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The Conservatives' Social Darwinism is Fine - Only it Goes Against Western Democracy

Posted: 09/25/2013 2:12 pm

Conservatives have cobbled together a strange world view. They do not, largely, believe in biological evolution but they do believe in 'social Darwinism' (which Darwin himself did not). At a very basic level, the problem with 'survival of the fittest', as an ideology, is that it directly contradicts the basic principles that modern, western democracy was founded on.

Underlying the basic constitutions, laws and other documents which laid the foundations for modern representative democracy was the 'social contract'. The social contract, for those who don't know, is according to Merriam Webster:

"An actual or hypothetical agreement among the members of an organized society or between a community and its ruler that defines and limits the rights and duties of each."

More specifically it is the theoretical foundation of civilization itself. According to philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose ideas were instrumental in the French and American revolutions again from Merriam Webster:
"Rousseau held that in the state of nature people are unwarlike but also undeveloped in reasoning and morality; in surrendering their individual freedom, they acquire political liberty and civil rights within a system of laws based on the "general will" of the governed."

But, the idea of Social Darwinism sits in opposition to this idea. While the social contract may, in theory, keep you from attacking your neighbors and stealing their food it only works so long as you have the ability to acquire your own food.

This may not have occurred to the framers of the American Constitution or others of their era. At that time an individual could, if cities failed to provide economic opportunity, strike out on their own. In the United States of the early 19th century (as well as Canada and most of Europe) an individual could pack up their family and belongings and head into the wilderness. They could build a small dwelling, farm, hunt, fish and 'live off the land'. In 2013 that is no longer possible. In a world with a population of 7 billion people, virtually any and all land capable of supporting human life is claimed either by private citizens, governments or both. This is where the 'contract' idea begins to break down.

In the early days of man, social Darwinism was largely how things worked. If your neighbour had food and you needed food, you could hit him with a rock and take it. In theory we abandoned this approach and formed "civilizations" to get away from that approach. We entered into a social contract which took away some of our freedom, but prevented us from being hit with rocks. At that time it seemed like a good idea. There was, no doubt, poverty but there were cures for it.

In 2013 the game is rigged. Tax policies have concentrated a great deal of wealth at the top and, contrary to the promises of Reagan and Thatcher, none of it 'trickles down'. Life continues to get more expensive, but incomes for most people haven't gone up in decades. Meanwhile 'austerity measures' largely based on bad math have gutted programs meant to help people in the bottom 90% of income brackets. If you're willing to take on massive debt loads you can go to university but, currently, that gets you no closer to a good job or a better income. (As a side note, any good historian will tell you that a mass of unemployed or underemployed university graduates is not a sign of good things to come.)

So, let's look at that contract again. After all a contract, in order to be valid, must be entered into willingly with both parties getting some benefit from it.  So, someone puts this contract in front of you today: The contract says that you will not steal, or kill, or assault, or use drugs or jaywalk. It also says that you can 'look for employment'. In the fine print though it says that the job situation doesn't look good, and may get much worse. Also the social safety net and programs designed to help you to succeed have largely been scrapped. In other words a system of "survival of the fittest" where "the fittest" had already been chosen, but where you were free to fight over the scraps so long as you didn't bother anyone important. Also, the "rights" that were originally guaranteed to everyone had been scaled back in order to keep people from bothering anyone important. Would you sign that contract as is?

If the answer to that question is "no" then the contract isn't valid or binding and we have a huge problem. If the social contract isn't valid or binding then people may be legally or morally prevented from acquiring goods "by any means necessary" but they are not really ethically prevented from doing so. U.S. prisons are filled with people most of whom found it impossible to survive within the system and all of those people will find it harder, not easier, to make a living legitimately on their release.

The social contract is, quite simply, broken. It is null and void and needs to be repaired. Conservative social Darwinist approaches offer no solutions. That approach has utterly failed and has only been practiced (in the pure form desired by the far right) by the most brutal, violent and repressive societies in human history. Even in the our days as nomadic hunter gatherers a skilled or lucky hunter would share with their tribe and not horde provisions while their clansmen starved.

If we are to survive and avoid violent upheaval we have to renegotiate the social contract for the world we live in, rather than the world our ancestors did and create a situation, globally, where the basic necessities of survival and the basic tools for self advancement are guaranteed and unalienable. The only alternative is a slow decent into brutality and chaos that could set civilization back centuries.

