Social Contract Theory

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To ensure public safety and protection is properly provided to all citizens equally, many societies fee that the best decision is to relinquish some of their rights in favor of a government control over this protection. However, with this decisions come many different ideas, concepts, and factor that determine when the central government no longer provides the services which they are obligated to perform. Although many of these ideas and theories are centuries old, they do play a vital role in the modern day criminal justice system. This paper will discuss the concept of the social contract theory, specifically that of John Locke, and examine how the concepts of his theory pertain to current events involving the criminal justice system. The social contract theory of John Locke was based on the idea that individuals lived in a state of nature, which in Locke’s opinion, was a place of peace that lacked any type of civil leadership or authority (Lawson, 1990). In this state of nature, each individual had his or her own rights to seek justice for crimes committed against them in whatever fashion they felt was fitting. However, in Locke’s Second Treatise, he discussing the idea that since every single individual is not equally suited to take on the role of being the judge, jury, and executioner, it is in the best interest of society to give up these rights in favor of a civil society where the state took on the role of maintaining order (Lawson, 1990). Many of the ideas formed in Locke’s social contract theory mimic the modern criminal justice system. As citizens of a society, we give up many of our rights to protect ourselves in favor or a centralized system or rule governed by elected officials. Under this state governed society, individuals would have the freedom to live their lives without having to worry about protection. However, Locke also brings up the ideas of when individuals have the rights to go against the states authority when the protection from...
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