[ExI] The Circle of Coercion

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Mon May 11 15:18:26 UTC 2009

--- On Fri, 5/8/09, Max More <max at maxmore.com> wrote:
> Daniel: I agree with almost all of
> what you've written on this thread (and have enjoyed your
> clarity of expression).


> However, I'm puzzled by what seems
> to be your complete rejection of "tacit consent". Do you
> really deny that this can exist? The classic example is when
> you walk into a restaurant. You may (or may not) look at the
> prices, but you never explicitly say that you will pay them.
> But you certainly don't expect to be able to walk out
> without paying. The burden is on you -- quite reasonably --
> to pay up, unless you have explicitly announced to the owner
> or manager in charge that you are ordering the food with no
> intention of paying.

Perhaps I'm a bit too strident in arguing against it, but I think there's a different between this form of consent as used by social contract theorist and the sort of "implied contract" form used in everyday life.  To wit, the former is general and often at odds with what goes on in everyday life.  E.g., in the restaurant example, there ARE restaurants where you must pay in advance; so there's no universal social contract for restaurants.

Also, sticking with this example, there is an exit option (a way of getting out of or avoiding the interaction) -- unlike with the usual social contract theory of the state.  I mean where someone might avoid the interaction all together.  In fact, the usual social contract theory is used to justify why there is no exit or an exit that is extremely hard to use, such as leaving the country (the typical one paraded around by conservatives in the US) or taking over the state (as in voting your majority into power in a democracy or having a revolution).

Finally, the form of implied contracts tend to evolve and grow out of practice.  There's no pre-theoretical reason why pay-after-you-eat is the general rule (with many exceptions) is restaurants.  It evolved that way and it's become a de facto standard -- but no central authority has to enforce it, some restaurants can adopt another rule, and the general rule might change to something else.  This seems to me very different from the way social contract theories operate -- where people are general told they tacitly consent to things that are universal, in some sense unchanging, and also where alternatives are usually not allowed or only allowed under extreme conditions.

> I agree that it's easy for statist-minded people to abuse
> the idea of implicit/tacit consent, but that's not
> sufficient reason to reject it entirely. Right? As I recall,
> even Murray Rothbard accepts this case of tacit consent.

IIRC, he I think does, but with the points I made above.  IIRC, too, there's a libertarian presumption in his views on this: that the presumption of any implied contract is always in the direction of individual autonomy over state power.  Some might question this presumption, but I actually think that objectively this presumption is sound given that state power is far more likely to be abused and cause problems than individual autonomy.  (This is not to say that latter is problem free, but merely that the basket of problems seems, all else being the same, much smaller and easily to deal with.)




More information about the extropy-chat mailing list