Employers Broke The Social Contract - And Response (2)

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Along with our trust, most employers are going to need to give those who participated in the great resignation something to hold onto. The cliché during the pandemic is that we’re all in the same storm, not the same boat. Some of you are in yachts while the rest of us are drowning, grasping at driftwood. For some it’s being deep in medical debt, for others they suffer from burnout and many are living paycheck to paycheck. The top tiers of corporations have grown so rich and out of touch as to not even know what our problems are. There is no chance these titans of industry ever went a day in their life without having a thousand dollars to spend on a medical emergency, for the rest of us that’s half of the rent, electricity and water.

You see most people don’t inherit million-dollar companies, these birth lottery winners will never know what is like to be us, it’s psychologically impossible. To have grown up never knowing a single moment of monetary struggle will break your brain in a way that cannot be rectified. It bankrupts their morality and leads them to see the world exclusively as a meritocracy where they clearly deserve to have many millions and the have nots must have done something to be in poverty. Their farther earned it for them you see, and their father before that, so goes the perpetuation of socioeconomic stratification and the gap widens year by year. How long can you stack all the weight to one side of a boat before it tips?

This perversion of reality leads one to ponder equality and equity and where they should be applied. To define terms, equality would be giving everyone a stimulus check of the same amount. Why that doesn’t work is that a family in poverty quickly pays debts while a rich family getting that same check invests it because they didn’t actually need it. Equity would be distributing that money based on need not on merely existing. It seems fair to say that Jeff Bezos didn’t need a stimulus check, but he got one. That is where the idea of economic equality fails and why these CEOs don’t understand why people struggle financially.

Our policies must change to be statistically weighted by the needs of the people and America needs to get past its fascination with giving everyone nothing or exactly the same. Naysayers would argue that this is fiscally impossible, a runaway growth of government or socialism. Well, while many collect their social security benefits, it seems fair to say that we could potentially apply this to another area. It’s not irresponsible or impossible but it is socialism and Americans love it when it already exists but have been conditioned to hate it if it’s new. This can be demonstrated in interviews where people are asked if they support Obamacare and say no, then they are asked if they support the Affordable Care Act they will say yes. One has that socialist connotation so it’s bad.

The argument must be made that we can actually afford universal health care in the richest country in the world. We have examples we can pull from all over the world, this concept is not new, and frankly we’re foolish for not already having this safety net in place already. The idea of social safety nets and welfare are hated by many but really, they should be loved. Currently it feels like governments operate like corporations, spending as little of our tax dollars as possible. Is that what anyone actually wants? Their job is not to have a great bottom line, it’s to provide public services and preserve human rights. Healthcare is a human right and local and federal governments should spend as much of our tax dollars as possible on us the citizens. Who cares if you live in a rich state if everyone is living in tents on the street? Nobody, except the elite. While the top earners keep hoarding, and the poor keep dying, I hear Nero playing a tune.

Jacob Lee Padgett

* * * 

Mr. Padgett's reference to "The Social Contract" ends there. His well written piece simply descends into a liberal wish list that contains none of the concepts of a "Social Contract" in intellectual  history.

I would suggest he read "The Social Contract and Discourses" by Jean Jacques Rousseau freely available on gutenberg.org. There are many other notable philosophers on the topic but Rousseau's is easily read and understood by the beginner.

While I can sympathize with Mr. Padgett's concerns, his made up constructs of the role of government are just that, made up.

Steve Campbell

* * * 

Steve,

It seems like Jacob’s use of the term “Social Contract” disturbs you. Jacob seems to be using the term outside of the context of a French government and its peoples in the 18th century, like Jean-Jacques Rousseau intended.

Let me calm this disturbance. First, Rousseau talked on the Social Contract, but certainly did not birth the idea. In fact, as H.D. Lewis points out in the year 1939, theories of the Social Contract go back as far to Plato.

Second, I want to introduce the notion that ideas and terms used in one setting can be generalized and applied to other settings. A concept can be expounded upon, borrowed, enriched, and developed. A concept does not have to literally mean exactly what the first person who reduced it to writing intended. For example, some work in organizational theory borrowed the evolutionary concept of “punctuated equilibrium”, and applied it to models of organizational development. For Rousseau, the social contract involved the relinquishment of power from individuals to a political association - or government - in return for certain guarantees of security, liberty, and equality. This concept of individuals giving up certain rights or providing certain services to an organization in exchange for benefits cleanly maps to the relationship between employer and employee. But no need to take my word for it. A research paper titled “Corporate Health Care Purchasing and the Revised Social Contract With Workers” discusses this dynamic as it relates to healthcare benefits exchange, and another research paper states “In almost every country, the modern ‘social contract’ is an implicit bargain by which employees offer up their good citizenship and their earnest labor in exchange for a viable package of benefits”. 

Suffice it to say, and based on the already cited works, it looks like Jacob uses the term “Social Contract” perfectly: colloquially, academically, and with respect to the intellectual history of the phrase.

Third, I want to highlight the irony in saying “liberal wish list”. Now, I am assuming when you say “liberal”, you mean “leftist”. But the irony is, classical liberalism is precisely a belief in an eternal wishlist. Classical liberalism asserts that human beings, endowed with certain rights, should prop up a government that establishes those rights. If the government does not provide those rights in the present, the people have the authority and duty to petition for those rights. These rights (or demands, or desires, or wants, or … wishes) always exist in the abstract even if the government does not provide them in the concrete. Even Rosseau (whose work can be found at gutenberg.com) lists out his wishes from the government. Rousseau writes that all legislation has “two main objects, liberty and equality”. When describing the whole purpose for government, Rosseas says “What is the end of political association? The preservation and prosperity of its members”. Government exists to provide the wishes of its constituents, to its constituents.

Finally, I want to comment on you saying that Jacob’s “made up constructs of the role of government are just that, made up” is absolutely right. In fact, all constructs of the role of government are made up. Mother governments do not birth baby governments. Our minds, ideas, thoughts, and desires conceive of and make real governments and their institutions. As our ideas get better, so do our governments. I, for one, am glad that I was born into a time of constitutionalism and not serfdom (as an example). And I am under no delusion that we have
reached the peak of our ideas.

Manuel Cruz


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