On Contracts

It follows that in a sense, one cannot explain or understand war without explaining or understanding the concept of a ‘social contract.’ And arguably, one cannot understand a ‘social contract’ in the absence of war. In turn, at the heart of any contract is the issue of ‘mutual consideration.’ What ‘mutual consideration’ means is that a contract can be enforceable only if the contract is mutually beneficial to all the contracting parties involved. Hence, in order for a contract to be enforceable and valid, it must have ‘mutual consideration.’ And as Thomas Hobbes argued: “The mutual transferring of Right, is that which men call contract.”

Hobbes also argued that the only way by which a man can become free from his contracts with others is either through “performance” or through “forgiveness.” Performance of a contract by one party will “merit” performance by the other party, as Hobbes argued. But there is nothing which would compel someone to perform their contractual duties and obligations in a ‘state of nature’ other than “Fear of God” or fear of reputation and ‘pride.’ 

In theory, governments exist so that contracts are enforced. Another major reason for why governments exist is so that people are enjoined to goodness and morality. In terms of freedom, liberty, and self-governance, John Locke argued that such conditions and ideals are attained when an individual is able to fully develop and exercise a capacity for reason and rationality. As Locke argued: “The freedom then of man, and liberty of acting according to his own will, is grounded on his having reason, which is able to instruct him in that law he is to govern himself by, and make him know how far he is left to the freedom of his own will.” 

By nature, man is free. Why men are brought under the control and force of governments is so that men are brought under the bounds of reason and rationality. It is reasonable and rational for men to forge an association or body such as a “state” for mutual benefit and self-preservation. But once man is brought under the bounds of reason and rationality, man is then free to exercise his individual will. Moreover, and as Rousseau argued, the ‘social contract’ which forges a government or a state between people on one hand and rulers on the other hand is not intended towards “binding the one to command and the other to obey.” Rather, and as Rousseau argued: “There is only one contract in the State, and that is the act of association, which in itself excludes the existence of a second.” 

Thus, while force is instrumental in the enforcement of a contract or a set of laws, force by itself does not bring about the creation of a contract which underpins both law and government. Rather, the creation of a contract is brought about largely through the free association and agreement between individuals. Arguably, whether a contract is “expressed” or “implicit” does not negate the existence of a contract, given that all human actions are either “gratuitous” and require no “requital” or are the result of a “traffic of exchange” which means there is “an obligation on both sides” to borrow from Hugo Grotius. Hence, by the very nature of human action and human interaction, a contract can become manifest, and in some cases, the contract is expressed, while in other cases, the contract is implicit.

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