8 Bit Philosophy: Do We Need Government (The Social Contract)

An enjoyable episode.

Personally I am (and I suspect most others are) pro-government.

I don't necessarily agree that in a situation without government that people would constantly fight (well, they would today, but if you took a time before over-population then I think otherwise). However, I think we can achieve a better standard of living as a collective than as isolated individuals.

That said I think government should be small. To my mind, government should keep us safe, should act as a custodian of our shared knowledge, should educate children, and should maintain a law requiring people to interact with each other in a fair way. The creep of government from cooperative to controlling, where government takes responsibility for deciding what is in someone's "best interest", telling us how to live rather than providing the security for us to live is something that is of huge concern for me.

When people take matters into their own hands, anarchy follows. Out of greed or desperation, one will act against another, and they in turn will seek recourse. If there is no government, then there are no limits to how that will devolve. With a government, rules and laws are put in place to create a sense of security that there will be recourse when one acts against another and it limits the potential damage.

But if you have to have a government, what type of government would be best? A monarchy, with a single person setting the laws, or a parliament where representatives of each group of people discuss and agree on the rules, but requires majority vote to pass?

There are many other questions one can derive from this topic, so I really enjoyed this episode :)

"A person is smart, people are dumb panicky animals..." - Men In Black

While yeah its a movie quote, its one of the best ones I've heard that fits the ideas here. Its easy for one person to make intelligent decisions that don't harm others, but add in a group of people and the intelligence pool dilutes for some reason.
People as a whole need a way to enforce the social contract, sadly we haven't reached a point where we're able to make good decisions consistently as a group. People can't even decide on what the right choice in social politics is...

Most people are reasonable, they can live moral lives without some third party enforcing it with a heavy hand... there's always going to be the one asshole that ruins it for everyone though.

It is rather breathtakingly naïve to suggest we can get by without any sort of leadership or organization whatsoever, Nihilism and Anarchism do not tend to be productive ways to live or operate in a society.

With that said however, we should be very careful who we follow. Checks and balances are essential to ensure that those serving their own interests cannot force their will into law to the detriment of the general public, resist any attempts to peacefully oust them through a voting process, or indeed buy influence with those actually voted into power through backroom deals.

TallanKhan:
An enjoyable episode.

Personally I am (and I suspect most others are) pro-government.

I don't necessarily agree that in a situation without government that people would constantly fight (well, they would today, but if you took a time before over-population then I think otherwise). However, I think we can achieve a better standard of living as a collective than as isolated individuals.

That said I think government should be small. To my mind, government should keep us safe, should act as a custodian of our shared knowledge, should educate children, and should maintain a law requiring people to interact with each other in a fair way. The creep of government from cooperative to controlling, where government takes responsibility for deciding what is in someone's "best interest", telling us how to live rather than providing the security for us to live is something that is of huge concern for me.

Acknowledging the necessity of a government is different than being "pro-government". Governments can legitimately exist to serve the will of the people, but once the servants become the masters all bets are off.

Is there any theory or philosopher that states/have stated that government for us as a species is inevitable? I mean, I wonder if our government is basically an evolution of our structure as a social animal, of the pack alpha, if you will.

leviadragon99:
It is rather breathtakingly naïve to suggest we can get by without any sort of leadership or organization whatsoever, Nihilism and Anarchism do not tend to be productive ways to live or operate in a society.

Originality:
When people take matters into their own hands, anarchy follows.

I think this shows a little potential misunderstanding of what exactly Anarchy is, at least in the philosophical/academic/non-hyperbolic sense. I see it used a lot to just mean "A state of chaos," and while a state of chaos is, by definition, in Anarchy, Anarchy is not automatically chaotic. Essentially it is used to describe a state without Rulers, but not without rules.

As a sort of pseudo-anarchist myself, it's not authority with which I and others take issue, it's coercive authority. When one places themselves under someone else's authority freely, that's one thing. When someone places their authority over you, that's another.

The video and ensuing discussion imply that people voluntarily give up rights to the government or state, and even if that were originally the case, you can't say that all people are born automatically wanting to do so. By default then, some (or most, or all,) people are placed under the states authority with no recourse.

Say for example (and perhaps not the best example,) someone wanted to move off into the woods, live life simply, without bothering anyone else? How long do you think before the state sends someone to collect taxes? To arrest them for trespassing on unused land? To throw them in jail for illegally creating or consuming alcohol or narcotics in a manner that influences nobody? And when they do so, for whose benefit, exactly, was that action?

