What We Owe To Each Other

Allan Milne Lees
6 min readJan 27, 2020

What happens when everyone is convinced they have rights, but abjure responsibilities?

Image credit: Freedom Food

The philosopher Timothy Scanlon wrote a book several decades ago in which he elaborated a philosophical position known as contractualism, the core of which is the question of what we owe to each other. As anyone who’s watched the Netflix series The Good Place will know, the question has even made its way into popular culture.

Fortunately, this article isn’t going to be about abstract philosophical musings. Instead, we’re going to focus on the everyday pragmatic issues that are essential for social cohesion.

Aside from a few sad little anarchists who pretend life would be better if we had no rules, no structures, and no generally accepted values, most of us vaguely understand that we’d be dead within a few hours unless civilization was there to provide the cocoon within which we can go about our daily lives.

Unfortunately, civilization is wafer-thin and far more vulnerable than most people realize. Today Western civilization is in its closing phase. This article will look at the various forces that are tearing our societies apart and which ultimately will lead to the widespread establishment of tyranny as the only alternative to absolute social collapse.

Interestingly, a great many of these forces all stem from the same root:

We all scream loudly for ever-more rights, but we all want to walk away from any concept of personal responsibility.

While Adam Smith was absolutely correct that a regulated free market is far better at allocating resources than any centrally-planned economy can ever be, he wrote The Wealth of Nations early in the development of a more market-oriented society. What he could not foresee, therefore, was that a relentless focus on the consumer would inevitably result in a society in which endless consumption is seen as the predominant factor.

Over time, we all become more child-like. We want and expect more of everything: more toys, more clothes, more food. Our metaphorical mouths are perpetually open, seeking instant gratification and fussing when we have to wait for anything. We come to expect things as our due and are very unhappy whenever reality disobliges us.

Allan Milne Lees

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.