A Proper Gander At Propaganda


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AA "The Proper Gander" Morris

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The Social Contract: A License to Steal

This is an excerpt from an article published elsewhere. The link to the source article is below. 

"The Social Contract: A License to Steal

Stephen Faison cross-examines the idea of a social contract.

According to classic social contract theory, originally elaborated by Thomas Hobbes in the Seventeenth Century, human beings begin politically unorganised, in what is called a state of nature, and society is created by people either explicitly or tacitly establishing a contract whereby they agree to live together in harmony for their mutual benefit. Social contract theorists seek to demonstrate why a rational individual would voluntarily consent to give up unlimited freedom in the state of nature and accept the limits to liberty required for civil society. These theorists agree that individuals make this exchange in order to ensure, or at least greatly enhance, their ability to survive. But these theorists define survival too narrowly, as ‘defense of life and property’. I want to argue here that the terms of any social contract must be expanded to include the provision of food, clothing, and shelter, because these are also necessary for survival. I contend that any state that fails to provide such maintenance, or at least state employment, and denies any obligation to provide either, forfeits it moral authority to pass judgment on the means citizens use to survive. As I shall demonstrate, under the terms expressed by classic social contract theory a citizen denied maintenance and/or state employment is left on his own, outside the limits of the contracted state, and therefore possesses a license to steal.

The theory that a social contract is the origin and basis of society is controversial, but the version of the theory developed by John Locke in his Second Treatise of Government (1689) influenced the Founding Fathers, and is at the heart of the Declaration of Independence. This form of the social contract explains how the state possesses legitimate authority through the consent of the people. So the notion of the social contract is woven into the political system in which US citizens live, even though no citizen was a party to any social contract. Arguments can also be made that some form of tacit agreement to obey the laws of a state is undertaken by anyone who wants to enjoy the benefits of living within any state. Understood this way, the social contract may seem quite reasonable, in principle helping a citizen to accept the state’s requirements, even though, as I will show, the contract does not live up to its promise."

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