Agreeing Has Consequences

June 9th, 2014   Submitted by Jim Carigan

Handshake The best agreements leave two happy participants. Good agreements leave one or more participants feeling that they have made an honest effort at fulfilling wants or needs. But far too many agreements leave one or more participant holding the bag, unhappy about the exchange, and not knowing how to remedy it.

If a person finds, after the fact, that a contract has bound him to a thing he could not possibly have foreseen, then that person needs to learn at least two other things. Did the second party have clear foreknowledge of the pitfall, and did they intend to catch the first party in that pitfall? And could the first party, by reasonable inquiry, have learned about the pitfall, and what was their risk in encountering it? Valid contracts require a reasonable balance of information, and a reasonable expectation of good intent – a meeting of the minds.

The so-called “social contract,” more than any other leaves the individual helpless against the gang of the State, with no remedy in sight. Most of us are de facto born into a tacit compliance with whatever the State claims is the social contract. Our recognition that this is a raw deal is delayed through many years of indoctrination. When was there a meeting of the minds, and which minds participated in that meeting?

If the two parties have similar bargaining positions, and similar knowledge of both the product in the exchange, in terms of quantity and quality, and the methods of a proposed transaction, then there is a high probability that the contract will be a success (i.e. that it will never need dispute resolution by third parties). If there is not clarity at the outset there is a high probability that the contract will collapse in disagreement. And, from my point of view, there is very little chance that even an objective third party can unring the bell.

Agreements that are in accord with Natural Law allow both parties to have a high expectation of satisfaction. For example, a contract based on the expectation that every action has an equal and opposite set of reactions is likely to succeed. But a contract that attempts to repeal or modify that physical law is destined to fail. Any agreement in ignorance or neglect of natural truths has an equally high expectation of disappointment for one or both parties. For instance, a guarantee to deliver summer vegetables from a farm during its winter season is nearly an impossibility, showing a vast misapprehension of the facts by one or both of the contractors.

Another imbalance which is likely to predict failure is a contract that does not allow equal access to the management features of the contract during its execution. There are entire industries where hidden processes are deployed against the unwary – one party may hide some or all of the processing of transactions. Ponzi schemes depend on hidden processes – the process cannot stand the light of day. The mortgage bubble was largely due to such an arrangement. This type of arrangement is very similar to an intermediary arrangement which often involves more than two parties – sort of a Peter robs Paul to pay Luke who works for Matthew who pays a finders fee to Peter.

Another bomb waiting to explode is the wishful thinking contract whereby the first party asks the second party to do what the second party doesn’t have any idea of how to do. Is anybody thinking of the Affordable Care Act website? The government wished this was a no-cost implementation, but realizing the emptiness of that wish, then wished for someone who could be paid to do it. The successful contractor hoped that nobody noticed that they had never done this kind of thing before, and they wished that the government would include no non-performance penalties in the contract.

The only way individuals or collectives can enter a contract is if the contract is clear to all parties, precise as to what is being exchanged, and transparent as to how it is implemented. The best contract is a handshake. If the other party messes up, just walk away to find another individual who has what you want, and who wants what you offer. This is a manifestation of Natural Law, having nothing to do with the artificial justice system, nor the blight of artificial legislation, nor the obtuse administration and practice of artificial rule making. Lawyers and judges have constructed an ever contorting blob of impenetrable buzz, so that users are totally dependent on their arcane ministrations. I say leave them to stew in their own juices. If two reasonable people don’t know what they expect from one another, no amount of lawyering and court intervention can clarify the matter.

It’s even worse when there is interposed a mysterious, unwritten “social contract,” where the wonky collective of the State just makes up stuff as they go along. How does NSA surveillance happen under an honest contract?

So, when we can see how many truly lousy deals, suspect premises, and self-deceivers there are, hiding under cover of a presumed fair or agreeable contract, how is it that we can talk of such a fogbound creature as a “social contract,” much less any half-hearted attempt to codify such a thing in constitutions, bills of rights, legislation, legal precedents, State policies, or other doctrines?

