The statement, "all law is contract" is not strictly true. First, there are myriads of what are called physical laws although, technically, these should be called hypotheses or theories, but these do not concern us here because they do not apply to relations between individuals.
There is, however, one natural law that applies to relations between individuals. It is, in fact, the only law of that nature that is not implemented via contract. That one natural law is survival. Not personal survival, although personal survival is a very important part of the law, but survival and transmittal into the future of your genes. (This law is a probabilistic law, i.e., it doesn't force you to do anything but instead makes it more or less probable that you will take some action.) You will literally do anything (probably) to ensure that your genes survive. Most human behaviour can be readily explained in terms of actions related to this natural law. But that is outside the scope of this course. However, a couple of examples may help you understand just how powerful this law is.
If one of your children, carrying genes from you and your wife, is trapped in a burning building, you would quite likely (probabilistic law, remember) re-enter the burning building yourself in an attempt to save the child, even in the face of extreme personal danger. That parents do this is born out by numerous examples in real life. In fact, one of the major problems of firefighters is to prevent parents from re-entering a burning building to save children. And this impulse is generalized so that you might even enter a burning building to save other people's children.
As another example, it is quite common in a hostage situation for a husband to offer his life if only his wife's life can be spared. This impulse also is generalized so that, in the same hostage situation, any man who will not offer his own life to protect any woman or child is considered a bit sub-human by the others.
Notice, by the way, that this law is self-sustaining. If you take those actions which increase the odds of your genes being transmitted into the future, then those genes will probably be transmitted to your successors. Your successors, then, due to having the genes you passed on, will be more likely to take the same kind of actions, thereby increasing the odds of passing on those genes. If, on the other hand, you do not take those actions which increase the odds of your genes being transmitted into the future, then you will have reduced the odds and it will be less likely that your successors will take similar actions.
So how does this natural law of survival relate to the building of a peaceful and cooperative society?
Remember that the natural law of survival leads us to do whatever we can do (probably) in order to ensure the survival and transmittal into the future of our genes. Let's look at some choices of lifestyle to see how this law might operate.
You are currently living on your own. You are presented the opportunity to join a small group. What should you choose in order to maximize the possibility of your gene survival? Obviously, it is easier for you to personally survive in a group where defense duties can be shared and labor can be specialized. This situation also gives you more of an opportunity to look for a mate to pass on your genes. So, if you elect to join the group, your have significantly improved the odds of your genes surviving into the future. If you don't join the group, you have significantly lowered the odds of your genes surviving into the future. And since it is your genes that motivate you to either join or not join the group, the genes that motivate you to join the group are the ones more likely to be propagated into the future. Therefore, the natural law of survival naturally leads to the motivation to join in groups and cooperate.
Unfortunately, this same natural law of survival can lead to actions that we today would consider criminal. (Or actions of government agents which, come to think of it, is the same thing.) For example, you may observe that it is much easier to survive if you use your combat skills to rape and pillage. (The raping part even passes on your genes.) You may also observe that this is much easier if a group of rapers and pillagers are working together. Later on, you may discover that it is much more efficient if you move into the area where you have been raping and pillaging and agree to stop doing that if the locals will provide you with a percentage of their production and agree to provide some female companionship. They may even agree to call you by a special name such as "king" or "governor". In exchange, you agree to protect the area from other rape and pillage groups. Eventually, you and your like-minded brothers will become an integral part of the area. So, it seems that the natural law of survival can lead not only to a peaceful and cooperative society but also a government.
Be that as it may, the point we are trying to get around to making is that, except for the natural law of survival, all law is contract. We have just described two situations where people contracted with each other to create new law. In the first example, you joined a peaceful and cooperative group. In order to join, you must agree, or at least intend, to peacefully cooperate and if you do not you will likely be ejected from the group. This would today be considered an implied contract to observe the rules of the group or else. In the second example, you agreed to stop raping and pillaging and to provide area defense in exchange for a percentage of the local's production and some women. This agreement is now the law of the land and was probably an explicit contract and may even have been written down into a document called a constitution or charter. This is how constitutions and governments get started.
The creation of constitutions and governments is not all bad, by the way. It is a perfectly valid way for members of a peaceful and cooperative society to solve the problem of periodic raping and pillaging without becoming rapers and pillagers themselves. But it does result in a growing body of law that expands as a result of many contracts over many years.
The problem with governments, of course, is that the very presence of a government structure attracts those who think it's their right to tell others what to do. Very shortly, any government structure will be run by some pretty bad dudes. As a result of some pretty horrible experiences with governments in the past, most people in the world today are attempting various ways of limiting the power and actions of government officials. One of the primary ways used thus far is the writing and implementation of charters (such as the English Magna Carta) and constitutions (such as the US Federal Constitution). (To see a current effort to write and implements such a document, have a look at the Texas Constitution Ratification Fund web site.)
As a result of the efforts of millions of people over the past thousand years or so, we have reached a point in Western Civilization, particulary in the united States of America, where most people, including government agents, firmly believe that we live in a society of laws. It is quite common to hear politicians say that and I, as opposed to most conspiracy theorists, think most of them actually believe that. (Which is good for the cause of personal freedom which we will get into in the next lesson.) Of course they usually mean the fake laws called statutes that they pass themselves but we can cause the bureaucrats considerable difficulty just making them comply with their own rules.
When uS politicians, and other terrorists, want to do something that is clearly unlawful, i.e., would violate the constitution, they figure out a way around the limitations. Almost always, this means they will try to get people to contract into the rules they want them to follow. They usually use techniques such as fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) to convince people to make the contract.
For example, the US Individual Income Tax is, guess what, entirely constitutional. Because it is an entirely voluntary system. Voluntary? How can that be? The Internal Revenue Code applies only to "taxpayers" and the only way an individual can get to be a "taxpayer" is by submitting a statement to the IRS that you are, in fact, a taxpayer. This is called the IRS Form 1040 and the IRS will expend considerable effort to convince you that you must sign it, or a similar statement on one of several other forms, and submit it. But until you do, the Internal Revenue Code does not apply to you. (Later, we'll explore how you can make this determination stick.)
As another example, when you apply for a Federal Firearms Permit, you are agreeing that you will comply with all the rules that the federal government has in place now plus any that they think up in the future. Can you sell firearms without such a permit? Sure. People do it all the time. On the other hand, if you want to sell firearms via your incorporated business, you will need a permit. Why? Because when you incoporated you agreed to follow all the rules for corporations in exchange for the special privileges granted to corporations by the government. (See how sneaky they are about getting you into contracts?)
The point of this whole discussion is that all law is contract. Does this mean that all you have to do to stay out of jail is not sign anything? Not quite. Remember, we have people living around us who think they have the right to tell everyone else what to do. When you challenge this right, you create a reaction. What we will attempt to teach you next is how to control the kind of reaction you get. We will try not to generate a violent reaction as that kind of reaction can ruin your whole day. We will try to generate a reaction of, "Gee, that's going to take all of my time for the next month. I've got better things to do with my time. Next case." If we can get that kind of reaction, and we can most of the time, we will win.
If you now understand that all law is contract, except the natural law of survival, then go back to the Challenge Authority page and continue on. If you do not understand, then try re-reading this section. If that doesn't help, then try reading some Lysander Spooner works.
Copyright at Common Law, West El Paso Information Network, 1998