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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: April 2017

11 - Implications


The Hobbesian hypothesis has survived for more than 350 years without even acquiring a name. It has existed in the background, present but unspoken, free from scrutiny because it is obvious, or obvious because it is free from scrutiny. Or perhaps, it is free from scrutiny because it is, in some inexplicable sense, not even an empirical claim at all. And few contractarians see the need to clarify any of these issues. This, perhaps, is the power of an unargued premise.

This book has argued that the Hobbesian hypothesis is an empirical claim, that it is a claim involving small-scale stateless societies, and that it is not only dubious but probably false. The Lockean proviso—even in Nozick's “weak” version—remains unfulfilled. Mutual advantage is not in effect in all or most state societies today. World governments and the property rights system violate Paine's (2000) “first principle of civilization.” In our terms, capitalist states have dissenters. In contractarian terms, capitalist states have rational, reasonable, well-informed people who have good reason not to consent to state authority, because states make them worse off than they could reasonably expect to be in a stateless society. Under contractarian and propertarian theories, as we have understood and explained them, the state and the property rights system are unjust as long as these institutions continue to harm dissenters.

This chapter considers the implications of these findings for contractarianism and propertarianism. It does not discuss the option of abandoning these theories. This book is solely an internal critique of these theories. It does not reject the Lockean proviso as a moral principle; it argues only that the proviso remains unfulfilled in the existing empirical setting. Therefore, this chapter only considers implications broadly within the moral frameworks of contractarianism and propertarianism.

A contractarian or propertarian response to this work requires two choices: (1) accept or reject our empirical findings, and (2) accept or reject our argument for their relevance. We discuss several possible responses based on these two choices, but we believe contractarians and propertarians should make one response regardless of either choice: they need to clarify their arguments. Remove the sloppy allusions to what might or might not be empirical claims. Section 1 discusses this issue.