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Robert Reich: America Has Forgotten Its Social Contract

Economist Robert Reich. (YouTube screen grab)

With divisions this deep, it can often feel like we can’t agree on anything.

So, what do we share as Americans?

America does have a common set of norms about what makes a good society. These aren’t written down in the Constitution.  They are unwritten standards that, taken as a whole, define who we are and what we believe in.

Based on responses to polls,  a majority of us—Republicans, Democrats, and independents—have consistently agreed to five simple principles. This is the American Social Contract.

First:  Everyone should have an equal chance to get ahead.

Second:  No one should be discriminated against because of race, religion, gender or sexual preference.

Third: No one who works full time should have to live in poverty.

Fourth: People should take responsibility for themselves and their families, but deserve help if they need it through no fault of their own.

And fifth:  No one should have special privilege and power based on wealth or class.

These values are anchored in moral teachings and democratic ideals that often predate the founding of our republic.

We know we’ve veered far away from all these principles. But that doesn’t make us any less dedicated to them.

No matter how discouraging things may seem right now—regardless of the bigotry, cruelty and greed that dominate our politics and corrupt our society—it’s important to remember the positive values we share and the social contract that binds us together.

Robert Reich
Contributor
Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the…
Robert Reich

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