Sunday, November 1, 2009
In a provocative comment to an essay I wrote, Kevin de Bruxelles argues that the government has broken the social contract with the American people, and discusses the ultimate meaning of such a breach of contract:
One only needs to consult Hobbes to see where the answer lies.
In Leviathan, Hobbes contrasts two states for human society. The first being a state of nature which is described as perpetual war between individuals. The moral logic of the state of nature is that there is no right or wrong: “To this war of every man against every man, this is also consequent, that nothing can be unjust. The notion of right or wrong, justice and injustice have no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law: where there is no law, no injustices. Force and fraud, are in war the two cardinal virtues.” (13.13) And then Hobbes goes on to describe the moral logic of the state of nature: “And because the condition of man is a condition of war of every one against every one; in which case every one is governed by his own reason; and there is nothing he can make use of, that may not be a help unto him, in preserving his life against his enemies, it followeth, that in such a condition, every man has a right to every thing, even to another’s body. (14.4)
In order to transcend the state of nature, men accede to a social contract with each other to submit to a sovereign and in the process establish a civil society. To Hobbes (later diminished by Locke) the sovereign is almost all powerful. His job is to keep the peace, to install laws and justice, and to coerce the population to live within the limits he sets. But the one of the few limiting factors on his subject's duty to submit to the sovereign is “The obligation of subjects to the sovereign, is understood to last as long, and no longer, that the power lasteth, by which he is able to protect them. For the right men have by nature to protect themselves, when none else can protect them, can by no covenant be relinquished.” (21.21)
What is clear is that in the United States, where the sovereign is the elected government, an elite segment of society, namely bankers and other extremely wealthy individuals, are playing by the old rules, the rules of the state of nature, and they are grabbing as much of the pie as they can. All this while the sovereign has at best lost the ability to resist this crime, or at worst, is actively complicit. But the vast majority of citizens are sitting by idly still thinking they live in a commonwealth with laws and justice.
There are two ways out of this mess. Either the sovereign must start playing his role and start enforcing the law and justice for all, or alternatively the citizens must stop submitting to this sovereign, overthrow this system government, and start all over again to find a sovereign since living in a state of nature is not an option.