Essay, Research Paper
The Imposition of Law as Free Will
The Myth of the Social Contract
The Social Contract is defined to be the method by which a people agree to the systematic limitation of their rights for the purpose of gaining governmental protection. It is the theory that all people agree to the imposition of law and the restriction of their personal freedoms in exchange for safety. The founding tenet of the Social Contract is that people agree to the limitation of their natural rights for the benefit of governmental protection. Yet most often in a working society can one see that many people do not agree to the oppression of law; rather, that they rebel against it. The Social Contract is meant to justify governmental oppression by saying that people consent to, indeed support it. The ideas expressed in this theory, though, are not reflected within the working of a real society. Many people, though they often may not constitute the majority, actually resist the imposition of law because they refuse to surrender their natural rights to a government that they perceive to be a menace to their liberty and a threat to their safety. The Social Contract attempts to portray the state as the free will of mankind. Yet individuals do not consent to the rule of their government, rather it is imposed upon them. Children are taught respect for the law and government but, as adults, they are not given the ability to make a rational decision on whether or not to accept them. As clearly stated by Joseph Raz in his text ?The Obligation to Obey the Law?,
?The obligation to obey the law is a general obligation applying to all the law?s subjects and to all occasions to which they apply. To look for an obligation to obey the law of a certain country is to look for grounds which make it desirable, other things being equal, that one should do as the law requires.?
People are not allowed the ability to logically analyze the justifications for the rule of law and the existence of government; they are forced merely to accept them. So not only does law impose ideals without giving justification; it also imposes itself without justification. Law does not allow itself to be vulnerable to criticism; instead of allowing people to judge it by its merits and failings law forcefully imposes itself, without consent based on analysis and understanding. The Social Contract purports that people who agree to the imposition of law upon them do so in exchange for the protection of the government. Still, as one can see, in reality government often fails, indeed never attempts, to protect its own people. The purpose of law and punishment is to “protect” the people, but the fact that punishment need be imposed only illustrates the fact that it does not protect. Punishment is imposed only after harmful actions against society have been carried out. In order for punishment to be applied there first must be a crime- an action that is government’s responsibility to prevent from taking place.
When law is applied government has already failed to protect the individual; punishment will do nothing to help the victim after they have been victimized. Law does not, in truth, prevent such behavior; it only deals with it once it has occurred. Law does nothing to prevent socially harmful behavior; it therefore does not protect in accordance with the tenets set forth in the theory of the Social Contract. Governmental oppression is justified by saying that people agree to it but, in truth, people are not given the chance to agree or to disagree; government is imposed rather than chosen. Choice is therefore replaced by the law and the free will of the individual replaced by the actions of the government. It is through government that many people become subject to ideals they would never accept, actions they would never support, and people they would never respect. The Illusion of Extension Government has been purported as the will of the people. It is believed that the will of the people is manifest in governmental actions. Too many individuals feel as if they can actually affect governmental policy and themselves regulate governmental actions. People have been led to believe that they are the government. People somehow feel that, because of the vote, they can actually control the decisions of their government. The people have been manipulated into believing that they are the government and that they make the choices that determine the fate of their nation. Yet, realistically, what power can one man hold over 270 million? What is one voice among such a multitude? The common person, only seen by the government as a drop in the ocean, can do nothing and can affect nothing with the vote. Through the vote, an enlightened human being, so like a single drop in the ocean, can do nothing to hold back the tidal waves of ignorance. Too often can one see that the will of the majority, as well as the will of the minority, is never carried out by the government. Even when the ignorant multitudes push for change the government still refuses to follow up on the people’s demands. Those in power have little to fear from the weak including those voices that are heard need fear nothing from those who cannot speak. This is the political state of America, indeed of all nations; the people are not the source of governmental power, rather, they are the subjects of it. The citizens of this nation have somehow been led to believe that they are not just ordinary citizens; they are the politicians who pass the laws, the judges who sentence the “guilty,” and the police who beat down the minority.
