The Santa Clause and The Social Contract

“The Santa Clause” brings back the feeling of my childhood Christmases from the 90’s more than any other movie. Watching it recently, however, made me notice something dark lurking in the plot of “The Santa Clause”, something that affects you and I on a daily basis.

In the movie Tim Allen’s Character, Scott Calvin, is a high-powered executive at a toy manufacturing company. Charlie, his son, is just starting to come to terms with the fact that there is no Santa Claus, but Scott tries to convince his son that Santa does exist, just to save the Christmas magic for one more year. After a reading of “T’was the Night Before Christmas”, Scott and Charlie hear a noise and rush outside to see a red-and-white clad man on the roof, only to see him fall off. Scott, looking for some ID, finds a business card that says “Santa Claus | The North Pole” and on the reverse “If something should happen to me, put on my suit. The reindeer will know what to do.” At the insistence of his giddy child Scott puts on the suit and finishes Santa’s work of delivering presents.

Bernard – The Head Elf

At the end of their ride, the reindeer take Scott and Charlie back to the North Pole, where Scott is informed by the head elf Bernard that he is the new Santa Claus. When Scott protests saying that he doesn’t want to be the new Santa, Bernard confidently tells him that he accepted the contract by putting on the suit. They look at the fine print on the card and discover that it says “In putting on the suit and entering the sleigh the wearer waves any and all rights to any previous identity, real or implied, and fully accepts the duties and responsibilities of Santa Claus in perpetuity until such time that the wearer becomes unable to do so by either accident or design.”

Scott feels trapped, and rightly so. He had no idea that putting on the suit and entering the sleigh meant that he had to give up his whole identity and perform the duties of Santa Claus for the rest of his existence!  In much the same way we find ourselves bound by a contract we didn’t know existed by performing actions, or inaction that we didn’t know signaled our entry into a contract. Instead of volunteering ourselves to be Jolly Old Saint Nick, we evidently volunteer ourselves to give up whatever taxes our respective legislatures decide they need from us and obey any and all laws they decide to thrust upon us. What is this contract you may ask? Well “the social contact” of course. We will find that both “The Santa Clause” and “the social contract” are non-binding for many of the same reasons.

Contracts generally have 3 necessary elements;


An offer occurs when one party expresses intent to enter into a contract and provides all the information to the other party necessary for him to give an informed “yes”, and enter into the contract. In Scott Calvin’s case there was no offer made because the print on the card was so fine that Scott could not read the terms of the contract and was not aware of any contract being offered. “The Social Contract” was supposedly agreed upon at our birth, but no offer containing the details of the contract was ever explicitly made to us.

This makes both contracts invalid.


In order for a contract to be legally binding, it must be accepted by all parties of the contract. The terms of acceptance are often laid out in the contract. For Scott Calvin, the terms of acceptance were putting on the Santa suit and entering the sleigh, though because the print was so tiny that it was illegible without a magnifying glass this counts as an “unfair surprise” and is not legally binding. Equally, parties to “the social contract” have no idea that they are accepting it. Either by being born in a certain geographical location or simply staying there we are said to give our consent. Surprise! You have to give the legislature whatever it demands and obey all its rules because you exist in a specific geographic area! If that’s not an unfair surprise, I don’t know what is.

This makes both contracts invalid.


In a legal sense, consideration means payment. In a normal contract for instance a painter’s consideration would be painting a house and the homeowner’s consideration would be paying him $100. “The Santa Clause” contains consideration on Scott Calvin’s part, but no explicit consideration on the part of “The North Pole”.

Similarly with the social contract there are general expectations for the citizen parties to the social contract; pay taxes and obey the legislature, but there is no definite consideration on the part of the government. Do they provide things to the other party? Sometimes, but are they legally bound to do so? No. One of the biggest rationales for the social contract is for security. “We trade some of our freedom for security” proponents of this “contract” argue, but the Supreme Court has said that police have no legal duty to protect you or your property. If a police officer fails to act and you get killed or injured, no action can be taken against that police officer. If a foreign attack decimates your house, the government, who is supposed to be protecting you from such attacks, is not on the hook for any damages, and you can’t sue your city because your roads look like the surface of the moon. In “The Santa Clause” just as in “the social contract” there is only consideration on one side and not on the other.

This makes both contracts invalid.

I could go on, but why should I need to? Even held up to the most basic definitions of what makes a contract, both agreements fall apart. Scott is not legally bound by the Santa Clause and we are not bound by the social contract.

The social contract should be put where it belongs; in the trash.

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