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THEORIES - CONT'D

JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU (1762) – Social Contract by Popular Sovereignty

He believed that people were neither good or bad and that in the beginning there simply were insufficient people and they knew each other insufficiently to come into serious conflict. Also, he assumed that these people had normal values. In his view, liberty was only possible if people determined the laws directly, not through a representative.  He believed that the sovereignty of the people was unlimited, inalienable (not cancelable) and indivisible (it cannot be taken or given by parts). However, he also believed that people were stupid and uneducated and therefore they did not know their “real will”. Therefore, a catalyst was required. This catalyst would come in the form of a leader who would change the customs and values of the people. Through this leader (a Legislator or law maker), people will collectively express their general and sovereign will. If a person reverts back to egoism and disobeys the leader, this person will be forced back into the law because this law was created by all citizens for the good of all. Therefore, freedom equals the law because the law was created by all the citizens and it is the expression of freedom.

 

Commentary

The concept of good and bad is a moral concept and irrelevant to the original state of people. We sincerely doubt that people who were barely different from animals would had the time, inclination and brain power to determine the philosophical concepts of good and bad.  As to there being insufficient people who knew each other insufficiently as to warrant serious conflict, this is ridiculous. Knowledge is not a pre-requisite for violence. For example, in nature a lion does not spend time getting to know a specific gazelle before munching it for dinner. Violence or conflict is much more a personal and emotional affair than it is a rational affair.

The idea that  people had “normal” values is also ridiculous. Normal according to whom? Rousseau or somebody else? What is normal for person A is sub-normal or hyper-normal for person B. The concept of “normality” is subjective; if this would not be so, psychology would be an exact science using mathematics as its tool.

Then, we have the idea that laws are only valid if they originate in the general will of the people. By general will he meant direct determination, as in direct democracy without no representatives. There is one tiny flaw in this process. No two people are ever identical. If two people can’t have the exact same opinion on something, how did he expect an entire citizenship to agree on a specific law? Remember, he was not thinking in proportional voting where the majority would determine the “general will”, but in an agreement of all citizens!

Then we have the problem of this “real will” that people seem to be unable to know. In other words, you don’t know what’s good for you, but a “leader” can tell you or guide you to it! He moved away from absolute dictatorship (which is exactly where this type of thinking leads to) by saying that through this leader the people will express their general and “real will”. We are not exactly sure how would this process work, but we could imagine that this leader is some sort of mystical mind reader who can read, interpret and elucidate the mind of every citizen to uncover their “real will”. In addition and by some magical property, the “real will” of all citizens will be the same. There. Problem solved! Simple right?... rubbish!

In addition, we have this notion that real freedom is expressed as law because it is what the general will of the people chose. If you go back to your original freedom (as in I do whatever I please) then you are in conflict with the “real freedom” and as such you must be set straight (i.e. punished). Therefore, punishment is not a restriction of freedom, but a way back to real freedom. This reminds us of a Soviet slogan that proudly declared that they were the freest people on earth because they freely gave away all their rights to the collective! Or, in other words, they were the stupidest people on earth because they dismissed their freedoms and now they were only puppets of the state.  Freedom is freedom. Any limitation to freedom is a limitation. There is no such thing as a “real freedom” versus “personal freedom”.

 

PIERRE-JOSEPH PROUDHON (1851) – Social Contract by Individual Sovereignty

He believed that a social contract is nothing more than an agreement between people not to govern each other. In this manner, all people retain full individual sovereignty at all times and governments are totally unnecessary. He also believed that in essence justice can be substituted by commerce in the sense that relationships between people are expressed through exchanges.

 

Commentary

This is definitively a step in the right direction, but lacks elementary rules that will enable coexistence. An agreement between people not to interfere with each other is certainly very desirable, but there must be a minimum set of rules dictating how will they willingly interact with each other, when they choose to do so. It is not good enough to simply state that commerce will provide these rules. Therefore, this view is incomplete.

 

JOHN RAWLS (1971) – Social Contract  by Theoretical Agreement

He believed that rational people in a hypothetical state where participants were blind to their own information and beliefs (i.e. ethnicity, social status, gender and concept of God), would choose principles to determine the structure of society (i.e. justice and legal organization).  This would be the basis for a Social Contract.

 

Commentary

This is, of course, a purely abstract exercise in futility that only a theoretician could come up with. Let’s set up ideal people in ideal conditions and then let’s think about what ideal results may be produced. Obviously, totally disconnected from reality.

Rational people? Seriously? When was the last time that anybody was fully rational?

Blind to their own information and beliefs? Did he meant amnesia? We see no other way to achieve this state!

Obviously this concept is completely ridiculous, other than as a purely academic exercise.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

 
Continue to Social Contracts Are A Scam - Part 4

 

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