Scotland’s vote and social contract theory…


Yesterday, Scotland voted on changing it’s social contract — how cool is that?

In general, the idea of the social contract is that the people governed by the contract decide the content of the contract and thus, decide what is morally correct.

Hobbes (an Englishman) put this concept into words  — and the general idea is that there is no right or wrong without a social contract…. there are just actions.  So, before the contract there was a state of nature — humans, animals, plants etc… all lived by the same lack of rules.  If a human wanted to kill another human to take their stuff, that wasn’t wrong in the state of nature — any more than it would be wrong for a cat to kill a mouse and eat it — it was just nature and the strongest beings will always rule in nature (yep, the good old food chain theory in action).

Hobbes then noticed that human beings do better when they cooperate — and we have the higher brain functions, and ability to communicate with one another — to do it.  So, he asked the basic question of why the strongest, most able, human being would join a society when joining that society means they’d have to give up some of their freedom to go get what they wanted…

The answer is that the individual human being is better off with the support of a group of human beings than even the strongest and most able human would be on their own…

As you might imagine, Hobbes and his contemporaries have been a big influence on the development of politics across the western world — especially Great Britain… which is what makes the Scots’ vote on independence kinda cool.  The population is deciding, in a peaceful and rational way, whether or not to cut ties to England — to be independent.  This kind of independence movement usually comes with significant violence (contrast Scotland’s vote with Russia vs. Ukraine and you’ll see what I mean).

And — with the idea that the population should decide the contents of the social contract coming from Hobbes, I love it — no matter what they decide.


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