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Would it be realistic for a group to be governed exclusively by economic agreements? And could a society with no real semblance of a central government self regulate on economic contracts?

This society would value fidelity to these contracts higher than all else. Those breaking contracts would be ostracized and unable to make further contracts (thereby being completely dysfunctional in the society). If the contracts would be broken, terms for retribution, punishment, etc. would be included in each contract. There would be other groups with powerful central governments bordering this "contract state".

If you can think of real life examples I would love to hear them. If any issues that might arise in this society come to mind please include them in your answer as well.

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    $\begingroup$ If there is a common currency and it is fiat, you will need a central bank. Central bankers are not "super-beings". They are no different from anyone else, and are just as corruptable. An asset backed currency will eventually lead to one entity having all the money. Using your money to make more money is self-reinforcing. Lenders will control everything because the money to make interest payments does not exist. So, loan repayment necessarily leads to non-stop borrowing. $\endgroup$ Feb 4 '17 at 0:04
  • $\begingroup$ Is this society supposed to have always been this way? Or could it be started modernly from a more traditional society? How far along is the world? Modern 2017? Sometime in the past? A future world? $\endgroup$
    – Brythan
    Feb 4 '17 at 0:49
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    $\begingroup$ What you describe sounds like Medieval Europe $\endgroup$
    – dot_Sp0T
    Feb 4 '17 at 1:00
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    $\begingroup$ One of the main functions of the state is to provide a judicial system. When you say "those breaking contracts" you imply that there is a judicial system which can determine if a contract was broken or not. A judicial system implies a state. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 4 '17 at 1:20
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    $\begingroup$ @SRM I have read the question in the wrong way, as if it was irrelevant op's belief and not as part of premise of the question. Probably enough to remove 'I am proposing' to prevent error as I did. Individuals are diverse for sure, and more importantly such diversity is one of keys which keeps the society alive in long term. As plausibility, history was rich for different systems and what OP describes is just a middle ages, europe, asia, middle east, japan; instead of "economic agreements" - religion, oath's, knights, samuraj's, sect's, triades u name it. different outcome, different success. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Feb 4 '17 at 16:05
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Well, this isn't based on economics but your policies sound similar to that of the Amish. They all work together in harmony and if someone breaks the rules they get shunned.

Question is though, who will enforce policies? What if someone breaks contract to make another contract with a much better group? Now you essentially have it turning into an economic mafia as groups of people may choose to only do business within certain circles and those with the most money can do anything they want. If I break my contract with someone smaller but I am part of a larger investing group who is very powerful, who would be willing to throw me out? No one because that would mean their business would also suffer majorly.

How do these rules even get decided in the first place? You can't have a whole population of several million people or a society/city of say even a few thousand all sit down together in a meeting room. It isn't realistic. SO there would need to be some form of "head" or a council of heads to be able to come together.

Ultimately, I don't see this working out very well. Greed would easily keep rule breakers in play because there is no central government or system to regulate the rules. If people care about their business and I am a major business tycoon in your system, chances are, throwing me out will break everyone else and so a population ruled by anarchy or mob rule would be thrown out because above all else, money talks always.

All the person would need to do is pay the fine print / terms of a contract breaking and go on their way. If they can't they won't break the contract just like we have now with phone and cable contracts. If you can't pay the fee then you wait it out otherwise, if you aren't happy you break the contract. If I have the money to do this I will and if my brand is strong enough people aren't just going to stop doing business with me.

Do these bordering countries with centralized governments regulate the society? If so then they may not play by the books. These governments may use their invested people to break contracts to hurt the other governments or they would step in to protect their assets should someone raise conflict about a contract broken. There are just too many... loop holes in the system that are left unanswered that can make this society very corrupted in the name of greed.

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This can only be a temporary solution, because it has nothing to do to those who have nothing to lose. Of course, everyone has things to lose, but not all of those things can be captured economically.