We have no legal protection from the State for any peril when it comes down to day-to-day matters. All the legislative trimmings are those of an imperial court. All of those protected are members of the order. We still operate under a system that assumes that there is some special class of humans who can direct the lives of others. What is the foundation for such a conceit? Frédéric Bastiat asked this question 164 years ago:

“Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?”

My questions will not be graced with an official response, since Bastiat’s far more eloquent queries have as yet not been answered.

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6 Responses to “Agreeing Has Consequences”

  1. VanmindNo Gravatar says:

    Great stuff, Mr. Carigan, thanks. This metaphysical “contract” stuff is very important to understand.

    There is, however, no such thing as Natural Law. There is Nature, period. Trying to tack on something else that is intended to become the paramount term for which the term Nature becomes merely a qualifying adjective amounts to Gods-on-Earth grammarian pretense, amounts to an attempt to force a metaphysical “contract” onto others.

    An analogy: there is no Law of Gravity, but the concept of gravity seems to be real and seems to have discernable properties (e.g. 32 ft/sec-squared on Earth). There is a theory about gravity that people employing the Scientific Method can test over & over without ever reaching a definitive proof — ergo there is no Law of Gravity that is distinct from its (and Nature’s) conceptual-singularity predecessor.

    Gravity, of course, appears to exist within the confines of Nature, as do all physical “things” (metaphysics being the proverbial Yang to physical Yin). The only Law, though, is the grammarian Law of The Word, or if you prefer: God’s Law. The concept of God subsumes the concept of Nature, just as the concept of Nature subsumes the concept of gravity. All physical and metaphysical concepts are subsets of The Word, which is itself the only conceivable Law (even the archetypal “Ten Commandments” aren’t “Ten Laws” but rather are commandments derived from the one-and-only Law).

    Apparently, God searched within Himself in order to conceive a framework, or Law, for the universe (is God’s Law for the universe simply a metaphor for the Law of His Inherent Duality or the Law of His Inherent Hermaphroditism?). In any case, all the rest amounts to either Leeds-esque “we can prove the Godhead through mathematics” nonsense or Crowley-esque “combine the right words to conjure your inner divinity” nonsense. Note that both of those nonsensical approaches, or “proofs,” rely first and foremost on language, on grammar, on the near-infinite derivatives of The Word (as an interesting aside: try researching the concepts of “millenialism” and the number 1000 and the anthologized texts known as “The Thousand And One Nights”).

    The term “nonsense,” as used in such a context, stands for “blasphemy.” Just be. That is The Way for mankind to travel, because any other path is rooted in an existential insecurity that compels some individuals toward trying to know the unknowable, toward trying to achieve a god-like status within a universe that might be interpreted within the temple of the mind but is in no way a direct product of mind qua congnition.

    The mind does not shape one’s “in the moment” reality, only praxeological activity does that. The mind shapes one’s interpretation of what it conceives as the past, which then becomes a psychological stimulus for subsequent praxeological activity, which then becomes another part of mankind’s history that the mind must interpret, and so on for as long as “time” remains sensible (which likely ain’t saying much). It’s yet another duality: Cognition and Nature (or if you will: metaphysics and physics).

    There is no Cognitive Law and there is no Natural Law, for each is but a half of a greater whole. Every gate of cognitive ascension needs a metaphorical key that one can use as a praxeological mechanism for the action of “unlocking” the mystery, and every such key is purposeless without a cognitive gate of hopeful encouragement (i.e. a proof requires an initial hypothesis). Could one try to prove the existence of God? People have been trying as much for thousands of years, getting “nowhere” on that path precisely because both the key to that gate and the gate itself lie outside the parameters of Nature — they are part of the unknowable superset.

    Anyway. Philosophical tangents like this are inevitable in a fractal universe. Or so they say.

    • Jim CariganNo Gravatar says:

      I see your point clearly, vanmind

      I intend the term “natural law” only as compared to artificial law. Maybe I should just say “nature” or “natural phenomena,” but then the juxtaposition to man-made law is lost.

