The social contract | Foundations of American democracy | US government and civics | Khan Academy

The social contract | Foundations of American democracy | US government and civics | Khan Academy

– [Instructor] Before we dive deep into our study of government and politics, it’s worth asking a fundamental question. And that’s whether we
even need government, or why do we need government? And I encourage you to pause this video and think about this. Do you think we need government, and why? Or do you think we don’t
need government, and why? Okay, now let’s start to reason
through this a little bit and start to think about the benefits or the pitfalls of a government. So let’s say that we are in
a world without a government. And this is me right over here. And at first, it sounds pretty good. I have unlimited rights here. There’s no one infringing on my right. I can say what I want. I have the freest possible speech. There are no laws that I could break. I have the freest possible religion. I have no government
telling me what to practice or what I can’t practice. I have, I can own what I want. I have property. I can go anywhere, so I have movement. And I also have some freedoms that those of us who live in a government don’t typically have. So I would have the freedom to tax others or to take from others, take property. If I’m stronger than them, or if I’m just sneakier,
I go in the middle night, I can just take their property from them. I could just settle on their land. I could have the freedom to punish others or imprison others if I don’t like ’em. It doesn’t even have to be for a reason. This is a freedom that
most of us don’t have in the world that we live in today. But without a government,
I would have this freedom, this freedom to go and
take stuff from others and to do physical harm or
imprison them or enslave them. Now, this might sound good
to you as an individual, but remember everyone in
this government-less society would have these same, would have these same freedoms. And I especially like the
ability to have my own property and to have my own freedom of movement. But what if this person right over here doesn’t like me to have
freedom of movement? And so they say they’re
going to invoke, look, I can punish or imprison you
because I don’t like you. And so they’re going to infringe on my freedom of movement
by imprisoning me, or maybe I might do it to someone else. And so even though you
have all of these freedoms, because everyone else does,
especially these latter few, they might be able to take
some of these from you, including your freedom to live,
your health, your happiness. And this is well-described
in political philosophy. In particular, you have a gentleman by the name of Thomas Hobbes, who’s considered one of the
fathers of political philosophy. And this is what he had to say
about this state of nature. “As long as men live
without a common power “to keep them all in awe, “they are in the condition known as war, “and it is a war of every
man against every man. “In war, the two chief virtues “are force and fraud.” I can do something by physical force, or I could trick you, or I could sneak around you
and take something from you, or imprison you. “A further fact about the state of war “of every man against every man, “in it there is no such
thing as ownership, “no legal control, no distinction
between mine and thine,” between mine and yours. “Rather, anything that
a man can get is his “for as long as he can keep it. “In such a condition, every
man has a right to everything, “even to someone else’s body. “As long as this continues, therefore, “that is, as long as every man continues “to have this natural right to everything, “no man, however strong
or clever he may be, “can be sure of living out the time “that nature ordinarily
allows men to live.” This was written in Leviathan,
which was published in 1651. So he’s framing the same thing. If everyone has a right to everything, well, they can infringe on other people, including their life, their
health, their happiness, their freedom to movement. Now some of you might
be skeptical of this. You might say, look, humans
are fundamentally good. If you give ’em that freedom,
they have a conscience. They’re not going to try
to do this to other people. But some of you might be
able to cite times in society where there’s more of an anarchy where actually people might devolve. And even if one or two or three, or even if a majority of
the people have a conscience and aren’t willing to imprison others and punish people arbitrarily, if even a few people are not willing to respect other people’s rights, everything might devolve. And it’s worth talking about
the historical context here because this was near the
end of the English Civil War, where there was chaos, where people were asking these questions. Well, what type of
government should we have? And when there isn’t a strong government, all of this chaos is really
all about person versus person. It wasn’t this degree of chaos
that Hobbes is writing about, this kind of natural
state without government, but this was a context where
there was a lot of bloodshed, a lot of war, and a lot of chaos. Now, Hobbes had a solution, and this is actually why the
book was called Leviathan. He was an advocate of a very
strong central government. This keeps people in awe alludes
to what he’s thinking of. Leviathan comes from the Old
Testament or the Hebrew Bible. It’s the name of a sea monster. But Hobbes thinks that a
government should be a Leviathan to keep everyone in check. He wrote, “When a man thinks that peace
and self-defense require it, “he should be willing,
when others are too, “to lay down his right to everything, “and should be contented “with as much liberty against other men “as he would allow other
men against himself.” Now, this idea that he’s talking about, this is today referred to as a social contract. And this term social contract is first formally used by Rousseau, another Enlightenment author, about a hundred years later, talking about this willingness
to give up some rights in order to protect the ones that you really, really,
really want to have. And you would be giving up those rights to some form of a government. That is the social
contract between the people that are governed and the
government that governs them. So going back to that previous example where every person was out for themselves, what the social contract is saying is, well, look, certain of these
rights, I really want to keep, my freedom of speech,
my freedom of property, my freedom to move around,
my freedom to have my life, my health, my happiness. In order to protect those freedoms, maybe I’m willing to give
some of my other freedoms over to a central authority, as long as everyone is
willing to give these up. And this central authority
that we give it up to is a government. And the government, because it has this, it uses these rights in order
to protect the other rights, the ones that I really want to keep. So the government enforces
these other rights, and that’s the social contract. I give away these rights in order to protect the ones that I really, really care about. And that makes sense, but it still leaves a
very, very big question. What form should this government take? I’m willing to engage
in this social contract, but how does this government govern? How are the leaders selected? What are the constraints
on that government? And that will be our focus as we study government and politics.

