What is the American Social Contract?
What is the American Social Contract? Everything.
What has it been in recent memory? Collapsing.
What is it meant to be? Fundamental.
Why is the American Social Contract everything? It is the totality of the spoken and unspoken, written and unwritten foundational concepts that underlie the relationships and responsibilities of citizen to citizen and government to citizen. It includes rights, duties, benefits, and laws. The Constitution is the essential legal document of this social contract.
Why is the American Social Contract in collapse? We owe our fellow citizens decent, respectful, and lawful treatment regardless of skin color or national background. The laws are meant to be applied equally regardless of position, career, fame, wealth, or lack of any of those. Public service is certainly a worthy path that often results in fame for good or ill; however, when it results in wealth and fortune the people are necessarily and reasonably concerned. Security for our persons, our territory and our people, and friends and interests abroad is guaranteed in the social contract; much of our tax burden supports the government in these efforts. When the laws that secure our territory are not enforced; when our fellow citizens are at risk at home and abroad; when criminals and fanatics make war upon us and the government does not respond effectively in word and deed the people are necessarily and reasonably concerned. When those planning and implementing economic policy consider the needs of those outside this social contract as more influential than the needs of those within it the people are necessarily and reasonably concerned. When national law and sovereignty is thought expendable and bendable by those elected government representatives who are empowered by their constituents to uphold and secure both -- the people are necessarily and reasonably concerned.
What is the purpose of the American Social Contract? The promises and obligations that exist between fellow citizens and their government are the foundations of the rule of law, economic stability, opportunity and prosperity, national safety, and a functioning and welcoming civil society built upon the cornerstone of the Constitution. Citizenship is an agreement to uphold these concepts and the statutes that support them. What does it mean to be a "good citizen?" Perhaps it is easier to understand the good citizen by defining its inversion; the bad citizen is one who does not support the Social Contract and actively undermines it. How can the good citizen be rewarded in his/her citizenship when the Social Contract is in collapse? Secure it, foster it, defend it, uphold it - spread its obligations and benefits across the land from ocean to ocean.
We live in a time of historical reassessment; national figures large and small are under a microscope of new analyses and reviews. We are vigorous and unforgiving and honest in our criticism of them, as we look back at their world through our modern eyes. We are vigorous and often harsh with each other now. Our friendships snap over politics and political positions. Ours is an open political culture -- we are not supposed to agree on every issue and in every matter. Thomas Jefferson told us in his first Inaugural Address, “Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things.”
How can the American Social Contract be rescued and sustained? All Americans love their country. We all know that our Constitutional freedoms are special and superb; we all know that we are lucky. All Americans are united in their desire that our just laws be applied fairly and with justice; and failed laws rescinded. All Americans understand that our country is under grave threat from without and sometimes from within. Ours is not a “direct democracy,” that is we generally do not make law by a plurality of popular votes, though there are exceptions to this general rule. The desire for our American Social Contract to be enforced, to flourish, and to be defended is an almost universal one across all political divides during this extraordinary election. It is the duty of our elected officials to support and sustain this essential social contract.
What is to be done? The laws must be applied with equal vigor to the high and the low; citizens must support the civil society and the Constitution by their forbearance and patience. The same vigor applied to reassessments of the past must also be applied to reviews and analyses of our present and potential leaders, our international partners and friends, our assumptions about the state of the world and how it is structured, our businesses and their managers, our colleagues, our friends and ourselves. The greatest challenge before us is to see problems, and face them head on, dedicated, and with courage, toward solutions.
Our American Social Contract is the foundational agreement between our government and ourselves, and between each one of us and our fellow citizens. It is the most important set of beliefs and concepts that together lead to beneficial change and to sustaining our way of life. Our American Social Contract is the foundation of our past, and our future, it is everything. Our American Social Contract is in collapse – let us build it back up more solid, more stable, more respected, more revered than before.