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Friday, July 19, 2013

Social Contract: The Exceptions to the Rule

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individual rights are sacrificed so an elite "vanguard" can take more power to itself. ~anon
The Social Contract
Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Susan Boskey

What do the September 2013 completion of the mega NSA data and surveillance center in Bluffdale Utah, federalized SWAT teams smashing down homeowners' front doors, and the July 2013 acceptance of the Obama Administration’s appeal to retain portions of the NDAA for the indefinite detention of Americans have in common? For those who are not in denial, these three facts alone point to the breach of Americans’ social contract with the U.S. Government, making it effectively null and void.

Did you know that if you are an American you are considered to be under a social contract with the US Government? Apparently, this all began with the Greek philosopher, Plato (427 BC-347 BC). I will explain.

What exactly is a social contract? It is a political philosophy defined as an obligatory agreement the people of a nation make voluntarily with their government for their mutual benefit and reciprocity. The underlying premise for its need is that individual people will only focus on themselves and their own self-interest when left to their own devices.

Social contract philosophy further states that, because this is a truism about the people, they must give up some of their individual rights to government in order to have a civil society of protection and order. Accordingly, this will work because the State exists only to serve the general will of the people. That’s the concept.

We are reminded still of our social contract to embrace laws and behaviors the U.S. Government has determined to be for the “common good.” The upcoming new Utah data center, federal SWAT teams at our front door and the authorization of indefinite detention of Americans are three such examples of social contracts supposedly for the common good of all Americans.

Recently, a local hero in Texas, Jim Hightower, reinforced the meaning of common good to a 2013 high school graduating class by effectively shaming them into believing they should be considered idiots if they “refuse to participate in public efforts to benefit the larger community.”
Now that you’ve had a dozen years in the classroom and earned this important credential, DON’T BE AN IDIOT! I used “idiot” in the same way that ancient Greeks originally meant it. Idiots were not people with low-watt brains, but individuals who cared only about themselves, refusing to participate in public efforts to benefit the larger community – to serve the common good. -- Jim Hightower, Denison, Texas high school commencement speech, June 2013
As I mentioned, the origin of the social contract goes all the way back to the Greek philosopher, Plato. The three best-known proponents of the social contract in more modern times are English philosophers Thomas Hobbes 1588-1679, and John Locke 1632-1704, along with French philosopher, Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712-1778.

Though Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau did not agree with each other on every point, they did, in their own ways, agree that to form civil society man needed to revoke and escape the “State of Nature” which is that pesky state of self-interest already mentioned. In addition to the people having to give up some of their individual rights, the second component of the social contract was the necessity for an enforcement mechanism to uphold the social contract and the laws therein.

Of the three men, many credit Jean-Jacques Rousseau of the 18th century as the most influential to America’s democracy movement of the last two-plus centuries. His pivotal book, The Social Contract, asserts that only when the individual submits to the “general will” of the society will he or she truly find freedom. In a few words, he submits his perspective, which also popularized the modern concept of collectivism.

Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will, and, in our corporate capacity, we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole. ~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, 1762
Just a decade after Rousseau’s ground-breaking book, the first two founding documents of the United States of America largely ignored Rousseau’s collectivist view: the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and the first American constitution -- the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union in 1777. The central theme of both documents was grounded in John Locke’s philosophy of the individual’s God-given unalienable rights of Natural Law. Natural Law evolved into English Common Law, the law of the land in America until the early 1900s.

Prior to the creation of the United States under the Constitution of 1787, states were autonomous although there was a federal legislature but no centralized government. Free inhabitants, as early Americans were called, retained their unalienable rights and enjoyed the privileges of the confederation without an obligation to federal citizenship.

Nonetheless, Rousseau’s social contract gained in popularity and fit perfectly with the Federalist ideology and goal to create an entirely new, second constitution; one that would increase their powerover Americans by gaining a centralized form of government. The enforcement provision of the social contract embedded in the Constitution of 1787 would then give them legitimate authority to compel performance from citizens by force.

Americans got a centralized U.S. Government where none had previously existed. The original definition of a sovereign as the creator, in early America, had already also included individuals with private rights as had been kings. But with the social contract of the Constitution, the meaning changed this time to mean that the nation was the sovereign. 

In conclusion, under the social contract philosophy and by definition, the state as sovereign became the final arbiter of what was moral and just for the individual. However, a huge loophole-exception had been built into the social contract philosophy and practices for the elite vanguard; one that has become the veritable elephant in the room. 

The elite vanguard of society, i.e. ruling class, would always have the upper hand over the people, no matter what. Within the social contract it is implied that when the people give up some of their individual rights to those of a governmental body, they give those rights with the tacit understanding that said public servants, unlike themselves, are immune to succumbing to governing based on their own self interests.

Yet as many of us already know, this implication of a governing body of people who would be immune from governing via self-interest could not be further from the truth. By the fact of an ever-widening, un-level playing field filled with millions of dissatisfied Americans, Rousseau’s assertion that the State only existed to serve the “general will” was but an educated opinion at best.

The social contract philosophy has proven to be a failure. Perhaps more truthful is that all humans, not just the unwashed masses, tend to look after their own self interest, but especially, politicians, bankers and all those at the top of the power pyramid.

Susan Boskey, freelance researcher and writer, is author of the book, The Quality Life Plan®: 7 Steps to Uncommon Financial Security and more recently helped bring to market the book, Beyond the National Myth: waking up in the land of the

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