Renewing Our Commitment to the American Social Contract
Renewing Our Commitment to the American Social Contract
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .
This is the primary AMERICAN SOCIAL CONTRACT, an agreement between citizens and government: citizens give government power and government secures the rights of citizens. However, as they may be construed, the self-evident truths illuminated within this DECLARATION are not merely political truths. Indeed, the Founding Fathers rejected a social contract where citizens give government power and government gives citizens rights. Rights are not granted by anyone, any power, or any system; they are natural and inherent to every individual, and they are unalienable. This is why the lines above continue as such:
. . . That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.
And yet, revolution is not the only safeguard against tyranny built into the AMERICAN SOCIAL CONTRACT. Though not explicitly outlined in this DECLARATION, it can be deduced that because rights do not come from government, the CONTRACT is not complete, nor even functional, without a similar agreement between citizens alone to protect each other’s rights. Should citizens reject their duty to secure each other’s rights from villains, increases in government power would become necessary. Should citizens choose to actively violate each other’s rights, increases in government power would quickly reach dangerous heights. Thus, the CITIZENS’ AGREEMENT is perhaps even more important than the DECLARED AGREEMENT, at once preventing the tyranny of citizens against each other and the tyranny of government against citizens.
Furthermore, apart from tyranny, another undesirable condition that must be prevented by the CITIZENS’ AGREEMENT is the fracturing of the very Union that enables the security of rights in the first place. Perhaps another self-evident truth, though a less profound one, is that citizens are less inclined to form a Union with or defend the rights of those whom they detest. Thus, it follows that part of the CITIZENS’ AGREEMENT must consist of the duty to be decent toward each other, or at the very least not indecent.
We define decency as follows, and indecency can be thought of as the opposite of these behaviors:
- RATIONALITY: As Karl Popper wrote in his essay Utopia and Violence, “I think I am right, but I may be wrong and you may be right, and in any case let us discuss it, for in this way we are likely to get nearer to a true understanding than if we merely insist that we are right.”
- CIVILITY: As stated in Matthew 7:12, “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.”
Unfortunately, in contemporary American society, we now find indecency to be commonplace. And not only indecency but also many terrifying attempts to actively violate each other’s rights. We believe the reasons for this condition are dishonest interpretations of reality; specifically, the nationalist interpretation of “My country, right or wrong,” and the disunionist interpretation of “My country is always wrong.” The former is misguided by blind fanaticism, while the latter suffers from blind abhorrence, and so both motivate action toward corrupt goals. Instead, we must unite around an honest interpretation: that the country is right when it upholds what is Good, and wrong when it fails in that duty. By this interpretation we are also motivated to act, not to defend or attack the country in spite of what is Good, but to live in accordance with the Good as best we can understand it.
But either because of a lack of education, forgetfulness, or even malice, these dishonest interpretations are overshadowing the honest one, threatening the vitality of the AMERICAN SOCIAL CONTRACT, the CITIZENS’ AGREEMENT, and our Union. We hold that these most vital aspects of society must be rebuilt, and we attempt to do so in this manner: To undo a lack of education we must remind citizens of their duties to each other, to prevent forgetfulness we must produce a record of agreement to those duties that we may look back upon with pride and honor, and to combat malice we must use that record to outshine the darkness of indecency.
To accomplish all of this, we argue that the following ideas and actions ought to be rejected—to those who might argue otherwise, we disagree, but let us engage with each other in good faith rather than shutting each other down.
- IDENTITY POLITICS; because it utilizes discrimination against certain identity groups in an attempt to erase other forms of discrimination that it evaluates society as structured to perpetuate. Separating people into groups based on selected characteristics such as race, sex, and sexuality stresses difference over universal humanity; since this is the strategy used to justify discrimination, it can only perpetuate further discrimination. As Pauli Murray wrote in her essay An American Credo, “When my brothers try to draw a circle to exclude me, I shall draw a larger circle to include them. Where they speak out for the privileges of a puny group, I shall shout for the rights of all mankind.” Accordingly, we can only end discrimination through a strategy that treats all people, per their rights, as created equal and as equal under the law. Therefore, to structure the politics of society around identity groups is indecent and in violation of people’s rights.
