OPINION – People who sell for a living are familiar with a tactic known as the assumptive close.
An example of this is when the salesperson tells the prospective client, “Unless I hear otherwise from you, we’ll consider the deal done.” The seller acts as if the buyer has given consent where it has not been clearly given.
As a closing technique it can be effective at times. But to a potential buyer who is paying attention, it can appear highly manipulative.
Who would consent to be held to a contract that they haven’t seen or signed? The answer may surprise you.
In reality, a majority of us do it every day when we allow society to enforce demands upon us via the so-called social contract.
The social contract, at its most basic, is a theory that holds that an implied agreement exists between each individual and the society in which he or she lives. Philosophers like Hobbes, Rousseau, and Locke described how, by living in an organized society, we voluntarily give up a measure of our personal liberties in return for its benefits.
To be fair, Locke at least made the distinction that legitimate civil government requires the consent of the governed. The American Founders took it one step further in that they believed that the basic rights of mankind did not originate from any earthly leader or social compact.
This is why limited government, separation of powers, and checks and balances of the different branches of government were foundational to the system they implemented. They understood the temptations that accompany any exercise of political power.
What happens a when society begins to impose unjust rules and obligations that pervert the intended purpose of civil government from protecting inalienable rights to viciously micromanaging and expropriating its citizens? Are we bound to honor the rules of an implied contract that none of us has ever read or personally signed?
The answer from the totalitarians is, “Of course you do! You agreed to abide by the rules when you chose to live here. If you don’t like it, you can just leave.”
This raises some interesting problems about the legitimacy of such a system. Does a person’s mere presence equal consent?
Auburn Professor Roderick T. Long illustrates why this is not so with the example of a person whose neighbor comes over and begins dumping trash into his front yard. If the person didn’t immediately move away from that neighbor and take up residence elsewhere, could we honestly say that the act of dumping trash into their yard has become legitimate?
That’s the ultimate question that must be asked whenever anyone, at any level of government, begins making demands of us and threatening us if we don’t comply. Do they have legitimate moral and legal authority to be doing this?
Economist Tom Woods Jr. uses another example to demonstrate why legitimacy is everything in these matters.
Woods asks us to imagine that, as a new neighbor, we showed up on his doorstep and, before entering his house, we were informed that we’d have to wear a funny hat while in his home. We’d still be free to refuse such a demand and walk away, but where it’s his home, he could legitimately make such a rule.
On the other hand, if he came to your home and demanded that you wear the funny hat simply because your choice to live in the neighborhood represented some type of consent that you are bound to obey his rules, would you do it? Of course not.
On his own property, he can make his own rules, but on your property, he has no moral jurisdiction to do so.
Blogger Eric Peters beautifully sums up what’s at stake:
A free man is beholden to none – except those he freely chooses to be beholden to. An enslaved man has no such free choice. He is beholden to whomever “society” – that is, to whomever wields political power over him – decrees. At best, he may plead to be slightly less enslaved, or to have the fruits of the labor of his body and mind forcibly distributed against his will to random strangers or groups of them, or projects or causes, he finds somewhat less disagreeable. But he cannot refuse; he is not permitted to say no. He is bound by a “social contract” he never signed, by consent he never gave. By debts and obligations assumed on his behalf by people he has never met, much less entrusted with proxy power.
On a similar note, just because we use government-provided utilities, roads, and other systems for which we currently have no other choice, doesn’t mean that we’ve signed a contract consenting to be ruled.
Like a wise buyer, we should be very aware of how those who wield power try to manipulate us into obeying an imaginary contract to which we never consented.
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