  2. Hi Jim!

    Nice work!

    You might find these relevant. I’m pretty sure you know about the first – – –

    It [the U.S. Constitution] purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago. [“No Treason” was first published in 1870 -lrw] And it can be supposed to have been a contract then only between persons who had already come to years of discretion, so as to be competent to make reasonable and obligatory contracts. Furthermore, we know, historically, that only a small portion even of the people then existing were consulted on the subject, or asked, or permitted to express either their consent or dissent in any formal manner. Those persons, if any, who did give their consent formally, are all dead now. Most of them have been dead forty, fifty, sixty, or seventy years. And the constitution, so far as it was their contract, died with them. They had no natural power or right to make it obligatory upon their children. It is not only plainly impossible, in the nature of things, that they could bind their posterity, but they did not even attempt to bind them. -Lysander Spooner in his best known tract, “NO TREASON No. VI.” first published in 1870 _clip41

    This other is more obscure but demonstrates that Spooner wasn’t being impractical – – – except for the controllers – – –

    “People [native Americans] who do not vote for an issue — whether they abstain or vote against it — often resent having to abide by it and insist that they should not be affected by the final decision since they did not themselves affirm it. A number of Indian groups — such as the Hopis here in the Southwest — are still divided over the issue of their constitution, those who voted against it or who did not participate in the constitutional election, insisting that they should not be bound by the vote of the others.” -James E. Officer, Journal of American Indian Education, Volume 3 Number 1, October 1963, INFORMAL POWER STRUCTURES WITHIN, INDIAN COMMUNITIES

  3. Jim CariganNo Gravatar says:

    Hello, Rick!

    I really appreciate the resources you have sent. You may want to check out my web columns at Finding the Challenges,, where I have a running discussion of Lysander Spooner’s thoughts, under the nom du rant of Verbal Vol. My classic influences are Bastiat, Spooner, Twain, and Mencken — of those, Spooner is undeservedly less celebrated. It is my goal to make him known to a few more people.

    Speaking of “classic,” the plight of aborigines is a classic demonstration of how third parties impose control by imposing presumptive institutions on peoples. In more ways than one, the former tyrant imposes its will on its former slaves by leaving in place institutions like constitutions (concretely) or hierarchies (abstractly).

    Anarchy requires a no-presumption-unturned attitude.

  4. Don DuncanNo Gravatar says:

    The hidden assumption or premise underlying “the social contract” is that a person may forfeit his rights, along with the rights of others, if he does so by a democratic process. None of these 3 premises are valid. 1. When a person delegates a right to another, the right is not lost, it is shared, and the delegation is not permanent. He can unilaterally revoke the delegation. 2. Another’s rights cannot be revoked or delegated. 3. A majority does not acquire authority to change 1 & 2.
    Therefore, when “The Divine Right of Kings” is replaced by “The Common Good” or “The General Welfare” to justify the master/slave, ruler/ruled, public servant/citizen model, it is not a defensible moral contract, but a contract that can only be maintained by fraud, violence, or threat thereof. Hence, the modus operandi of all governments, which has not changed since governments began.

  5. Don DuncanNo Gravatar says:

    Bastiat’s question is both rhetorical and an observation on the conceit of politicians. It is a mistake of the masses that they may be served by those they grant a monopoly on political power. The most shy, compassionate, sincere desire to be altruistic can be turned into an egomaniacal, murderous, lust for power by simply the being elected/appointed. It is not automatic, but the norm.
    It is a second mistake that the masses ignore the evidence of their mistake. They keep making it over and over, lifelong. They blame the individuals who betray them, and refuse to question their own part in the metamorphous. It happens on a grand (federal) scale, and locally (police). It is an emotional maturity issue, along with a mass hysteria, a powerful group shared illusion, i.e., the matrix. One may entertain the vague suspicion that something is wrong in society, even express their discontent by word and deed, but to go inside, to introspect and question their own basic premises, takes exceptional courage. So the focus remains outside, on superficial symptoms not fundamental solutions. And the self destructive behavior/beliefs are not corrected.