“The concept of good is the distinguishing feature of any act we call moral” (Souryal, 2007, p. 72). Our ethics are guided by our morals. The government and the criminal justice system must be fair, ethical and unbiased. They must work with a code of ethics. These codes of ethics will “provide moral guidelines and professional standards of conduct” (Souryal, 2007, p. 111). Members of the criminal justice system have moral obligations and qualities that have to be met. The standards that they are held to are of the highest level and hold them to the obligations of honesty, fidelity, and duty (Souryal, 2007). This helps to explain the existence of social contract.
According to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2004) the social contract theory “is the view that persons’ moral and/or political obligations are dependent upon a contract or agreement among them to form the society in which the live” (para. 1). This theory keeps people from being treated unjustly. It proposes that we are individuals with different identities, that we are equal, that we create society, and that acting human we can maintain that we are free and equal (Souryal, 2007). The social contract theory is known through three different people. They are Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and most importantly John Locke.
Thomas Hobbes believed that there was a need for a central authority to settle conflicts and settle disputes. Entering into a social contract would help them to become a civil society. He felt that society was led by their emotions and that self-preservation would eventually lead to war. He felt that the only solution was to have a commonwealth ruled by a ruler or king and that is the only way that peace would be kept, justice served and happiness achieved (Souryal, 2007).
Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed that all men are created to be equal and therefore no one has the right to rule or judge another. He believes that every citizen should decide collectively on how to live together and what laws should be enacted. He also noted that the citizens must live in close areas. If they are spread out so they cannot meet on a regular basis this social contract would not work. He believed that society most invoke their free will and constitute themselves politically. This would be good for society both individually and collectively (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2004). John Locke used some of Hobbes’s theory but built upon it to make it a greater society contract. He believed in liberalism and a more liberal form of government. He wanted group economic and prosperity and disliked anything that did not fall under those guidelines. He believed and had trust in society’s moral judgment and felt as if the government should only be used to settle extreme disputes. He believed that natural law was a way to freedom, market economy, commerce and happiness. He proposed separation of powers and a system of checks and balances (Souryal, 2007). So there we have three different theories to the social contracts. We have Hobbes’s idea that we should be ruled by a ruler or a king, Rousseau’s idea that we should all rule ourselves and make our own laws, and Locke’s idea of liberalism which is what society is built on today.
The key principles of Locke’s social contract are economics and limited rule for the government. Locke believed that society should have free commerce and be able market the economy as they see fit. They should be able to obtain their wealth through a free economical society. The government should setup and pass the laws for society but in doing so not infringe on societies freedom. The government should uphold those laws and administer punishment to anyone that breaks those laws. Societies freedom should come first and foremost in the eyes of the government when passing laws or dealing out punishment.
Locke’s principles were used within the Bill of Rights. He believed that even though there was a government to help to run our society he felt that an individual’s freedom should be sacrificed for this government. Freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, and freedom of speech and press are freedoms of society and therefore should not be taken away and within the bill of rights it states that no law should be passed to take these freedoms away. A regulated militia shall not overshadow the freedom and right to bear arms. The freedom to protect their homes from against unreasonable searches and seizures, a speedy trial, non-excessive bail, and trial by a jury of their peers also follows Locke’s principles. The government will not act upon their own but only by the power that the Constitution allows them (U.S. Bill of Rights, n.d.).
Locke’s principles play a role in the criminal justice system. His idea that an individuals freedom must not be infringed upon is one of the most important in the criminal justice system. The rights of citizens must not be violated even as they are being arrested for breaking the laws setup by the government. An individual must not be held for an indefinite time before they stand trial for the crimes they are accused of. An individuals privacy must not be violated. All paperwork must be in order if they are to be observed or search and seizure of any properties. Private security firms are not held to the same standards as our criminal justice system. They do not require all of the paperwork that the justice system does. They can use survelience equipment that cannot be used by the justice system. Private security firms are not held to the same moral and ethical standards that the criminal justice system is. The criminal justice system must follow strict guidelines that make sure that they do not violate a citizens rights. They cannot lie and cheat to make the case. This is not the same rules that private security has to follow they can use all means possible to get the job done.
Natural law is the law of humanity. Human reason is what natural law is based upon and supercedes legislative law. It is the moral obligations of human beings. The fundamentals of the natural law is used in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. These rights state that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights; everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person; no one shall be subjected to slavery or servitude; no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; everyone is equal before the law; everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; and everyone is entitled to all of the rights and freedoms set forth in the declaration” (Souryal, 2007, p. 87). According to Souryal (2007), “there are natural law principles that restrict state power. They are governments shall not deprive anyone of liberty or citizenship; governments shall not banish individuals; governments shall not disallow habeas corpus; and governments shall not arbitrarily deprive anyone of property” (p. 87). These are freedoms that individuals were born with and have the right to practice. The natural laws are things that the governments have no right to infringe upon.
Freedom does not give an individual the right to break the law to justify their means. An individual must live by ethical standards and obligations just as the criminal justice system must follow the same standards and obligations. Criminal jusctice systems have standards and obligations that they have to follow. The members of the system has to follow the law and be fair and unbiased at the same time. They must protect society and their rights. Individuals have their rights and freedoms set down by the bill of rights. They have the freedom of speech but this does not mean that they have the right to harm someone elses reputation. They have the right to bear arms but this does not mean that they have the right to shoot and wound or kill someone else. They have freedom of religion which means that everyone has the right to choose what religion they want to practice without being condemned for it. These are all personal rights that require some ethics to practice them properly.
Locke’s ideas concerning liberalism could have been thought as being too idealistic. Without these ideas it would have been a possibility that the idea of liberty and free enterprise in the world today would not have been possible. Many of Locke’s principles were used in forming the Declaration of Independence. As a result we as a nation are free and prosperous today (Souryal, 2007).