Is America’s Social Contract Broken?

Thursday, July 18, 2013
By Paul Martin

Charles Hugh Smith
July 17, 2013

As Voltaire observed, “No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.” This is precisely how empires collapse.

Correspondent Kenneth D. recently made the case that the Social Contract in America is broken. Kenneth offered two links for context: Social Contract (Wikipedia) and OECD calls time on trickle down theory.

Here is Kenneth’s commentary:

Society has been structured for a few centuries now such that we are expected to voluntarily give up some of our wealth to governing bodies, and in return they will “ honestly and prudently” govern for the betterment and cohesiveness of society, so that we can collectively live in peace with each other. That is the theory of the Social Contract.
As I talk with friends and clients, there is rising anger at how the resources we all “voluntarily” turn over to governments are being squandered, wasted, fraudulently re-allocated, and that a ruling, governing, elitist class is rapidly emerging (Hunger Games) that subsists extravagantly on these taxes, not to mention the entitlement class that also has come to depend on the largesse of the working class.

The anger rises daily, and I am now constantly hearing from people about how they plan on “beating the system” i.e. dodging taxes, legally or illegally. People are rebelling in rising numbers, and it manifests itself in so many ways–working less or not at all, going to a cash economy, making up deductions that don’t exist, giving less to charity, cashing in on the entitlement culture, etc. etc.

The trust in government to do the right thing is rapidly being eroded, so the Social Contract unravels more and more. How much longer can a society survive, living side by side, collectively, under such circumstances? I have started to study the concept of the Social Contract, to better understand the theory behind it, and why more and more people feel it is broken.

Thank you, Kenneth, for addressing a critical topic. I do not claim any expertise in social contract theory, but in broad brush we can delineate two implicit contracts: one between the citizenry and the state (government) and another between citizens.

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