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The Rule of Law: The Social Contract

The social contract can be defined as explained as socially approved relationships aimed to ensure order and peace. The background rights of several properties, freedom of contract, first possession, and restitution are rights that we cannot do without if we are to address the problems of knowledge, interest, and power, problems we must address somehow. To reduce the legitimated use of power in a society that enforceable rights engender.

In the Gospel of John, eternal life is available to true faith now and continues into the final perfect order of God. In all four Gospels, both aspects appear. The Synoptic picture stresses the future note, while the Gospel of John accents the present privilege, but these two aspects appear in both forms of the message of Jesus. Moreover, the New Testament has no detailed plan for social reform or revolution. Since the world was a sinful world, and sin found expression in both personal actions and social movements, the kingdom of God would differ radically from the existing world order1.

But the New Testament writers and teachers did not urge planned action to alter the outward form of social life. There was no revolt against the pagan government, even when it persecuted the church. The just is defined by the liberal fusion of justice and the rule of law and is enforceable2.

The good–whether good conduct or a good society–is defined by other kinds of moral analysis and is unenforceable. The distinction between the just and the good also corresponds to the distinction between natural rights which define justice and injustice, and the natural law which defines virtue or good conduct and vice or bad conduct. Because it neither mandates nor prohibits good or bad conduct, but only just or unjust conduct, it is commonly said that liberalism is “neutral” with respect to different theories of the good3.

The limitations of the social contract are that modern cultures require for their maintenance a certain amount of coercion to perpetuate themselves are eventually obliterated by the aggregate of free choice. These aggregate results are thought by some to be less than satisfactory, even to those who exercised the choices that brought them about. There is considerable truth to this charge4. A society that adheres to a liberal conception of justice and the rule of law could not prohibit ways of living that some or even many find bothersome or offensive and, consequently, those ways of living may persist and possibly may even come to dominate social life.

Some may detest the “blight” of fast-food restaurants, the leveling influence of the mass media, an alleged loss of cultural diversity, etc. For better or worse, regulating choice so as to ensure “good” choices will result in a substantially different world than one in which free choices are permitted.

This use of force will prevent, at least indirectly, certain conceptions of the good from being achieved5. The conception of social contract solves the problems of knowledge, interest, and power by placing certain restrictions on the means one may use to pursue happiness. Individual discretion is “bounded.” Consequently and unavoidably, there is a systemic bias against those who believe that their pursuit of happiness requires them to use the very means that are proscribed and who will be prevented from doing so. And there is a systemic bias in favor of the types of society that arise when people have the liberty that the liberal conception of justice defines and serves to protect.

Bibliography

Exodus 20:1-25. 2008. Database on-line. Web.

Rousseau, J.J. Social Contract. 2008. Database on-line. Web.

Footnotes

  1. Exodus 20:1-25. 2008. Database on-line. Web.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Rousseau, J.J. Social Contract. 2008. Database on-line. Web.
  4. Exodus 20:1-25. 2008. Database on-line. Web.
  5. Rousseau, J.J. Social Contract. 2008. Database on-line. Web.