Final Philosophy: Fallout’s Enclave Vs. The Social Contract


In previous articles, I’ve discussed the contradictory nature of underwater libertarian dictatorships, which are invariably doomed to fail. But now, let me turn the tables and talk about the legitimacy of post-apocalyptic oligarchic juntas. Let’s talk about the Enclave of Fallout 2 and 3.

The Fallout series is set 200 years after a world-devastating nuclear war between the United States, the USSR, and China. The landscape has been irrevocably scarred by an atomic holocaust, destroying every single pre-war power. Well, except one. The United States was able to maintain continuity by evacuating the president’s cabinet and some of the brightest minds in the country to a fortified offshore oil platform, effectively becoming the glorified rump state of the United States of America – commonly known as the “Enclave.” They waited there for over two hundred years, biding their time and marshaling their forces until they were ready to retake the mainland by wiping out the mutants, raiders, and irradiated denizens of Old America.

You know, conceivably the United States government didn't go all evil until AFTER the war, yet this sinister looking oil rig was constructed before the bombs fell. No, seriously, what's up with those fucking faces?

You know, conceivably the United States government didn’t go all evil until AFTER the war, yet this sinister looking oil rig was constructed before the bombs fell. No, seriously, what’s up with those fucking Easter Island faces?

After President Dick Richardson was killed and the Enclave was destroyed in Fallout 2, the line of succession passed to an artificial intelligence located in a Washington DC military bunker. It was designed to carry on the functions of the United States government in the event of catastrophe. To better serve its function, the AI drew upon the psychological profiles of all previous presidents and synthesized the presidential persona of John Henry Eden.

Given the Lone Wanderer’s duty to protect the people of the wasteland, and the Enclave’s goal of wiping those people out, it seem natural that the Enclave would take on the role of “bad guy.” And if this was a purely ethical debate, it might end there. But when considering political philosophy, the question gets more complicated; is the Enclave the rightful successor to the United States Government? And if so, what are our obligations to the Enclave? Plus, can a computer be president?

When Thomas Hobbes wrote that anyone who lives outside of society is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” he almost certainly could have been writing about life in the Capital Wasteland. In the absence of a unified government, people were forced to fend for themselves in a violent anarchy. And although small bastions of civilization formed over the two hundred years of post-war devastation, they were like tiny islands of order in a sea of bloody chaos. These islands sprung up across the former United States, either on a small scale, like Megaton or Arroyo, or on a large scale, like New California Republic or Caesar’s Legion. However, classical social contract theorists would argue that one covenant cannot override the previous one. The right to rule remains with the authority who established the original social contract, and in this case, that’s the government of the United States of America.

Uncle Sam Wants You! just do everyone a favor and kill yourself, you mutated scum.

Uncle Sam Wants You! …to just do everyone a favor and kill yourself, you mutated scum.

Modern contractualists, starting with John Locke, argued that the people do not surrender their right to revolution when they submit to a social contract, but this doesn’t mean that so-called “states” like the NCR are legitimate. While the people retain the right to “alter, reform, or abolish” their previous form of government, the United States government was not deposed by its people, but rather by the Soviets and the Chinese. So, the United States isn’t violating its side of the social contract due to its two-hundred-year-long absence from the mainland. It was restricted from doing so by a lack of resources.

In fact, although we can say that the Enclave has not fulfilled its terms of the contract, due its murderous intentions not being in the best interest of the citizens, this does not constitute a nullification of the contract. It’s simply a violation. Barring any specific action by either the state or the people, the contract remains binding to both. Therefore, the terms of the contract must be “enforced” on the state by the citizens, either in the form of elections, legislation, or armed rebellion.

Okay, say what you will about the Enclave, their suits are badass.

Okay, so maybe “enforcement” of the social contract on these guys might be a little harder than I thought.

Plus, we can further bolster this point by arguing that the Enclave and the United States government are not the same entity. The Enclave is a group of people presently holding the reins of power in the United States government – like how the Nazi Party seized control of post-war Germany. If that’s true, it’s possible to oppose the Enclave while remaining a patriot.

Unfortunately, this is not the goal of pseudo-states like the NCR, who have established their own states (and their own nations) with social contracts that are in diametric opposition to the United States. This means that, until such a time comes that the NCR or another like organization defeats the Enclave, the one legitimate government of the United States is a genocidal group of power armor-wearing thugs.