Social Contract: The Exceptions to the Rule

July 19, 2013

“Individual rights are sacrificed so an elite ‘vanguard’ can take more power to itself.” ~anon

Control has been disguised as freedomWhat do the September 2013 completion of the mega NSA data and surveillance center in Bluffdale, Utah, federalized swat teams smashing down homeowner’s 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 at this very moment if you are an American you are 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 justifying its need is that individuals, when left to their own devices, will  focus only on themselves and their own self-interests.

Social contract philosophy further states that, because this is a truism about  what can be expected from the people, they, in turn, need to give up some of their individual rights so government to ensure a civil society of protection and order. This arrangement will work because the state exists only to serve the general will of the people. That’s the central concept.

More than ever we are reminded 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 examples of social contracts supposedly for the common good of all Americans while assuming our tacit agreement.

Recently, in a commencement speech to a 2013 high school graduating class, Texas local hero, Jim Hightower, reinforced the meaning of common good by effectively shaming the students 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. Idiotes 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 also already mentioned. Beyond 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 1900’s.

Prior to the creation of the United States under the Constitution of 1787, states were autonomous. 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 of creating an entirely new, second constitution; one that would increase their power over Americans via a centralized form of government. The enforcement provision of the social contract embedded in the Constitution of 1787 gave legitimate authority to compel performance by force from citizens. This would be the new world of centralized government, brand new to early Americans.

Furthermore, though the original definition of a sovereign was the creator, in early America it also referenced individuals with private rights as were kings. With the social contract of the Constitution, the meaning of sovereign changed once again and 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. The elite vanguard of society, i.e. ruling class, historically has always had the upper hand over the people. Within the social contract it is implied that when the people give up some of their individual rights to said governing body, they give over those rights with the tacit understanding that these public servants, unlike themselves, are not subject to the wiles of their own self-interests and therefore can govern objectively for the benefit of the people.

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 farther from the truth. By the fact of an ever-widening un-level playing field for everyday Americans, Rousseau’s assertion that the state only existed to serve the “general will” was but an educated opinion at best. Instead we find that for the elite vanguard of society huge loophole-exception exist; elite exceptionalism has become the veritable elephant in the room.

The social contract philosophy has proven to be a failure but because almost no one understands what it is and how it directly affects them, it lives on hidden in plain view. Looking after one’s own self-interests is human nature and not merely the lot of the masses. Politicians, bankers and all those at the top of the power pyramid are especially susceptible as if you hadn’t already noticed.

Think outside the box.  Live outside the cage.


10 Responses to “Social Contract: The Exceptions to the Rule”

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  1. Ed says:

    To fool the people, this is kept out of sight

  2. Owen says:

    This is the natural growth of a population that is no longer constrained by personal morality. When it is no longer wrong to tell a lie (of any kind) then you can expect the kind of governance we have today where truth no longer has value and lies are repeated until people accept them as truth.

  3. Will says:

    Great piece! It’s amazing to see how the shift from Locke’s ‘individual will’ philosophy to Rouseau’s ‘general will’ one coincides with the change in personal morality, as Owen described. Who watches the watchers’ self-interest and morality? It seems the individual has given up his/her power to do so.

  4. SBCGLOBAL says:

    And the solution is….?

    • Sojourner says:

      The book, Beyond the National Myth: waking up in the land of the free at this website goes more in depth on the problem and takes a stab at viable solution. In reality, no solution can manifest until enough people acknowledge the problem and TOGETHER proceed towards the solution they agree on. An author is only a catalyst, at best.No matter how substantial their proposal of a solution might be, even just a small percent of the people have to take hold of the idea and do something about it cohesively. And maybe over and over again..

  5. RB says:

    The [invisible] context within which we live, the water to the fish, is the single most influential element in our social thinking. If, from the time I am a child, I am treated as if I am worthy of love and trust and that my humanness has a place in the natural world, I will grow up fulfilling a cooperative, co-creative role in my community.

    If, on the other hand, if I am treated as if I and my people are flawed by disposition, foreign to the natural world and motivated by ego-inspired interests and, therefore, in need of constant “correction,” then I will behave like a caged animal, erratic and unpredictable.

    People will adopt the emotional and cognitive milieu of their social environment. If my natural inclinations are vilified, I will become my own police state and live in controlled tyranny with other caged animals, never aware of the controlling influence of the thought prison I live in and which I dutifully pass onto my offspring.

    Were Rousseau and Plato [and other spokespersons for the patriarchal perspective] correct? Or is there a way to access an aspect of our make up thru which we can co-create a social experience based on celebrating that which we are, rather than one requiring increased surveillance?

    The unspoken justification for the plutocracy is the invisible, assumed context that “we all know you can’t trust people and that at their core humans are devious and will do anything to further their own agenda at the cost of the well being of the rest of us [caged animals].”

    Who and what are we–really? The answer may well determine our fate.

  6. Owen says:

    RB: There is another dimension of justification of the plutocracy, that of victimology. When a segment of the population is told constantly that they are victims of another groups’ past actions, then they believe that mantra and demand reparations and/or special treatment from the group that they believe is at fault. They will vote for the group that feeds the victim story until the society has to fragment for the segments to survive, or destroys itself in conflict. It all devolves back to the culture (moral code) of each individual within each group, which will determine the ultimate demise or survival of the society.

  7. robert cinque says:

    The most fundamental law of the universe that I am aware of is: Whatever you put your attention on, grows. The second most fundamental law is : Whatever you do not take responsibility for, will be taken by a second party who may or may not have your best interests at heart. If I do not rule over myself, if I fail to own and be responsible for myself, all my thoughts, words, deeds, and their consequences, then I place myself into the hands of those who are all too wiling to rule me. Slaves need masters and vice versa. It has always been this way. The social contract cannot replace my personal responsibility for myself. The Contract is valid only when two responsible parties agree to work together for mutual benefit., more not master/slave childishness. I seriously doubt that anything will change without this recognition in place. Sojourner points to this when she talks about how the ruling elite are culpable for their actions too.
    Humanity faces a truly grave crisis and is like a battered, brain damaged teenager who lives in an abusive household, is furiously angry all the time (for good reason) and is heavily medicated due to the official psychiatric diagnostic model proscribed against him and used to ram Prozac and other neurotoxins down his throat. That’s the human race in a nutshell. It is imperative that we break out of the asylum, throw out the serotonin uptake inhibitors, run away from home, and establish true ground upon which to stand. There is no other way that I am aware of.
    Robert Cinque

  8. RB says:

    It is so easy to sell victimization. Thank God! I now have clear evidence that I have no responsibility in major areas of my life. I am justified for not taking action to create change. I have an excuse for the terrible condition of my life. I have someone to blame, and it’s Them. Without Them, my life would be up to me, and that would mean I might fail.

  9. robert cinque says:

    I am not sure if your comment is a response to me or not. If so, be assured I am not selling victimization. Humanity is the intended target of an enormous arsenal of weapons, military, pharmaceutical, financial, and biological, to name a few. Understanding this is not the same as dramatizing victimhood. Understanding this obviates the need for change, for overcoming abusive relationships , and is a crucial part of discriminating intelligence. Victimhood is an indulgence in self pity and an imagined powerlessness. If these two are confused, good luck, you’re gonna need it
    Robert cinque

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