- CRITICAL RACE THEORY; because it claims that people are fundamentally the product of their racial group’s history. To view the world this way revokes individualism in favor of a group identity narrative that judges people as obligated to perform penance or deserving of receiving reparations based solely on the actions or experiences of past individuals who shared their skin color. Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of a nation where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” This dream is only achievable if we view people as individuals defined by their personal choices and experiences, respecting the right to due process by keeping the burden of proof on the accuser and not the accused. Therefore, to use a racial lens in place of a character-based one is indecent and in violation of people’s rights.
- VICTIMHOOD CULTURE; because it asserts that a person’s moral worth is determined by the extent to which they have been victimized. This values so-called victimized groups above privileged ones and divides individuals between these categories along moral dimensions, the former possessing greater worth than the latter. But we are all created equal, not sorted into groups by which our value is calculated according to extrinsic factors. As stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” In the name of this freedom, justice, and peace, we must uphold a culture that recognizes the equal and inalienable value possessed by every member of the human family. Therefore, to promote an identity of victimhood by linking it to moral worth is indecent and in violation of people’s rights.
- VIRTUE SIGNALING; because it relies on public displays of self-righteousness or condemnation of others to flaunt one’s superior moral character. Rather than achieving social respect by diligently resisting the draw of wrongdoing and overcoming the challenges of self-improvement, some seek to bypass this struggle and gain the same result simply by proclaiming their goodness or pointing out the flaws of others. Doing so requires the assumption that one is already better than others, an assumption only a perfect being could make. As stated in John 8:7, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” Because no one is perfect, and no one can know just how truly imperfect they are, we ought to be slower in our judgments of others and more restrained in asserting our own virtue. Therefore, moral grandstanding for personal gain is indecent.
- CANCEL CULTURE; because it seeks to ruin the reputations of people who believe in, act on, or associate with ideas that are deemed offensive, generally through undermining their legacies or careers, and uses social pressure to achieve this end. This results in a society that dictates acceptable beliefs and enforces those beliefs, both acts being outside the realm of law and completely subject to the whims of mob mentality. But individuals have the right against society to believe and express what they will. As George Orwell wrote in his essay The Freedom of the Press, “If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” We as a society have the responsibility to preserve this liberty; our goal is not to coerce people into silence, it is to promote their ability to think and speak freely, and to persuade those whom we believe to be wrong through open debate. Therefore, to abuse the power of social pressure for conformism is indecent and in violation of people’s rights.
- CENSORSHIP; because it places limits on the scope of available information in an effort to prevent people from encountering and engaging with harmful ideas. Censors must assume they know what is true and just when restricting information; yet, it is impossible to know what is true and just without measuring our knowledge against the knowledge of others, knowledge that would not exist if the right to free expression is infringed. So no matter how harmful any number of people believe certain information is, they cannot possibly be in the right by restricting it because the more they restrict it the more they are unable to prove they are in the right. As John Stewart Mill wrote in his essay On Liberty, “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” Thus, when we encounter information that we believe to be harmful, we must instead present it to the world to be compared against all our powers of argumentation and let the best case win the day. Therefore, to shy away from this conflict and restrict information out of such cowardice is indecent and in violation of people’s rights.
- POLITICAL VIOLENCE; because it uses intimidation and the infliction of pain upon people in the pursuit of social change. We have the right to protest the injustices we see—to awaken the moral conscience of our fellow citizens and persuade them to help us enact change by appealing to their reason and moral duty. But acts of violence appeal neither to reason nor duty, they appeal to fear through coercion and control. As Martin Luther King Jr. declared in his Nobel Peace Prize Lecture, “It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. . . . It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.” A commitment to justice is a commitment to end bitterness and brutality by promoting brotherhood and the dialogue which makes it possible. Therefore, engaging in violence in the name of social change is indecent and in violation of people’s rights.
Should we cease to fulfill our duties to each other, should we fail to defend rights and promote decency, should we abandon the CONTRACT that binds us together, then we will squander the sacrifices our predecessors made to build a better nation and deprive our descendants the fruits of those sacrifices. But we reject such negligence; we reject such a future. Instead, we commit ourselves to rekindling the hearth of the CITIZENS’ AGREEMENT, fueled by rationality and civility, so that it may warm us with unity and shine forth the light of what is Good for us as a country and as a people. To that end, we publish this petition, appealing to the prevailing desire among Americans to form a more perfect Union.