This is a good debate and I want in on it.
My own personal take is to look at a bit of locally relevant history, namely HenryI, who happens to be buried in Reading Abbey (or at least part of him is).
Henry came to power in dubious circumstances (William II had been killed in a 'hunting accident' while the second-in-line was on a crusade) and was by all accounts a stern king, but by the standards of the time he introduced a fantastic precedent with his legal defence of his usurpation of the throne.
With his proclamation of his 'Charter of Liberties' Henry returned the ancient freedoms enjoyed by the English before the invasion of Willian 'The Conqueror' less than half a century before. In the meantime the nation had been ravaged as the population was brutally repressed in what some have considered a 'genocide', with at least ten percent of the population starving when their fields were sown with salt, while other whole settlements were butchered wholesale. The population was seething and Henry decided to take his chance by giving everyone what they wanted.
With this single act he ensured the legitimacy of the rule of law was bound by accountability to popular consent, and he subsequently set about reintroducing a form of democracy into the land.
His definition of 'good government' resulted in his popular nickname of 'Beauclerc' (though this is sometimes considered a reflection of his scholarliness, I don't think there is much dissonance between the two).
The Charter of Liberties enacted in 1100 was referenced by anyone with a grievance and became the blueprint for the Magna Carta in 1215 after being updated three times in the intervening century.
From thereon in the history of a 'social contract' between governor and governed has been a form of exchange entailing mutual rights and expectations, with specified means of recourse where breaches occur.
Government can use compulsion against individuals where it has been agreed to through the correct channels, but it should be ensured that any use of it should be minimal. Equally it has become incumbent on the party in power to seek reconfirmation at reasonably regular intervals to ensure any mandate is maintained.
This last point is particularly important at the current time because Gordon Brown was not elected as leader of his party and has not won a general election as leader, so he is in a tenuous position even on the least controversial matters. So when it comes to unilateral impositions which fundamentally affect the relationship between the individual and the state, such as ID Cards, he oversteps the mark by a long way.
The tenor of discussion has been almost unambiguously critical of the way the 'social contract' has been defined by Labour, and I agree with much of it, though I prefer to emphasise the caveats. Yes, consent cannot be assumed in perpetuity. Yes, you cannot agree to something which you cannot actually read. And, yes, any written statement is only valid insofar as it is a statement of reality.
But my contention with those who disagree with the idea of a 'social contract' is slightly more nuanced. It's not that the social contract is 'wrong' or 'non-existent', or that you can 'just leave' if you don't like what your government is doing, but that the social contract also includes within it a legal justification for the overthrow of a tyrranical leader if they break it's conditions.
So to deny the social contract is to pave the way for tyrrants.
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