Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Everyday, Ever Changing Social Contract

What is the Social Contract? Is there an unwritten social contract? What are the best forms of government?
These are some of the questions that have bothered philosophers throughout the ages, and in particular, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. While most of my posts have avoided questions of politics, there is no way to avoid questions of politics. It's impossible to avoid politics because we make political choices everyday...not just ever two or four years. In my opinion, politics is an everyday things that we all do, regardless of whether we vote in an election. Politics is the term to describe all social interactions that are related to questions of forming human relationships. This includes all of the secular and religious organization we form. Without relationships, there are just the individual humans trying to survive on their own. We are all constantly making guesses about whether to join into new relationships, such as friendship, love, work, location community organizations or national organizations.

In every relationship, there are advantages and disadvantages. We can't predict the future, so we can never know the benefit of joining into a new relationship or in leaving a current relationship. (And this is why I'm interested in this subject. The reason that we can't predict the future of the universe is that the laws of physics are not reversible, and this leads to the second law of thermodynamics. There is an element of uncertainty in any large system. And now getting back to this post...) Humans, like all other living creatures, are ever-changing, naturally-selected life-forms whose goal is to consume as much exergy as possible (such as sunlight, wind, coal, geothermal, oil, biomass, etc...). The question is: how do we consume as much exergy as possible if we can't predict the future?

This is what we mean by the statement: humans have free will.  Humans, as well as animals, bacteria and even entire nations, have choices to make, and they are 'free' choices because nobody can predict the future (not even the best computer and not even God, if there is a God.) Sometimes, joining a new organization is a good thing and sometimes joining a new organization is a bad thing (and when I say good, I mean: increasing the consumption of exergy, i.e. consuming exergy in such a way that you can now consume even more in future.) There is no way to know ahead of time when you are making the right choice. And in fact, there's no way to know that we made the right decision. Why? Because perhaps there is something about our past decision that seems good right now, but there is an underlying problem that will show up later in time. Pollution is a good example of this. Unlike in South Park, in the real world there is no Captain Hindsight who can always tell us what was the right course of action that we should have taken.

Does this mean that there is no such thing as wrong or right?  No, as I mentioned above, there is a way to quantify the amount of consumption of exergy, and the rate of change in the consumption of exergy. The 'good' can be quantified. Or stated by Rousseau in "On the Social Contract":

"What is the goal of the political association? It is the preservation and prosperity of its members. And what is the surest sign that they are preserved and prospering? It is their number and their population. Therefore do not go looking elsewhere for this much disputed sign. All other things being equal, the government under which, without external means, without naturalizations, without colonies, the citizens become populous and multiply the most, is infallibly the best government. That government under which a populace diminishes and dies out is the worst. Calculators, it is now up to you. Count, measure, compare."

In other words, the Wealth of a Nation can be quantified.

The problem we all face is that we don't know how best to consume exergy and how to grow life. Do we stay individuals or do we join into a larger organization? There are advantages of joining an organization, such as 1) allowing us to specialize in a unique talent, 2) defense of the many by the strong few, 3) communication and diffusion of new ideas, and 4) social welfare. (as well as many more advantages)
There are also problems with joining a organization:  1) time & energy are consumed in maintaining of the organization, 2) loss of freedom in decision making, 3) needing to conform to the laws of the group, and 4) needing to occasionally fight for and defend the group in times of war. (as well as many more disadvantages)

There are pro's and con's, and we have to make decisions everyday, every hour, and every minute about whether to form new relationships. What we shouldn't forget is the 'why.'  We shouldn't forget why we are doing all of this in the first place. The goal of life is to expand: to grow and to consume more exergy. We are ever-changing creatures, and we can make ever-changing laws in the organizations we form. The goal of the social contract is to strike a balance so that we all can consume more exergy than we could as separate individuals, and so that we can together grow and eventual consume even more exergy on more and more planets.

But what is the social contract? In basic terms, it is the agreement that at some level everybody in the organization is an equal according to the laws of the organization. For example, everybody might have an equal vote. In almost all organizations, everybody has equal protection under the laws.

This does not mean that all people are equal.  Everybody has differing levels of intellect and differing levels of physical strength, but when you agree to join into a relationship, at some level you join into it as equals with the other people who join into it. You are not an equal in all senses of the word 'equal', but at some level, you are equal with the other citizens. At the national level, we agree to the laws of the society in return for equal voting rights as everybody else in society, regardless of how much money we have or how physically strong we are.

The individual loses part of his freedom when he or she joins a relationship. But they gain new freedoms, such as the freedoms that the organization can give to the individual, such as protections when traveling within the organization, freedom to specialize, etc...

And here's where I'd like to add my own thoughts to this discussion of the social contract. I think that the social contract should be formalized here in the U.S.  For example, I believe that we should be forced to sign a document when we turn 18 years old stating that we agree to all of the major rules of our society (just as we have to sign a contract each time that we download new software.) If we don't sign the agreement, then we don't get to take advantage of the benefits that come from being a part of this nation, such as voting or welfare.
I think that there should be a mandatory class we take in high school that prepares us to sign the statement of agreeing to the major laws of the society. The class would cover all of the major laws, such as:  here's what happens if you murder somebody, here's what happens if you steal, here's what happens when you lie under oath in a courtroom, here's what happens when you commit treason, etc... If you don't agree to sign the statement, then you aren't a full citizen in this society.

So, what does all this have to do with this blog on energy & physics?
In the end, the questions of energy & physics lead us to questions of politics, and questions about which organizations to join. If time is irreversible, and if the goal of life is to expand, then we need to form and to join organizations that aid in that goal.

I would like to live in a society that is more upfront and straightforward in its major laws, including its tax laws...to live in society in which I (and all other people in that society) are required to sign a basic social contract...to live in a society in which the currency is backed by something of value, like electricity...and to live in a society that understands that the goal of life is to expand. I hope that there are other people who want to live in a similar society.

Since I am a US citizen and since there are no countries in the world that have all of the items above in my 'wish list,'  my goal with this blog is to communicate how to improve the US in the following ways: 1) simplifying its laws (including its tax laws), 2) backing its currency in something of universal value, such as work (electricity, fuel, etc...), 3) requiring a signed social contract in order to vote,  4) communicating that the goal of life is to expand. (A few other ways that I discuss in other posts.)

Let me know if you share in these goals.
And in summary, politics is an everyday, free choice to join, form or dissolve relationships and organizations. We are constantly making choices on which relationships to form and which to dissolve. We will never agree on everything, but there might be enough things that we can agree on so that we can form an organization, with all of the pro's and con's of forming a group. And let me know if there are organizations out there with like-minded goals of which I might not already be aware.

No comments:

Post a Comment