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The Boston Globe

Opinion

The Podium

A social contract tested

I didn’t understand until this week the crux of a civics lesson I learned in seventh grade: that in a civil society, we trade away the right of reprisal — to hurt the people who hurt us — for the right to live, peaceably, in a larger group. If the state to which we cede control is benign and can be trusted with the power we give it, the contract holds. If not, we get corruption, distrust, non-accountable government, and repression.

This past week America’s social contract, forged in no small part in Massachusetts, was tested.

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