?Rawls reminds us that the civil disobedient suffers inconvenience, expense, taunts, threats, real danger, and eventually punishment. His willingness, in the typical case, to suffer these consequences helps to demonstrate that his purpose is to protest an injustice or a wrong- not to achieve an immediate gain for himself.?
This is the illusion of extension that all people hold. Somehow the American government has been able to fool its people into believing that, out of the pits of ignorance, they can extend their wills to affect the government and the nation; that, somehow, their feeble minds can direct the destiny of this country. The powerless have been led to feel powerful, and because of this they have not been inclined to seek the influence and power that their government has stolen from them. The vote is little more than a political technique of maintaining governmental stability. The purpose of the vote is, not only to lead people to believe that they are the government, but to cause people to feel as if they, because they have used the vote to elect certain officials into office, are themselves responsible for what the government has done. If people are displeased with governmental actions the existence of the vote leads them to seek to modify the governmental leadership rather than the government itself. The blame is shifted from the imperfect and corrupt structure of the government and placed upon those who lead it. The vote restricts perception of ideals that go beyond the rigid governmental structure. People therefore wish to pursue governmental modification in lieu of social revolution. The people, who often wish for change in an unchanging structure, are led to superficially modify the governmental leadership rather than end the social ills that devastate their lives. Voting creates the illusion of choice; it leads those who have no freedom to feel as if they are free. The vote is nothing more than a decision fabricated by the government. It is a decision that, when made, yields no result. It makes people feel as if they are controlling the government rather than being controlled by the government. Making this illusory decision is nothing more than an acceptance of the governmental structure and the status quo. To vote is to accept the evils that plague society. Free will and self-government, the Dominance of Choice and the Social Condition. What is it that determines a person’s actions? Are the actions of an individual determined by the dictates of law and government or, rather, is an individual compelled to act in certain ways for other reasons? Can a person’s actions truly be controlled by the constraints set forth by the law? What is it that influences a person’s actions? Can law, a vast and confusing set of governmental dictates, truly hold more influence over a person’s actions than can their own moral ideologies? Can an individual, who must make decisions on a daily basis, constantly turn to law for behavioral guidance? Individual actions are not compelled by the law but rather by morality and by an individual’s personal belief of what is right. Human behavior is driven by choice. Law attempts to take away that choice; law attempts to prevent people from having the ability to control their own actions. Law intends to make behavioral decisions for the people rather than allowing them to make their own moral choices. It is here that law infringes upon the most basic rights of the human race and where law violates the natural gifts of mankind. Law attempts to automatize mankind by relieving individuals from the “burden” of making their own decisions. Choice must always dominate over law, but choice can be over-ridden by environment. Regardless of moral ideology an individual can be compelled, indeed forced, to act contrary to their moral beliefs when faced with unacceptable social circumstances over which they have no control. Law, while seeking to eradicate personal choice, maintains the social ills that circumvent moral ideology. Law seeks to make the individual nothing more than an automaton; programmed by governmental dictates and compelled by environmental conditions. For an individual to be free they must not only have the absolute ability to make their own decisions, but they must also live in an environment which does not drive them to act in socially unacceptable ways. Law has defined all unacceptable behavior as the result of human choice and so has chosen to ignore, indeed justify, the existence of endemic social problems which over-ride choice and morality. Because law endangers individual freedom it endangers the very concept of humanity itself. What, after all, is a person who cannot think, who cannot choose, who cannot act of their own accord? Responsible Choice and self-control when an individual’s behavior is not adversely affected by their environment it is their personal choice which determines their actions. Law cannot be imposed as a substitute for morality, nor can it be accepted as the answer to all of life’s decisions. An individual must make their own choices to be free; they must have the ability to comprehend, analyze, and understand morality. Dictation alone cannot suffice for freedom, nor can it ever be imposed as a substitute for education and morality. If a person is to be truly free they must have the ability to make their own decisions. Therefore, if a society is to have both freedom and peace, the people must exist in a condition in which they can make whatever choices they wish, but where they also have the education and responsibility to make the right decisions. Education, unlike law, is not a restriction, but a guide. Education is a positive behavioral influence that promotes freedom and instills morality. For an individual to be free they cannot be controlled in any way, save being influenced by their own moral ideology. The invasive restrictions of law cannot be reconciled with freedom. If an individual is to be truly free then the only control that can be exerted upon them is their own self-control. If absolute freedom is ever to exist in society then education and morality must be instituted as substitutes for law. An individual must not be coerced into their behavior, rather, they should choose their actions based on the moral merits of the actions and not on the artificial consequences imposed by law. This is demonstrated in the theory of reasonable doubt.
