Social Contract

It seems like society is collapsing.  Well, society here in the United States.  In other parts of the world were grown ups are in charge, they seem to be managing.  But here in the US, we’ve turned a serious health crisis into literally one of the worst health scares ever.  Like, not being hyperbolic, COVID-19 has cost more American lives than just about any war we’ve fought in and is on-track to be one of the ten deadliest pandemics in human history.  Maybe Top Five.  Let’s not rule that out, especially if our public schools do open.  And we needn’t stop there.  After all, somebody’s gotta challenge Small Pox for the throne someday.

But I digress.  We’re re-evaluating what our rights and obligations are, what our government can and should do for us, and what we can and should do for our communities.  There’s a lot of talk about rights versus privileges versus obligations versus responsibilities.  All good stuff, to be sure.  But I really think we should just go all-in and rewrite the social contract.

The social contract is an amorphous, undefined but very real understanding that is shared by all people in a given society.  It’s a combination of laws, legal precedent, cultural norms, philosophical expectations, and even more intangible things like the Overton Window.  I think we should take this time of uncertainty to set down just what we expect, and are willing to be expected of us.  You’ve probably got a few ideas in the general discussion (universal health care, automatic voter registration, etc), but I’d like to throw a few into the discussion that I think are quietly important but don’t get the headlines.  Like, I’d like the social contract to include:

  • No more planned obsolescence. You know how laptops and cell phones are only good for a few years before they start running like crap and you have to upgrade.  Sometimes that’s the realities of running old software, but more often than not, that’s a deliberate design decision by electronic companies to force you to upgrade.  We need to stop putting up with that.
  • Basement-level corporate payouts. The people who make the least at a corporation should be the first to reap the rewards of profits.  The person to get a cut of a good year shouldn’t be the person making 7-figures; they’re already going to be fine.  I think it should be the person making five or four figures.  The lowest-income earner should be the most incentivized to see the company do well, not the other way around.
  • Abolish profits. Granted, I’m pretty anti-business, but I do think the notion of profits are problematic.  If you make a good or provide a service, charge a given amount, you should break even.  If you show banner profits and make money hand over fist, in my mind, you just failed to predict the demand and interest.  Fundamentally, that happens and no problem, but I think subsequent business quarters need to be adjusted.  You need to immediately pay people more, or lower your prices.  Saying ‘we’ve hit the jackpot’ and pocketing those profits?  Yeah, no.  Saying ‘we turned a huge profit’ says to me the same thing as ‘we’re running at a loss’, just with a slight gambling component to it that you happened to luck out on.  ‘Banner profits’ doesn’t say to me ‘incredible business decisions’, it tells me exploitation and/or incredible luck that probably can’t be duplicated.  Usually the former.

So yeah.  Not exactly big deals, but meh.  I think they’re worth throwing into the discussion since we’re all staying at home for the next two or three months anyway.

Or we damn-well should be.

Published by Robert V Aldrich

Author. Speaker. Cancer Researcher. Martial Artist. Illustrator. Cat dad. Nerd.

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