Choosing Between Contract and Coercion

On pages 26 and 27 of the book Ideas On Liberty, Essays in Honor of Paul L. Poirot,  we find a truly exquisite passage.

Essayist Ridgway K. Foley, ]r. writes:

“In essence, one must choose between contract and coercion. A contractual society exists upon the premise that men can arrange their affairs voluntarily and with good faith; that persons seeking their self-interest can better plan and provide for a desired outcome than can the omnipotent state; that endless variations require specific treatment impossible under the strictures of general codes; and, that a moral order pervades the universe. The statist
society leaves precious little room for the grace of individualism – the puny minds of legislators and bureaucrats seek to foreordain all possible outcomes by virtue of prior restraints they concoct. The result: a dull, faceless, and tasteless society, to say the least.

A contractual society requires law – rules of societal architecture, if you will – only to solve otherwise insoluble disputes and to thwart aggression; it allows the contracting parties, absent force and fraud, to preordain their ends. Contrast the prevailing view: ‘Modern political leaders reject the importance of private contracts; government rules are written for everything. Individual rights are never defended; special class ‘rights’ (which are actually demands and wishes) are used as guidelines.’

Contrary to the prevailing political mode, one ought to be concerned with the dignity, the worth, and the sanctity of the individual human being. Each individual is unique, and this unique quality, this discrete difference, is the source from which all values flow. This difference in values produces the need to engage in exchange, to trade peacefully, and to form those voluntary associations which satisfy human needs for companionship and security, for civility and development. Those who decry individual action seek regulation in all important matters of human existence. Regulation implies the need for coercive control; it preordains the ultimate demise of individualism.


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