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44 thoughts on “The social contract | Foundations of American democracy | US government and civics | Khan Academy

  1. Hi

    This video is not on your site. Is it normal to find videos on youtube that are not under a subject in the site? Or are you planning to launch a new subject topic where this video will be a part of?


  2. Government makes sense, but not a government that attempts to be the sole economic provider for society. A welfare state perpetuates many of our societies biggest problems, such as single motherhood and gynocentrism. Also, it is difficult for a government run by elitist to efficiently allocate funds (ie military industrial complex). Both oligarchy and perpetual welfare create an inefficient government and inefficient society. Government must incentivize personal responsibility, accountability and efficiency of its citizens if the society in which it governs is to survive long-term.

  3. Of course you need government. At least in a democracy a government is theoretically accountable. If government goes something will fill that gap and I guarantee you it won’t be accountable. Even without government people and groups will eventually group together to stop another stronger person or group. The libertarian and anarchy dreams are an illusion. Question. How can you own property without government? Who’s the authority? Good argument.

  4. What we need is Qualified Jury Duty for all seats of Office. A Government that serves to resolve conflicts of interest, and gives zero incentive to maintain a seat of power, but rather incentivize performance in the role they were assigned as a temporary representative. There is no reason not to do this. The Criminal Justice System is overwhelmed with imaginary security theater and failures in public education. It has the capacity to evaluate and assign seats of power based on pools of randomly selected citizens. It would just mean we stop trying to fill private prisons for profit.

    Every seat of power should be selected like Jury duty, and all conflicts should be solved using a standardized measure of informed authority regardless of income level.

    So what we actually need, is to establish a standardized version of what it means to be "informed" and offer that education freely to every citizen using this internet platform that should have already resulted in free public education, yet somehow hasn't due to corporate ownership, and corrupt politicians.

    We absolutely need Government, but the uneducated and ill informed cannot consent to be Governed. We need common sense to no longer rank as a super power, then we need the the populous to step up and play a mandatory role in shaping policy as required by the evolution of society.

    We need to modify the Social Contract to include temporary service for all able-minded and adequately informed citizens. And we need to meet every requirement in that contract completely. Then this great social experiment can evolve into the next revolutionary stage in human development. Whatever it happens to be.

  5. I think Thomas Jefferson summarized it best:

    "Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual."

  6. We need one but not corrupted. Although, who ever try to reach and take a position in the government would possibly be corrupted because most greedy sick people look forward to these positions… which leads us to yhe point that almost all governments are corrupted and will stay the same.

  7. A liberal government would not be a bad solution. But the problem is that a judge, who decides between a citizen and a police officer, theoretically is on the same side as the police officer. Therefore, in the long run private solutions, even of law and security, will be handeled privately.

  8. I agree that without the government you are free to do as you please AS LONG AS YOU DONT INFRINGE ON THE RIGHT OF SOMEBODY ELSE TO DO THE SAME!
    It is never permissable to murder/steal/imprison somebody – not even if you are a government. So you see, the emergence of government does not really solve the issue. It just waves the magic wand and says: ONLY the government is allowed to murder(war)/steal(tax)/and imprison people.

