…because of the “The Social Contract”

The Social Contract

“We should pass [policy x] because of the social contract.”

Used by: Liberals/Progressives/Economic Left

Rhetoric type: Appeal to Authority, False Assumption, False sense of history, Ignorance of “contract”

Possible retorts: As contracts typically have specific criteria and voluntary signatories, I’d like to review this social contract. Do you have a copy handy?

Social contract theory is typically defined as a tacit agreement between the government and the governed, spelling out expectations of both the government and the governed, and with an understanding the governed will give up or surrender rights and the government will assume rights for itself for the good of the system.

Social contract theory is very good at explaining why we all pay taxes and why we have police and fire departments. In that way, it is a convention to say it is a contract, like saying “think of it as a contract.”

An obvious problem is virtually anything can be implemented in the spirit of the social contract, whether it is good, bad, well-intentioned, or having unintended consequences. If a government deems a policy good and beneficial to society, that is what matters. Unfortunately, it does not differentiate between authoritarian governments, totalitarian governments, libertarian governments.

Another problem that typically arises when considering social contract theory and specifically the United States is what to do when “contracts” conflict? Does the US have an obligation to a limited federal government and more liberty to the states and individuals as per the Constitution, or does it have an obligation to ignore such principles codified as law?

Either way, a mere reference to the social contract is a poor argument in support of a law, policy, or government action.








“pay their fair share”

Fair Share

“The rich should pay their fair share.”

Used by: Liberals/Progressives/Economic Left

Rhetoric type: Appeal to Envy, False Assumption, Stereotyping

Possible retorts: How much is a fair share by dollar amount or percentage?

Who doesn’t want everyone to pay their fair share, especially when it seems people aren’t? And what if those people who aren’t were much, much more capable to pay their fair share than you?

Of course, you pay your fair share. It’s always someone else who doesn’t. And from a political standpoint, that someone else is usually wealthy, a business owner, and/or some kind of heir to a fortune. You know, the kind of person that is easy to envy. But is envy enough to make taxing the rich just and right?

The phrase “the rich must pay their fair share” makes some rather bold assumptions without an attempt to clarify. Some questions arise:

  • How do we know the rich aren’t paying their fair share?
  • What is one’s fair share? Can it be quantified as a figure or a percentage? At what point is one’s fair share deemed satisfied?
  • To whom is one’s fair share owed, and for what?
  • Does one’s fair share include wealth grown through and currently tied up in investments previously legislated as tax-deferred, like a standard Individual Retirement Account? Will the terms of the deferment be honored? How about tax-free systems like a Roth IRA – will that be honored?