My task today is to point out an item of cognitive dissonance which affects many statist thinkers.
Statists, liberal and conservative alike, believe in a system whereby if a company gets to be too large in size within its industry, it comes to be branded as a “monopoly.” A monopoly is bad, they would argue, because it eliminates consumer choice. If there is a monopoly in place, then you, the consumer, have no alternative options as far as what you are buying.
The same people, when asked about where the authority of government over individuals originates from, would put forth a “social contract” argument. They would say that the government has authority over you because, when you are born into society, you become party to a social contract which defines your rights and obligations with respect to others, and thereby gives the state authority to control your access to certain services.
Do you see the contradiction between these two lines of argument? The statist holds it in his head that monopoly is bad, and yet believes that, where the social contract is concerned, it is acceptable not only for there to only be one option, but also for that option to automatically be applied, without any option of refusal, to the subject of that contract. So much for freedom of choice.
Let us quickly take a look at the results of a hypothetical monopoly situation. In a city where there are many landlords, it is the case that apartments are priced at market value. If one landlord overprices an apartment, then the landlord across the street will undercut him and the overpriced apartment will not rent.
In a city where there is only one landlord, the situation will be bleak. If the landlord wants to drive up prices on his properties, there is nobody stopping him from doing this. In this city, rents will be high, and thus quality of life will suffer.
As far as housing and quality of life are concerned, everyone would rather live in the first city than the second. But, when the services at hand are not rental contracts, but are state-provided services such as protection or dispute mediation, most everyone seems content to live in a situation which better resembles the second city.
The fact that we put up with government monopoly on such services means that, over time, the circumstances of our access to those services erode. The social contract can get more and more lopsided every year, yet fanatical and blinding belief in the state prevents statists from applying critical thought to the problem.
We arrive at a situation where the social contract is not only a mandatory sentence that each person who is born in a geographic area is subject to, but where the contract is so one-sided, so unfair, that, given any choice at all in the matter, no one in their right mind would sign the social contract.
Think about it. The social contract forces many conditions on the individual. The individual, in modern society, gives up his right to self-ownership, gives up his right to property, gives up his rights to his children, gives up rights to keeping his hard-earned money, and, worst of all, allows for it to be the case that the social contract might expand at any time to swallow up more of his rights.
What does he get in return? Well, according to the theory of the social contract, he would receive protection. However, as the case is in modern society, courts will rule that the government has no obligation to protect its citizens.
So, if anyone were to try to write out a mockup of what this social contract might actually say, they would come to realize that it systematically strips one party (the individual) of his rights, while at the same time, all the other party (the state) has to do is offer up an empty promise of protection.
Although it still works for the lucky citizens and protection is in many cases still achieved, we see that as we move towards statism, police accountability diminishes and military irresponsibility increases.
If only the mainline statists took their own anti-monopoly sentiments seriously and applied them critically, we could begin to implement alternatives to the social contract. In areas of protection, we could allow for individuals to make private security arrangements. In areas of dispute mediation, we could see dispute resolution organizations (DROs.) Bureaucracy would dissolve and be replaced by private, voluntary associations.
I hope for the day when statists will come to realize that living in a society with an over-reaching government is like living in a town with only one landlord, and that the correct solution to this problem is to work together to break up the monopoly that the state unfairly holds.