Not the greatest or most poignant example, but maybe someone can think up a better one.

All in all, I'll agree that it takes a certain mindset and certain social values for any sort of anarchism to function, but I increasingly find the social and political values of modern society to be frankly distasteful anyway. (The terminal values enacted, not those it claims.)

saltyanon:
Is there any theory or philosopher that states/have stated that government for us as a species is inevitable? I mean, I wonder if our government is basically an evolution of our structure as a social animal, of the pack alpha, if you will.

Plenty, from Aristotle and Socretes all the way through to Marx and de Tocqueville. Indeed, part of the reason Rousseau resigned himself to a social contract model is because he recognised that people tend to interact with each other and will want to form societies with each other, and thus a method is needed for legitimising the government (done through the social contract) as a government itself is essentially inevitable.

Durendal5150:

leviadragon99:
It is rather breathtakingly naïve to suggest we can get by without any sort of leadership or organization whatsoever, Nihilism and Anarchism do not tend to be productive ways to live or operate in a society.

Originality:
When people take matters into their own hands, anarchy follows.

I think this shows a little potential misunderstanding of what exactly Anarchy is, at least in the philosophical/academic/non-hyperbolic sense. I see it used a lot to just mean "A state of chaos," and while a state of chaos is, by definition, in Anarchy, Anarchy is not automatically chaotic. Essentially it is used to describe a state without Rulers, but not without rules.

As a sort of pseudo-anarchist myself, it's not authority with which I and others take issue, it's coercive authority. When one places themselves under someone else's authority freely, that's one thing. When someone places their authority over you, that's another.

The video and ensuing discussion imply that people voluntarily give up rights to the government or state, and even if that were originally the case, you can't say that all people are born automatically wanting to do so. By default then, some (or most, or all,) people are placed under the states authority with no recourse.

Say for example (and perhaps not the best example,) someone wanted to move off into the woods, live life simply, without bothering anyone else? How long do you think before the state sends someone to collect taxes? To arrest them for trespassing on unused land? To throw them in jail for illegally creating or consuming alcohol or narcotics in a manner that influences nobody? And when they do so, for whose benefit, exactly, was that action?

Not the greatest or most poignant example, but maybe someone can think up a better one.

All in all, I'll agree that it takes a certain mindset and certain social values for any sort of anarchism to function, but I increasingly find the social and political values of modern society to be frankly distasteful anyway. (The terminal values enacted, not those it claims.)

Much like Communism or Objectivism, Anarchism relies on a dangerous level of trust in the better nature of each and every citizen of a society, a trust that is statistically speaking, not always deserved.

Don't get me wrong, I think it would be nice if we could live under one of these systems (some of them moreso than others) and everyone was awesome to each other, but that doesn't seem like a realistic outlook. That is why Anarchism is so closely associated with chaos, it will almost inevitably trend towards that final outcome because humans aren't perfect, shockingly.

Oh, and in the case of that person dwelling in the woods, if they're self-medicated with copious amounts of cave-brewed alcohol and hallucinogens, there's a very real chance they could be a danger to others looking to camp in those woods, or leave the woods in a drugged-up haze to attack someone outside of them, or be in desperate need of mental health treatment that they are hurting themselves by avoiding with this isolation, the downsides of such hermitlike behaviour may not be so obvious to you, but they're definitely there in a worst-case scenario.

We don't NEED government, we could survive in a state of abject barbarism after all. Need is subjective. Sane people should WANT some form of government though, unless they're really sure of their strength.

leviadragon99:

Much like Communism or Objectivism, Anarchism relies on a dangerous level of trust in the better nature of each and every citizen of a society, a trust that is statistically speaking, not always deserved.

Don't get me wrong, I think it would be nice if we could live under one of these systems (some of them moreso than others) and everyone was awesome to each other, but that doesn't seem like a realistic outlook. That is why Anarchism is so closely associated with chaos, it will almost inevitably trend towards that final outcome because humans aren't perfect, shockingly.

Oh it's definitely not perfect, and people certainly aren't. I'm not naive or outright foolish enough to think you could just abolish the government tomorrow and everything would suddenly be better. I don't however, feel like such a society is impossible with the right planning and groundwork. Difficult to establish? Absolutely. Maybe not even feasible without several intermediate stages between the society we live in now. That said, i feel like the discussion of how to start moving towards a non-coercive society is important.

