“No social contract” principle

Today we had an interesting debate about compulsory health insurance. However, the most useful material came as the principle of “no social contract”.

Roughly speaking social contract means that people are willing to give something to the whole society (government) to receive something back from them. For example, to pay taxes and receive state police.

The debater could then argue that such system is not needed anymore. It can be argued that people change societies, countries and governments and that people do not need to give up more and more of their assets to receive something from the whole society (government).

Further one could argue that society (government) should only provide individuals with basic tools for decision making. And this ability of decision making would make the whole society stronger.

In addition, people who are weaker but be more motivated to improve and achieve more. Under the principle of social contract; however, such weak people could just obey society’s (government’s) norms and receive support from the government. Meaning that there is no motivation to become stronger.


4 thoughts on ““No social contract” principle

  1. I don’t quite agree with your line of reasoning here. There are several problems. Let’s look at them in more detail. (1) Although I concede that TAXING people to ensure ‘fair’ income distribution in the society may deteriorate the individual motivation to work at some parts of the income ladder, there is no reason to claim that health INSURANCE has a similar effect. Contrary to an income tax, health insurance payments cannot be allocated to the treatment of other individuals. If I have high income and consequently contribute more to my health insurance account that is used for my treatment only, there are no obvious reasons why I should be disincentivised to put in that marginal hour of work. (2) Maybe your point about the social contract is valid, but the explanation is still incomplete and unclear. Social contract is nothing more than a group of individuals that come together and agree to sacrifice some of their freedoms to ensure that they can freely enjoy some of their other freedoms (for example, I can’t hit Liberts in the face, but I can be more or less sure that he won’t hit me in the face either). The rights that are sacrificed in this contract are decided by the members of the society, no one else. And, yes, if I am not content with the society, I can always move to another one. Now to the point. How does the POSSIBILITY to move to another society imply that individuals don’t possess a need to be involved in a social contract as such? I fail to see a logical link here. It would make more sense to argue that the choice of freedoms that the members of the contract have fancied to sacrifice is not optimal and needs to be altered. However, a mere occasional movement from one social contract to another does not mean that the concept isn’t there.

  2. First, on the idea that social contract (SC) does not exist at all:
    – the thing is that individual actually can’t chose to leave the society as most of the societies are similar in terms of conditions and requirements (taxing, moral norms etc.). Of course, there is a difference between African and European state; however, there is very small difference between two European states. Therefore the individual is left with the Hobson’s choice;
    – this means that individual can’t choose what rights to give up, as basically the society infringes the obligations upon the individual;v
    – hence one might argue that SC does not exist in terms of individual – society (government).

    Secondly, would SC exist at all:
    – possibly we could talk about SC only when individual / society chooses to join another society. For example, when new member states joined EU or when European goes to live in Asia etc.

    Thirdly, health insurance has motivational effect on people:
    – unless government specifies that the individual receives only the amount of money she pays to the government (what would be an absurd idea because it is actually not “insurance”), individuals are unmotivated to achieve more;
    – there are few basic needs for individuals (food, shelter, health, sex) that allows her to live comfortably. Under the SQ food & shelter is guaranteed (poverty benefits), sex (tough luck), the compulsory health insurance would guarantee the last one. This means that the weakest people in the society has no reason to strive for anything as all the basic needs will be satisfied anyway.

  3. This argument sounds way better if you include the ‘inability to move’ criterion. Thus we should always include all of the relevant premises when making an argument. The debate would then shift to the question whether it is possible to move from the society you’re in.
    There is also a lesson in the context of the ‘compulsory health insurance’ debate. The 1st Government would snatch some arguments away from the Opposition by including the ‘for individual’s treatment only’ restriction in the model.

  4. awesome discussion! i love it ! 🙂

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