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  • Stephen Harper and wife Laureen in 2011. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8472663517/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • Beer Me!

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper gets behind the bar at the Victoria pub in Montreal Friday, March 16, 2012 where he stopped in to meet some supporters and have a drink for St. Patricks Day.

  • You Eat Half, And I'll Eat Half

    Conservative leader Stephen Harper and Laureen Harper stand next to a tray of hot cross buns at a bakery in Mississauga, on April 23, 2011.

  • Cuddle Time!

    Stephen Harper with wife Laureen and their chinchilla Charlie. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8425819048/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • Easy Rider

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper waves after going for an ATV ride as he visits a farm for a campaign event in Wainfleet Ont., on Monday, April 4, 2011.

  • Nom Nom Nom

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper eats maple taffy as he visits a sugar shack in Norbertville, Quebec on Tuesday, April 5, 2011.

  • Muahhh

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives his wife Laureen a kiss following a day of G-20 meetings in Toronto. June 27, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=938&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Can I Keep Them?

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper plays with foster kittens at 24 Sussex. May 1, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=900&media_category_typ_id=6&media_id=5512" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Incoming!

    Conservative Leader Stephen Harper throws a small snowball at photographers after talking with reporters at a campaign stop in Guelph, Ontario Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006.

  • Thank God You're Not Wearing Overalls

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives Taylor Swift the book "Maple Leaf Forever" before her concert at Scotiabank Place in Ottawa. May 20, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=900&media_category_typ_id=6&media_id=5512" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Wedding Crasher

    Stephen Harper <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2012/10/23/harper-wedding-photos-ottawa_n_2006374.html" target="_blank">surprises an Ottawa couple on their wedding day</a> in 2012.

  • Yep, Definitely A Cat Person

    Laureen Harper laughs as she holds a husky dog with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as they tour Caribou Crossing, Yukon, south of Whitehorse Monday August 20, 2012.

  • Harper Road

    Stephen Harper, his children Ben and Rachel, and wife Laureen cross Abbey Road in 2009. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/12OfGXN" target="_blank">Facebook</a>

  • Bonjour, Bonhomme

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper hams it up with Bonhomme Carnaval in the Prime Minister's Centre Block Office. November 25, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1238&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Trendsetter

    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, far left, watches a third round match between Agnieszka Radwanska, of Poland, and Serbia's Jelena Jankovic with his children Rachel, center, and Benjamin, right, at the 2012 US Open tennis tournament, Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012, in New York.

  • Psst! I Like Your Hat

    Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, speaks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on July 1, 2011.

  • Whoops, How Did This Get In Here...

    Part of a painting of Prime Minister Stephen Harper fully nude, by Kingston artist Maggie Sutherland, is shown at the Central Kingston public library in Kingston, Ont. on May 18, 2012.

  • Giggle Fit!

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his son Ben watch a bloopers show while attending the Calgary Flames NHL hockey game against the Edmonton Oilers in Calgary, Saturday, April 11, 2009.

  • In The Key Of C Major

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper practices a few chords after arriving at home from work. February 19, 2011. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1457&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Love You, Mom

    Conservative leader Stephen Harper gets a hug from his mother Margaret during a visit to his campaign office in Calgary, Saturday May 29, 2004.

  • We Can't All Grow A Pirate 'Stache Like Trudeau

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper holds up a moustache scarf to kick off the start of ‘Movember’, November 1, 2012 Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8146161138/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • The Sweet Side Of Politics

    Senior Legislative Assistant, Katherine Locke, left, and Government House Leader Special Assistant, Zoe Lawson, show off their House of Commons gingerbread house to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in his office on Dec. 16, 2010. The gingerbread house was filled with rows of gummi bears as members of Parliament. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1355&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Beach Boy

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper waves to tourists as he walks on the beach after the closing of the VI Summit of the Americas on April 15, 2012 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia.

  • Game Face

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper plays a game of table tennis with Team Canada's Mo Zhang at Canada House in London on Tuesday, June 5, 2012.

  • Whaddya Mean It Doesn't Fit?

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper tries on an old hockey helmet at he tours the Yukon's Hockey History exhibit at the McBride Museum in Whitehorse, Yukon on Thursday, August 25, 2011.

  • Goooaaaaallll!

    Stephen Harper, his son Ben, and Wayne Gretzky watch the men's ice hockey team's gold medal game at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8457917081/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • Who Said Politics Can't Be Fun?