A perfect example: a serial killer is caught and convicted. With nothing but economic sanctions to use, can you stop him from killing again? What about a radical who is willing to kill for their cause, and more than willing to steal food to survive and steal guns to forward their cause?

And of course, you run into issues with who enforces the contracts and how they enforce them. If you can't pry the gold coins from my fingers, how can you write them out of my hands using contracts?

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Essentially you are asking if Anarchy is a viable form of government, and as so many others have posted, the answer is "no".

Even the most extreme Libertarian positions all agree that some form of enforcement mechanism is required to allow for the functioning of society (anyone who try to tell you Somalia is a Libertarian paradise is simply lying to discredit the idea of Libertarianism), and as a minimum you need the idea of property rights, an enforcement mechanism and a neutral arbitrator. Contracts and voluntary agreements are essentially exchanges of property between consenting parties, which is your starting point. However, even honest people may disagree about the terms of their contract, so a neutral arbitrator is needed to settle disputes (in our world, these are the courts of law). An enforcement mechanism is also needed, to compel the decrees of the arbitrator if needed, and protect property owners and their property. In Western cultures, we have further subdivided the job between a military force (protects against external threats to property owners and their property) and the police (who protect property owners and their property from internal threats).

Further subdivisions can be drawn in distinguishing in how these jobs are done (a Swiss Citizen's Militia is far different than a professional, full time force like the US Marines, and Neighbourhood Watch serves the same function as Sir Robert Peel's "Bobbies" in a far different way).

So short answer is "No".

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This will work if all members of your society have very strict, almost religious following of business ethics code. No matter how wealthy or influential contract breaker might be, he will be shunned and ostracized like a common heretic. However, there is a need for some sort of authority that would establish/update/interpret the business ethics code.

You should also look into other social issues besides economics. For example, crime - would it be regulated in a similar manner, or more traditionally, with law enforcement and trials?

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Who would enforce these "Retributions/punishment" if there is no government?

One of the main reasons governments sprout up is to maintain law & order. That's why people consent to be governed, so they aren't murdered or robbed at random (only murdered and robbed in accordance with the rules of the state). Every society has a social contract, and societies larger than a tribe or perhaps confederation of tribes have central government mainly to enforce the social contract. Really the state is a mechanism to consolidate violence: and successful states standardize and minimize violence with a code of laws. Violence goes from random and widespread, to rare and practiced only by state on those who break the social contract to a pre agreed upon degree which warrants the use of violence.

History is filled with violence because it's extremely successful, sadly. Man will always resort to it to accomplish goals unless they are dissuaded by the threat of violence returned unto them (and often resort to it in spite of that threat). There are no historical examples of the kind of society you lay out, at least that I'm aware of. I am not a professional historian.

In addition, what if there's a contract dispute. Contract Lawyers have been around since at least Ancient Greece. With no government, who settles disputes to determine if a contract was actually broken? Are there courts? Who administrates the courts?

So if we are talking about regular humans, it's completely unbelievable in my opinion. But you have other options.

Drugs that make humans follow contracts that everyone takes willingly (under fear of being exiled or killed) that force people to follow contracts --Though I have no scientific way to explain this, so the drug itself wouldn't be realistic. Speaking of science-free you could do magic. This could be a story about aliens, aliens living surrounded by humans whose minds work differently than ours. Finally, my favorite, give these people a different language, a "magical" language with words that meanings and consequence are physical certainties. Maybe it's 4-dimensional language that determines (and must be in accordance with) the future and past to be spoken. If I used this magical language to tell you I will go to the hill at 3 o clock, I must go to hill at 3 o clock: furthermore, it will be a specific hill at 3 o clock in the afternoon today and you will know all that without doubt. Again, not exactly realistic unfortunately --but fun.

Edit: Another answer mentions the Amish, but the fact is that Amish communities have a Mafia to punish those who break the social contract --such as steal, rape... Or at the very least are within the jurisdiction of law enforcement entities such as local sheriff departments.

Furthermore, and perhaps off topic, how does this society defend themselves from attack without a central government to maintain a military?

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