There will always be problems that will end tragically, but I feel like current society places far too much emphasis on force, be it either the suspension of a persons freedoms, seizure of their property, or physical, bodily violence, to create desired behavior. I sometimes like to put it that, if there are non-violent, victemless "crimes" for which the reaction is "Men with guns come to your house," society has not reached an ideal state.

True, society probably never will reach an ideal state. Probably impossible, but not trying anyway seems like the worst case of culture-wide pessimism I've ever heard of.

leviadragon99:
Oh, and in the case of that person dwelling in the woods, if they're self-medicated with copious amounts of cave-brewed alcohol and hallucinogens, there's a very real chance they could be a danger to others looking to camp in those woods, or leave the woods in a drugged-up haze to attack someone outside of them, or be in desperate need of mental health treatment that they are hurting themselves by avoiding with this isolation, the downsides of such hermitlike behaviour may not be so obvious to you, but they're definitely there in a worst-case scenario.

The downsides actually are obvious, and I don't really think that sort of lifestyle is enviable, or not a sign of potential trouble for the individual pursuing it. If their behavior is harming others then yes, action needs to be taken. The real point is, if their actions are provably not harming others, why does the state have the right to force them to change their lifestyle, or take away their freedoms?

Durendal5150:

leviadragon99:

Much like Communism or Objectivism, Anarchism relies on a dangerous level of trust in the better nature of each and every citizen of a society, a trust that is statistically speaking, not always deserved.

Don't get me wrong, I think it would be nice if we could live under one of these systems (some of them moreso than others) and everyone was awesome to each other, but that doesn't seem like a realistic outlook. That is why Anarchism is so closely associated with chaos, it will almost inevitably trend towards that final outcome because humans aren't perfect, shockingly.

Oh it's definitely not perfect, and people certainly aren't. I'm not naive or outright foolish enough to think you could just abolish the government tomorrow and everything would suddenly be better. I don't however, feel like such a society is impossible with the right planning and groundwork. Difficult to establish? Absolutely. Maybe not even feasible without several intermediate stages between the society we live in now. That said, i feel like the discussion of how to start moving towards a non-coercive society is important.

There will always be problems that will end tragically, but I feel like current society places far too much emphasis on force, be it either the suspension of a persons freedoms, seizure of their property, or physical, bodily violence, to create desired behavior. I sometimes like to put it that, if there are non-violent, victemless "crimes" for which the reaction is "Men with guns come to your house," society has not reached an ideal state.

True, society probably never will reach an ideal state. Probably impossible, but not trying anyway seems like the worst case of culture-wide pessimism I've ever heard of.

leviadragon99:
Oh, and in the case of that person dwelling in the woods, if they're self-medicated with copious amounts of cave-brewed alcohol and hallucinogens, there's a very real chance they could be a danger to others looking to camp in those woods, or leave the woods in a drugged-up haze to attack someone outside of them, or be in desperate need of mental health treatment that they are hurting themselves by avoiding with this isolation, the downsides of such hermitlike behaviour may not be so obvious to you, but they're definitely there in a worst-case scenario.

The downsides actually are obvious, and I don't really think that sort of lifestyle is enviable, or not a sign of potential trouble for the individual pursuing it. If their behavior is harming others then yes, action needs to be taken. The real point is, if their actions are provably not harming others, why does the state have the right to force them to change their lifestyle, or take away their freedoms?

Well if we're dealing with such remote hypotheticals, then maybe it would be possible to fundamentally shift the structures of society over time and several intermediary stages like that... but that still relies on there being absolutely no negative traits INHERANT to human nature, people can argue all day about nature versus nurture and whether or not a given aspect is something people are immutably born with, but assuming that such rogue variables could not still arise in that hands-off system seems to imply you believe we can fundamentally alter human nature in every successive generation born... which seems unlikely.

The issue with the hermit scenario is the "provably not harming others" caveat. It works fine as a thought experiment, but not as something you can realistically bank on. While we should be careful not to worship at the feet of pre-emptive action as a panacea, there are sometimes pretty glaring red flags which indicate severe risk to the general public in the near future, and not acting on those would be pure negligence. In the case of that hypothetical hermit, depending on what drugs they are creating and consuming, the question becomes not IF they will present a risk to others, but WHEN. To assume otherwise would be to make the rather bold assertion that person will never leave that forest for the rest of their natural life, nor will any other human beings set foot inside it within that span.

At the end of the day, a dash of realism is needed to bring such idealism back to the real world, it may not be pretty, there may be some ways we can make it better... but some things are highly improbable goals.

 

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