Monday, October 17, 2011

concluding paragraphs to social contract

OK, here are the two concluding paragraphs to my section on social contracts.
Nevertheless, the idea of society involving a kind of social contract between its members arguably remains a helpful way of conceptualizing the tension between individual freedom and the corporate benefits of a society as a whole.  Both biblically and historically, Christians believe that all human beings are loved by God and are thus significant and valuable.  And even from a secular standpoint, societies that consider all individuals within them to be meaningful members of their social contracts seem to prosper far more than those that repress or ignore some group or portion.  Historically, these ignored groups have a tendency to revolt and exact their revenge on those who ignore them, often subjugating the others in turn.

We remember that this same era of European history also produced utilitarianism, the idea that governments should strive to enact what brings about the greatest good for the greatest number.  In the light of social contract theory, we can modify this proposal to say that the people of a nation would ideally set down a relatively limited number of common rules with the goal of bringing about the greatest good for the greatest number without unduly sacrificing the freedom of other individuals within the contract.  How these basic principles play out varies significantly within those governments that practice this sort of social contract (e.g., will it include universal health care?).  But some variation on this form of government has become the ideal standard worldwide today, the “constitutional democracy.”

1 comment:

John C. Gardner said...

I believe that you have a good take on both the Social Contract theory and church-state relations. One of the best authors on the topic of church state relations is John Witte Jr at Emory.