Follow-Up On The Social Contract

Last week we examined the “social contract” in some depth, to see if it passes as a legal concept. This week we’ll examine two follow-up issues: one that I didn’t mention and one that I mentioned, but didn’t delve into.

And for those who missed last week’s post, we started by noting that the social contract is the concept that describes the origin of society and the legitimacy of the authority of the state over the individual. It asserts that all of us have consented to surrender some of our rights to a ruling group, in exchange for the protection of our remaining rights.

The Contract of Adhesion

There is one kind of contract that could be claimed as legitimately applying to the social contract. (This claim negates nothing we covered last week, and it’s also a dodgy type of contract.) It’s called a contract of adhesion, and it’s the kind of contract you “agree” to when using a parking garage. The tiny print, which you never read, absolves the garage from more or less everything and punishes you for any error.

In an adhesion contract, there is no negotiating, no clarification of terms, and very often an imbalance of power.

Courts frequently strike down such contracts, for reasons like these:

    • The contract is unfair or oppressive to one party. (Unconscionablity.)
    • You wouldn’t have agreed, if you had known the real terms. (Reasonable expectations.)
    • If the terms were so complex, or finding them was so convoluted, that they aren’t knowable by any practical standard.
    • If the terms changed between when you agreed and when they were enforced.

I’ll stop here and leave you to examine the social contract in this light.

An Honest Justification

I finished our previous post by saying this:

Those who wish to justify the status quo are free to do so, but I’d like them to put forth justifications that are honest and substantial, not merely slogans endlessly repeated.

I think that’s a fair request, but it also struck me that since the social contract is the only thing that has entered most minds, coming up with an honest alternative might be daunting. And so, I’ll play advocate and provide one:

Forcible rule of the few over the many might be defensible, if all other options would be worse.

This justification would require many follow-on proofs, of course. Here are some that spring to mind:

    • What are the alternatives? Is that really all of them?
    • Have they been proved worse? And if so, by what standards of comparison and proof?
    • When and how often have they been proven false? By whom? When those people are paid, from where does the money come? What are the self-censorship pressures they face?

I’ll leave you to wrestle with these things, should you wish. But this is, at least, an honest line of inquiry.


Paul Rosenberg

2 thoughts on “Follow-Up On The Social Contract”

  1. Paul,

    Thank you for these articles. I find contract law to be fascinating. It is the basis for EVERY transaction or interaction in our society. From the contracts or underlying contracts, we make with our parents, spouses, children, government, friends, ourselves and even God. (Latter enforced in the hereafter)

    You spoke to that unspoken pressure of action or inaction in society where people act a certain way or are not true to themselves based on how they perceive society will react to their “truth” so we either back down or apologize profusely for our truth. The inability to ask basic questions or if asked, receive an honest answer or an answer at all is the norm instead of the exception. It is a rare human being today that stand up to their principles and that is a shame. (I am guilty of that as well, especially during covid where I compromised my principles for the sake of making a living)

    I believe we have been duped in our life and it is up to us to navigate our way out of the dogma of the societal pressures we have become accustomed to.

    We have been programmed on a massive scale, from the time we are infants and indoctrinated into our parent’s line of thinking, the good, the bad and the ugly. Molded by our religious beliefs or lack thereof, then, sent into a school system that forms our way of processing our thoughts and not just for the just the basic knowledge that most folk believe we are being taught like math English, history (revised to fit the individual teacher’s reality) and other basic curriculums, and that is just pre through 12 schools. If you go on to most colleges, you are at another level of persuasion into ideologies through pre-selected curriculums, lecturers and peer pressure.

    There is a reason we are not taught about freedoms, contract law and money in school, and by money, I mean the creation and delivery of our money supply.

    Most people just acquiesce to authority without question either due to fear or ignorance. One of the basic principles in law is that ignorance of the law is no excuse. Watch any episode of Judge Judy and you will witness the basic principle of contract law that Paul speaks to at work and the ignorance thereof.

    I have questioned authority to ask for “facts as to how the law applies to me” and all I got were circular arguments of jurisdiction, even the judges are ignorant of how the law is applicable to you and me or they play ignorant. Ask any judge if you are entitled to a fair and impartial hearing, he/she will respond absolutely, ask him/her if you are entitled to a fair and impartial hearing if there is a conflict of interest, they should respond absolutely not, then ask them the kicker question, who signs your paycheck Bob (I do not recommend calling the judge by his first name, it usually gets them very angry, you see, they have earned their position in society, to wear a black dress and sit 4′ above you at a desk) then ask, who signs the prosecuting attorneys paycheck? and then ask who signs the arresting officers paycheck? The State, the State and of course the State…. Hmmmm.

    A great book to learn about contract law is “College Law for Business” By Ashcroft and Charles 1971


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