not have a contract with other people to coexist.
What we have is an authoritarian so-called "authority" which insists that although we do not have a contract with them (or anybody else in social terms for that matter) we must follow the rules laid down by said authority (also called "laws").
We must never forget that for a contract between two parties to be valid, there must be agreement between both parties. There is no such thing as a unilateral contract where one party offers and the second is forced to accept. That's not a contract. Acceptance is critical.
Our definition of a contract is:
A permission given to a party of a contract to commit infringement against the other party’s property.
Now let's think this trough. Have we given permission to any government to infringe in our property? This is possible. To a degree we buy services from government agencies. Depending where you live you may pay for telephone, water, natural gas, electricity, TV and many other necessities, which are provided by the state. In this regards, we do have some contracts with governments. But what about the "other" side?
Governments take other people's properties without asking permission (i.e. having a contract).They do so on a routine basis, for example through taxation. And what is the state's point of view? That they have a "contract" with us allowing them to do so, and herein lies the problem.
Have you given permission to your government to take your money away through taxes? No. We do not know of any person that has a signed contract with the government allowing the government to do so. But if this is the case, what contract is the government referring to?
A contract with other people. Governments argue that because they have a contract with other people (other than yourself) to take your money, they have a contract with you! This is a very strange contract indeed! Imagine this. Izhi shows at your door notifying you that he is taking your fridge from your kitchen. Izhi is also showing you a contract signed by all your neighbours allowing him to do so. The interesting bit however, lies in the fact that you do not have any type of contracts with your neighbours nor with Izhi giving them any rights to any property of yours! Does Izhi have a valid contract? Of course not! Yet governments claim that they do!
Once this ridiculousness is exposed, they backpedal and mumble something about having social contracts with people allowing them to do so. But a social contract is also a third-party contract between a third-party and a government (at best) and a scam at worse (see Social Contracts Are A Scam).
Other party contracts are no contracts at all!
Governments have (for the most part) no valid contracts with us to take our money or to dictate what we may or may not do. This is a direct consequence of the Dunbar Limit because above the Dunbar Limit implied consent based on communal agreements do not exist. Governments lie outside of either implied contracts allowed by the Dunbar Limit through the existence of communities and outside of regular contracts between parties. In essence, governments lie in no-contract land.
Let's repeat this again.
Governments operate outside specific agreements between parties. Their maximum contractual requirement is dictated by the Dunbar Limit. Their minimum contractual requirement is dictated by specific contracts with people. Yet governments do not meet either.
The Dunbar Limit is important because it demolishes the idea that somehow social contracts can be relied upon to justify governments. This could have a modicum of credibility if communities could have any size. Yet, as the Dunbar Limit indicates, this is not possible. Either a contract is agreed between trusting parties or it is agreed through written agreements between dis-trusting parties. Governments have neither!
The Dunbar Limit is yet another nail in the coffin of Social Contracts, which by now are smelling pretty rank indeed.
The Dunbar Limit indicates that meaningful governments can only be had in smaller communities, and coincidently enough, this is what we see in nature. Tribes tend to be small and have meaningful leaders as long as their size remains small. As soon as their size grows, the concept of "tribe" as a political entity loses its meaning. Yes. People still refer themselves as belonging to a tribe, but in reality they find themselves under a government… of which they are not part any longer. This cannot be otherwise because they can no longer establish a communal relationship with all the members of the tribe and this means no implied agreement.
The Dunbar Limit exists. The Dunbar Limit is real. But then again, you may choose to do as governments do and live in a parallel universe where everything is as governments say it is, and damn the laws of nature! If this is your case, we wish you luck trying to squeeze logic back into reality. Your choice!
Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.