?If a man under twenty-four has a reasonable cause to believe that a girl was over the age of sixteen years, he has a good defense. The law regards the offence as sufficiently serious to make it one that is triable only by a judge at assizes. ?Reasonable cause? means not merely that the boy honestly believed that the girl was over sixteen years of age, but also that he must have had reasonable grounds for his belief.?
The subject demonstrated that the law has looked upon his free will and his decisions in an adverse way, despite the fact that he believed that he had done nothing wrong. Society?s morals have in turn charged him. A person must be able to understand and recognize the morality in specific actions; this is where freedom lies. Law does not promote understanding nor does it allow analysis; it therefore does not allow freedom. Will an individual, if existing in ideal circumstances, exhibit socially unacceptable behavioral deviance (i.e, violent activity)? Will a well-educated, morally endowed, spiritually enlightened human being, living in a state of absolute freedom, and uninhibited by the adverse influences of endemic social ills, exhibit the sort of behavior that law claims to curtail? One can merely look to the workings of present society for answers to these questions.
Even today there are many people who, though living amongst society’s harrowing influences, do exhibit socially acceptable behavior. These people will most often be those who are well educated and were brought up in a relatively acceptable environment. Looking within present society one can see that, even with the limits imposed by our social ills, an environment can be sustained which promotes socially acceptable behavior. What then may happen when all people are allowed the luxury of living in such an environment? What will happen when all people are allowed the level of education which, today, only the elite have the ability to obtain? This will be the true Utopia: a place where all people have the absolute ability to make their own decisions, but have the education and morality to make the right ones. One may disagree that education can truly guide an individual’s behavior so dramatically. Yet one can merely use a simple analogy to quell such disagreement. Imagine that a student has been assigned a math problem. A well-educated student, who clearly comprehends all the mathematical concepts required to solve the problem and understands and can carry out the appropriate calculations to reach a solution, will undoubtedly solve the problem. Such a student has a firm grasp of the necessary knowledge required to solve their problem. So it is with a well-educated individual who must face many of life’s decisions. A person who has been well educated and understands the required social and moral concepts will undoubtedly reach the correct conclusion and so will choose to act in the socially positive manner. Their understanding will inevitably guide them towards what is socially correct. The mathematical analogy can also be extended to encompass and illustrate the goals of legal doctrines as well. What if the student does not understand the required concepts needed to solve the problem and so chooses merely to memorize the answers and calculations so that they will score well on an exam? Such a student will have no understanding or education. Though they will be able to achieve a good score they will understand nothing of what they have done. They will not have analyzed and understood the problem and having merely followed a written example to convince others that they have. Nor will the student have the capability of extending knowledge to further applications, since they have no knowledge at all. They will have only a memorized set of symbols and numbers that they do not comprehend. Such a student is analogous to the uneducated citizen. Their government will tell them, through dictated legal doctrines, in what manner they must conduct themselves. Such a person will have no education, no understanding, no morality, and therefore no freedom. Such a person will not be a person; it merely will not be.
