17 April 2014

state of play

I'm suddenly hearing stuff about the 'social contract' in the meedya again.  I never signed one, did you?  Nobody does.  You get born into a state.  Does that mean you signed a contract with it by default?  Plato thought so, and Socrates even died because of that.

I got lucky and got born in a time and into a state, (apart from the gooey stuff), that has been, relatively speaking, peaceful: one where social relations are, in a very broad sense, mostly just and fair.  I said broad and mostly, right? 

Plato reckoned people sign up to a social contract with their states by default. Unless they deliberately opt out, their agreement is taken as given.  Most stay within - even if they disagree with the bits, or lots, of their state that they don't like very much. they tacitly accept reciprocal responsibilities in the social arrangements for the supposed mutual benefit of all, for stability, for security and for whatever else. 

But it's not like you've got a lot of choice have you, or access to enough resources, to be in any position to get out of it and go it alone?  And it sort of begs the question: what stability, and is there good reason to endorse stability because it IS stable, or a status quo because it is 'traditional', or something? 

Maybe it is? The human cost of instability is huge.... think Ukraine, think Sudan, think of a zillion other places now, or in recent history.  And it always seems to come back to the question of 'what's the justification?'  I sort of agree with what John Rawls might mean by.... 

"The nature of a person's duty to abide by the law or social rules is a matter of a morality as it pertains to individuals, while the design and justification of political and social institutions is a question of public or social morality." (John Rawls - 1999).  

Except that I don't really know what all that means in practice.

Sometimes, a lot of times, I want to opt out of all this, because it's a freakin mess.  On the t'other hand, and despite all the fuck ups and my constant bitching about it, I quite like dentists and surgeons and anaesthetics and firemen and nurses (especially nurses), and roads and schools and teachers and allotments (love them), and very rarely, lawyers, and diminishingly less, hardly ever really, government, and all that shit. 

So sure, I could opt out a bit because I think I owe the state diddly squat.  But then the state owes me diddly squat in return.  And if I opt out with enough people to make up a viable going concern, well, bless my soul, pretty soon we've got ourselves a state, haven't we?  And for sure some bugger will want to opt out, sooner or later.  

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