Any society featuring rules and mores based on contract law is inherently evil and is inevitably bound to devolve into rule by charlatans and thieves.
It is not an accident that Satan prefers to operate by binding contract.
Contract law is literally demonic. It amounts to rule by corruption and fraud.
What sort of madness is required to make contracts the basis of both a) societal economics and b) societal morality?
Vox Day (taken from SocialGalactic)
The observations above as well as recent personal events have led me to think more carefully about contract law than I ever would have otherwise. After all, it seems perfectly reasonable as an idea. Two parties make a written agreement that both sign on it. Most of the time the parties follow through n this agreement and if one doesn’t, the wronged party seeks some sort of legal arbitration to settle it. A major function of the state then is to enforce contracts between individuals. We are taught in the West that this is all a very good thing and a sign of the superiority of our society over others. Indeed, the written constitution that my (and many other nations) have is considered to be of so great benefit to us is a contract.
The problem of course, as observed above, is that contracts actually favour the most ruthless and dishonest. The spirit of the agreement is broken down into semantics and the dishonest will take every advantage they can while the honest party — that is one who is unwilling to deceive — is left at a distinct disadvantage. This isn’t always the case as many people will obey the spirit of agreements made without getting into technicalities or trying to reinterpret the agreement to their advantage. One doesn’t have to look far to find plenty of counter-examples though.
I won’t dwell too much on my own recent experience as I don’t want this to dominate my observations or be seen as someone who is merely hostile because I feel I was aggrieved.
What I will say is that I had very recently entered into a new lease on a property which I had been living in for almost four years, had no late payments or serious complaints. In the time between the beginning of my new lease and the end of the old, I had a sudden change of circumstances with employment. Not being confident that I could meet the obligations of the new lease, I contacted them and asked to be released. They replied with no sympathy to my position and with no consideration for my previous reliability. They charged me the full costs they were entitled to in the contract and ate into my rental bond as much as they possibly could — scrupulously following the contract. I saw they were covered by the letter of the law though and decided there was little to be gained by fighting all of this and reluctantly (and angrily) signed off.
What I did realise in all this was that if I was willing to be ruthless and dishonest, I could easily have fought many of these claims. I did have smaller grievances towards them that I could have brought out and if I’d been willing to drag the process out, I could likely at least have made it hurt as much for them as it did me. I was indeed encouraged by many to do exactly this by many I went to for advice.
And this is much how it works from both the top and the bottom. The most ruthless landlords will take the maximum advantage of their tenants and the most ruthless tenants will take the same advantage of a landlord. The honest among both will be taken advantage of.
The same could be observed form the horrible stories one hears with divorces where the most shameless and immoral will make public every little failing of their partner to cause maximum damage to their claims. In an honest and moral society, a judge would be harshest on the party willing to bring such dishonour on their family and children in order to gain some material advantage from it.
Consider also corporate law where the average Joe cannot realistically be expected to understand, let alone read their terms. They also then have no realistic legal recourse when wronged unless they are willing to take on enormous expense. What is financial ruin to the average citizen is merely a cost of doing business to a corporation. The times when the common man actually wins, it is more often than not with a significant windfall for a financially interested lawyer or lawyers in some class action — two sides of the same coin. And as often as not these “underdogs” turn out to be scoundrels themselves.
In Biblical history, God’s original covenant was something of a contract which one party repeatedly failed to fulfill. They did so (and their sons and daughters continue to do so) by willfully misrepresenting and skirting the law to suit them. God is not fooled of course and the righteous of the Old were saved by following the spirit of the Law. It is no coincidence that the descendants of the Pharisees take so much advantage of contracts themselves. This is not to say that those of the New Covenant, are less susceptible to attempting legalese with God but it is more readily observable because of the more contractual nature of the Old Covenant.
In the New Covenant, Jesus makes his commandment much harder to misrepresent:
“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”
The Gospel According to Saint John 13: 34-35
Jesus gives a new commandment that realistically we can’t possibly live up to. He asks us to do what only He can really do. But in our struggle to imitate him we will be much better than we ever could have been otherwise — while still falling short. There is no way around this and we do not get to judge how well we’ve done at the end — He does. Legalese fails with these words as it always will before God. That is not to say Christ’s words can’t be misinterpreted as they often are but there is no contract to misapply. Even today codifying exact Christian answers to every circumstance is challenging and usually boils down to humbling yourself before others.
If one desires to do right and be honest, we want to admit where we have failed. Indeed, during confession in the Catholic Church we are commanded to simply state our sins without adding “because he…”, “I was having trouble…” or anything else to them. We simply openly admit where we have done wrong with the knowledge that Christ is well-aware of mitigating factors.
Contracts in contrast discourage honesty and goodwill to one’s neighbour. A scoundrel will use every word to their advantage and often get away with it. While the man who seeks to be true is at the most disadvantage if they can’t prove that the other party is lying or being misleading about the truth. A mutual understanding and an assumption between two parties of goodwill requires no written contract. If one party falls short, there will be a dispute. If a person gains a reputation for deceit he will not be trusted in the future. As I was writing this, I could hear children in the background making a verbal agreement. If they both don’t live up to it, they will not trust each other in the future. People do this all the time.
So what is the solution? Well simply what has always worked better: smaller communities where trust has to be fostered and people who violate it are excluded. This will not be easy to return to and chaotic circumstances are going to be what ultimately brings this about. We are climatised to the corruption within the legal and government systems where the “good guys” win not by being good and true but by using the same evil tactics to accomplish something “good”. This of course isn’t really good at all. We will have to learn that compromising with evil is not and can never be good. Ultimately we must remember that it doesn’t matter what we get away with in this life. We will not escape Divine Judgement and Christ is not someone that can be pressured by bullies or fooled by liars as Satan himself found out.