In conclusion, this essay has raised more questions than it may have answered. What must happen when people are allowed to exert their full range of natural freedoms? Will society fall into anarchy and chaos or, rather, will society exist in a state of peace and harmony as has never before been experienced? Envision a society where every person has been endowed with education and moral responsibility. How can such a society even face the threat of violence? What need have the educated for violence? Violence is the tool of the ignorant. It is a use of physical strength to compensate for a lack of intellectual strength. It is the tool of those who have no moral instruction; those with moral ideology spurn violence. Violence cannot occur without cause. In a society where there is no cause or purpose for violence, violence will simply not exist. Social instability is the result of inequality; a condition where a few hold power, wealth, and knowledge while the rest of society stagnates in poverty and ignorance. Can there be social instability, though, in a society where every person has the power to control his or her own life; where every person is wealthy; where every person is educated? The threat of violence and social instability heralds only the need for change. What must be changed, though, when society has attained perfection? Violence, and other social ills like it, are only the trademarks of the imperfect society; a society where the individual does not have the freedom to make their own decisions, nor the education to realize they have no freedom. How can freedom be a danger to anything but oppression, ignorance, and instability? How can freedom cause chaos? It is sometimes thought that human beings, when separated from society, are nothing more than animals. Yet this theory arises from the minds of those who have never tasted true freedom, who do not understand what it means to stand before the infinite expanse of possibility that comes only with the acquisition of absolute freedom. The true nature of man can never be known so long as the burdens of oppression and tyranny weigh heavily upon his soul; so long as the doctrines of law automatize his mind; so long as the petty nationalism of government clouds his eyes. Mankind will never know his heart so long as it cannot beat. It is only when the human race tastes of freedom that society can know true peace. Only when every person is brought to that pure condition of nature that mankind will truly know his humanity. Freedom is stability; so long as human beings are no more then caged beasts within the confines of law there can be no peace. So long as all people look upon life through the bars of restriction there can be no stability. What, after all, is social instability but a person blindly raging to break from their cage? Social advancement freedom is necessary for advancement. It is for the intellectual evolution of the human race. Without freedom human evolution ceases, perhaps even degenerates; for how can a human being evolve to greater heights of humanity when they are no longer human? How can a being journey to new levels existence when they do not exist at all? Advancement, as is commonly thought, is not technological as much as it is intellectual. Human advancement does not take place every time a new car is designed or faster computer built; advancement takes place with the inception of new ideas into the human consciousness. Advancement takes place only when human beings are better able to understand their surroundings, their existence, and their lives. Advancement takes place as the human mind leaps from one level of understanding to another and as our perception of life becomes more and more clear. Under the restrictions presently imposed upon it mankind cannot advance. How can one roam the vast expanse of possibility when caged within the bars of present society? Advancement requires freedom; the freedom to think, the freedom to act; simply the freedom to be human. Because freedom has been redefined within the restrictive boundaries of law the human mind unwittingly wastes away in stagnation. Now the human mind wastes away within the confines of law as an animal pacing wildly in its cage. The spark of humanity growing ever dimmer in the eyes of every human being, so like the beast whose wild freedom has been stolen and whose will to live slowly fades away. Life is devoid of essence and becomes nothing more than a hollow existence in a static state of being. So like the animal who has lost the ability to freely roam the vast expanse of nature so too will the human mind waste away into nothingness within confines of its own devising. Within the belly of that great Leviathan whose very existence depends on the oppression of the human soul. We live in a time when the human race, surrounded by technological wonder, is itself becoming technological; human beings now little more than machines, programmed by the doctrines of government, compelled by the circumstances of environment. It seems as though one could only press a button and extinguish the spark of life that glows, now ever so faintly, in the eyes of every human being; as if one could merely bring to a halt the mechanism that mankind has become. A person cannot exist without freedom; it is a condition of humanity that a person be free. Perhaps mankind will, one day, bring himself into existence; or perhaps he will simply fade away, having never been more than a shadow of a thought in the mind of the Creator; having never truly existed at all.