Monday, June 9, 2014

Only the Carpet! An Introduction to the Social Contract Theory

When people enter into contracts, there is an expectation that the contract will be fulfilled. Yes, that's the beginning of our deep thoughts for today. But on a rather serious note, when someone says that they will clean your carpeting, you expect them to clean your carpeting. Additionally, you don't expect them to decide that what you really need is new furniture and have them take liberties with your money in order to get you that new furniture.

Contracts are truly something that give the power to a company.Contracts are written agreements or designation of power from one person to another.  No power outside the contract is within the company's control. What is obvious about this system is that people can not give away power that they themselves don't have. I cannot give you the power to use my sister's desk because I do not have power over that desk in the first place.

All of this is commonplace, of course. And you probably are waiting for me to start explaining how this relates to the social contract theory and the basis of governance. I guess I'm really predictable.

All governments as well are based on contracts. These contracts happen when entities (usually people) come together to form a government. They form these governments for specific purposes and delegate their power to the government to further specific causes. The government then has the responsibility to pursue efforts with the monies of the populace as directed in the contract.

What perhaps is the most over-looked part of these contracts is that just as I cannot sell rights to my sister's desk, people in society cannot ascribe to the government rights they themselves don't have. If you can't force your neighbour to eat his vegetables, then you can't possibly delegate power to the government to force your neighbour to eat his vegetables.

Of course, the government's contract acts like other contracts in one other area as well. It is a delegation of the powers that they can have from the people, but this contract also limits the responsibilities to just that one area of industry. Just as you would not be happy if your carpet cleaners bought you new furniture without your consent and approval, the government has no right to present or try to solve any other problems than what its contract says to do.

In the United States specifically, there are several different governmental contracts. There are state constitutions and county charters formed by the people within a given society. What makes America truly unique however is its federal contract, the United States Constitution. Agreed upon by the states within the country, the Constitution provides the basis for all federal action.

Of course, I did not sign the Constitution. No one in government alive today signed the Constitution. Indeed not one person alive today signed the Constitution! We never agreed to this contract, so doesn't that make it void for us?

This is the most common argument voiced against the social contract theory. However, a close look at other contracts shows that it is not relevant. In business, an employee is responsible to a degree to the contracts the CEO makes. Regardless of whether he himself had anything to do with the actions of ensuring a client, he has the responsibility to provide whatever services the CEO provided.

More relevantly, when a new CEO is hired, he is responsible for all of the contracts the prior CEO left him. It doesn't matter that he didn't specifically make the contract, he is still legally compelled to follow them.

Just because we never saw the specific contract and had no place in its initiation doesn't void our contract. We are in a contract with the government and have enumerated certain of our powers unto the respective governments of our nation.

But let's ensure that our carpet cleaners only clean the carpet and that our government only fulfills its purposes.

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