    Stephen Harper and his son Ben hit balloons into the crowd after his speech at the party's three-day policy convention in Montreal on Friday March 18, 2005.

  • Jam Sesh

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Jamie Robinson (guitar) play along with Blue Rodeo's front man Jim Cuddy, and recording artist Jimmy Rankin as they belt out a tune during a Juno Awards reception at 24, Sussex March 31, 2012. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=2099&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Party Politics

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper, looks up from dishing out pancakes at Stampede breakfast in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, July 10, 2011.

  • I Spy Something Cute

    Stephen Harper welcomes two Chinese pandas at Toronto's Pearson Airport on March 25, 2013. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8588948719/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • Flashback

    A young Stephen Harper.

  • Just Smile And Back Away Slowly

    Clowns ham it up with Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Moncton, New Brunswick. July 19, 2010. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1037&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Hats Off

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, throws Senator Gerry St. Germain's cowboy hat into the crowd after presenting him with a new one as his wife Margaret St. Germain, right, laughs during a barbecue at St. Germain's ranch in Surrey, B.C., on Monday August 6, 2012.

  • Thumbs Up, Up And Away

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper gives the thumbs up from the cockpit of his campaign plane as he arrives in Ottawa,Tuesday May 3, 2011.

  • He's A Belieber

    Stephen Harper presents Justin Bieber with a Diamond Jubilee Medal on Nov. 23, 2012. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8212520594/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • I'm With Him

    Stephen Harper and Wayne Gretzky, joined by students on an outdoor ice rink in Saskatoon on Feb. 5, 2010. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/ZTlKy6" target="_blank"> Facebook</a>

  • Shhh... This Is The Best Part

    Stephen Harper, wife Laureen and Suraksha, Grade 10, visit an IMAX theatre in Bangalore, India on Nov. 8, 2012.

  • Umm... This Is My Costume

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper poses for a photograph with Halloween trick-or-treaters at his official residence in Ottawa, Wednesday, October 31, 2012.

  • Is It Cold, Or Is It Just Me?

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper bundles up in a parka as he tours Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit, Nunavut on Thursday, February 23, 2012.

  • One Of Harper's Many Hats

    Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper adjusts his hat prior to the arrival of Britain's Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, for the official start of the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Alberta, July 8, 2011.

  • D'awww

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen play with some furry friends at the official opening of the new Ottawa Humane Society facility on July 6, 2011. Source: <a href="http://www.pm.gc.ca/eng/media_gallery.asp?media_category_id=1724&media_category_typ_id=6#cont" target="_blank">Pm.gc.ca</a>

  • Omigod, So Cute

    Met Batisse X, official mascot of the Royal 22nd Regiment, prior to welcoming French PM Jean-Marc Ayrault to Ottawa. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8554783327/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • I Can Totally Take You

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper receives a cricket lesson from Ankur Biswas, cricket team captain, at the Bishop Cotton Boys School. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/12OffwT" target="_blank">Facebook</a>

  • Mush!

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper drives a dog sled after meeting mushing teams at the Arctic Winter Games in Yellowknife, N.W.T., Monday, March 10, 2008.

  • A Very Harper Holiday

  • Hanging With The Golden Girls

    Stephen Harper meets Canada's women's hockey team, gold medal winners at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/17v6qKa" target="_blank">Facebook</a>

  • Tough Cookie

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife Laureen, left, make cookies with 10-year-old brain cancer survivor Baxton Wacholtz, right, and his mom Michelle, of Telkwa, B.C., during a photo opportunity at Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday August 7, 2012.

  • Does This Mean I'm In The Band?

    Canadian musician Jens Lindemann visits Stephen Harper before a concert. "His blue trumpet reminded me of Sgt. Pepper," according to Harper. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8519328992/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • Stanley's Not Going To Be Happy About This

    Met with Constable Dan Allen of the Child at Risk Response Team (and Cagney the dog) while in Calgary. Source: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/pmharper/8640427193/in/photostream" target="_blank">Flickr</a>

  • Say, 'Happy Halloween!'

    Prime Minister Stephen Harper points out the camera to baby Grayson, dressed up as a giraffe, during his first time trick-or-treating at 24 Sussex. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/10ppG5w" target="_blank">Facebook</a>

  • Bear Hug

    Stephen Harper hugs his daughter Rachel Hugging Rachel as results come in after the 2011 election. Source: <a href="http://on.fb.me/15WI2TY" target="_blank">Facebook</a>

 

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