“Citizens assert to honour the rights of others in return for assurances that their own rights will be protected.” Thomas Hobbes
The social contract
Along with his rather fine facial hair, Thomas Hobbes sported some pretty fine thinking. With some other great thinkers like John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, he helped lay the ground for modern democracies through his discourses on the social contract. A path out of our nasty, brutish and short lives, the social contract described an implicit agreement between people to cooperate to protect themselves and one another. Importantly, this contract necessitated the sacrifice of certain personal freedoms in return for state protection of the rights, security and health of its citizens.
Dark passengers, lurking
At a TEDxBrussels event on April 5th 2012 I spoke about the need for us all to revisit the more specific social contract of vaccination. This need is well illustrated in the progress and setbacks of the Global Polio Eradication Campaign. Polio was driven back by the biggest volunteer army (which includes child soldiers) ever assembled in human history, until by 2006 it was hanging on in only 4 countries. The rest of the world was free of polio.