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Sundering the Social Contract

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Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The conflict between property rights and human rights has entered a new chapter. It is a debate that goes back to the challenge by landowners and merchants behind the American Revolution's war on British control over the colonial economy.

Only today, as those speaking in the name of the 99 percent challenge the super wealthy of the 1 percent (actually the .001 percent), there is a new battleground in what's known as the housing market with as many as 14 million Americans in or facing foreclosure.

The defense of property rights is the holy of the holies for the propertied classes with a whole industry set up to enforce their claims of ownership.

We have seen how this plays out with the courts, run by often bought-off and complicit judges rubber-stamping claims by banks and realty interests even when laws are disregarded amidst fraudulent filings, biased contracts, and phony robot signings.

They control the marshals who seize your property and they constantly denigrate the real victims as "irresponsible." It's not surprising any more to read about banks foreclosing on properties they don't even own.

European philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who postulated the "social contract" that gives property rights a moral claim, would be turning in his grave if he knew of the many abuses that homeowners in the U.S. face daily.

According to one scholarly presentation I read...

"In order to clearly present Rousseau's views on property in the Social Contract, we must first define what he means by property. Property according to Rousseau is that which is obtained legally thereby purporting legitimate claim to one's holdings. Now we must consider what gives an individual the right to openly claim ownership.

"Rousseau points out that right does not equal might. In other words, having a right can never derive from force. A right must be given legitimately which means it is attached to moral and legal code. This makes it contractual whereby the rights of one are applied to the rights of all. Once a right is established, it is beneficial and necessary for the individual to apply this right effectively for his best interests and those of the whole.

"This motivation is directed at the formation of community thereby creating a social contract between individuals that come together to act as a group. Now a combination of rights is formed whereby each individual is protected by the whole group that stands together as a community.

"The concept is that man standing alone is more vulnerable than many men united each in defense of the other. This condition makes it impossible for one to hurt an individual without hurting the whole group or for one to hurt the group without affecting each individual.

"There is now a social contract where individual rights are combined. In this case, it is in the best interest of the individual to give over his rights to the group since he has a more powerful protective base than standing alone."

And yet many of us today do "stand alone" -- in the commercial marketplace where borrowers are seen as suckers by lenders and fraud is pervasive. Abuse, lying and theft are built into the equation.

Now President Barack Obama says, four years after the markets began melting down and the sub-prime mortgages were exposed as sub-crime, he will crack down on these abuses. Hallelujah.

It sounds good, and you want to believe, especially because Obama has tapped New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who has rejected settling with some banks engaged in massive frauds because it's a deceptive deal, as a top gun for the effort.

The Justice Department has announced more details to the press, minus its own official who will run the effort. Lanny Breuer, assistant attorney general for the criminal division, was "traveling" and couldn't make the press conference. Before joining the Department that calls itself Justice, Breuer was working for a law firm representing big banks, perhaps not a topic he wanted to answer questions about.

Attorney General Eric Holder was there to reveal that there will be 55 people working on this full-time, 30 attorneys and support people, and 10 FBI agents who first blew the whistle on "pervasive real estate fraud" back in 2004.

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News Dissector Danny Schechter is blogger in chief at Mediachannel.Org He is the author of PLUNDER: Investigating Our Economic Calamity (Cosimo Books) available at Amazon.com. See (more...)
 
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