  9. If I disagree with the social contract, I cannot refuse it as you would any real contract. A contract or an agreement needs to have consent from every party, therefore the social contract rationale for a state is only working if every citizen willingly signs a contract

  10. This presents a very pessimistic view of human nature. People can band together for mutual benefit without the need for master and servant relationship.

  11. We don't need the "government" (such as it is) that we have NOW. He has no gd idea what he's doing, had NO experience when he arrived and who's going to put a person with NO experience in the top leading position in the country? Would you put me in the operating room, where I used to work, as the doctor when I have no experience with it? Experience counts for SOMEthing.
    You're all going to find out the hard way what all this NON-experience is going to get us. Every one of us.
    Even Forbes magazine and people on Wall Street have a problem w/ him.
    This time next year we'll all be sorry Putin was ever born (he's the one who made this administration happen.)

  12. The obvious problem with all of this is ( not the video the system ) is that in anarchy everyone has all the power and freedom.
    In that system we trust everyone to behave civilized and be good people. Which very often fails because all it takes is a few bad people to screw up the entire system.

    Then in a governmental ruled system we put our faith and our trust into the people leading that government.
    The same people that we would trust to stay civlized in an anarchy.

    A governmental ruled system is surely the wiser option of the two, but the main problem, man, and his weaknesses his corruption his greed, his fear is still a problem.

    I don't know a single government that isn't plagued by such problems.

  13. What a load of rubbish. We have a system of natural law and common law. Laws of the land. We live in 2017 lol what are you implying? So the rich who manipulated us don't get away with murder? Punish us? Murder us? Refuse our freedom of movement? Would you like all of my proof of history? Slavery?

  14. If everyone has right to everything, they can infringe to other people … Well, with central authority the problem is still there, those in power still can abuse it. The social contract does not imply central government as you seem to present it. Decentralized authority can serve the same and is moderately harder to abuse. (propaganda and mass manipulation is still a problem and probably one hardest to address)

  15. Why should absence of government imply absence of rules or governance? Which evidence supported Hobbes assumptions? And, which evidence supports extrapolating Hobbes assumptions to any other form of social organization besides his?

  16. in that example of no government, a person has the right, as was stated, to tax or imprison another person. doesn't that other person then have the right to defend themselves against what they see as false imprisonment or an attempt to steal personal property? if the former person decided to enforce their will on others as such, and had to hire or find others to help them achieve that, isn't that a form of government? personally i think that just because there may not be a government, with no set laws, and now way to enforce that, i don't think that necessarily means we can do whatever we want to another person with no repercussion. if there was no government and no law it would still be wrong for me to take another person's property.
    on Hobbes, it seems that he has the view that humans are inherently bad. if that is the case, and we are inherently bad, then why should we trust other people to govern us? are only some of us inherently bad? are people who are elected to govern not inherently bad by some virtue of the position they are elected to? if people are inherently bad, then how can they be expected to elect the best possible person to a position of government?

  17. The narrator ignores the fact without government, we still have the right to defend our liberty individually, and as a community.

  18. Government use The Army and the Police to practice nr 5 and nr 6..
    So those "rights" don't go away with government, they are just monopolized and usually sent overseas, where we don't see them so much..
    But eventually they will come home to roost.. -as we see these days?

  19. For such a we'll accredited guide through many subjects and ideas, you've failed greatly. For example, you claim in a world without a government nothing would stop someone form owning someone else, which is pure folie. In such a world you own yourself and if anyone try to say or act contrairy to that then you have the right for self defense. However, in a world with government —which is commonly defined as an organization with a monopoly on force and power— you are a slave to that government. Let me elaborate; there's only one way a government can opporate and that it by taxing all those who are subjected to its jurisdiction, taxation is just another of say that you are enitled to someone else's labour [without their consent ~ aka theft], meaning that you own the means of production which in this case is another person, therefore as long as there is a government all those who are ruled by that government are just mere slaves without agency and just objects to be exploited

  20. When you create offices of power, men who seek power over other men, seek office. This simple fact has led to our present state of complete kakistocracy and psychopathocracy.

  21. When exactly did I sign this contract. I think we do need a government but it should be a small as physically possible. With them only protecting from foreign invasion and keeping a small police force to protect peoples life and property. The government has no business controlling peoples loves like they currently do.

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