Acton Institute Powerblog

The True Social Contract

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Uncontrolled public debt threatens to rupture society, says Niall Ferguson, as the older generation thrives at the expense of the young.

In his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), Edmund Burke wrote that the real social contract is not Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s contract between the sovereign and the people or “general will”, but the “partnership” between the generations. He writes: “SOCIETY is indeed a contract… The state … is … a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.” In the enormous intergenerational transfers implied by current fiscal policies we see a shocking and perhaps unparalleled breach of precisely that partnership, so brilliantly described by Burke.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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