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Social contracts

By Thomas E. Brewton
web posted November 20, 2006

Since the 1930s, most Americans have come to believe in a fairy tale that has no happy ending.  Democrats' victories in the recent elections have revived the fairy tale.

Washington Post staff writer Dan Balz, in a November 13, 2006, article explores the unresolved questions and internal debates remaining after the recent congressional elections.

One of those questions, as he sees it, is:

Equally important is the question of which party can adequately address the twin problems of keeping the United States competitive in a global economy and restoring the social contract that has helped provide economic security to workers and that has been shattered as a result of the corporate restructuring that globalization has brought about.

Mr. Balz is working under a false assumption: the expectation that the Federal government controls business, as well as the idea that it is possible to have a "social contract" under which government can effectively provide economic security to workers.

That assumption originates in the religion of socialism, which presumes that councils of intellectual planners, backed by technocratic administrators, are capable of managing businesses better than businessmen.  Intellectuals and technocrats theoretically are motivated solely by the common good, not by private greed for profit.  Businesses therefore, in theory, will be more efficient and be able to support full employment at all times when under government control.

In practice, this hasn't worked well, a typical example being the collapse of the socialistic EU's technocratically-managed AirBus and the resurgence of Boeing.

The term "social contract" was most famously used by John Locke in 1689 and by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in 1762.  Locke's conception, not Rousseau's, was the basis of our War of Independence in 1776.

Locke erected a theoretical framework for a government of inherently limited powers.  Even the king is subject to God's higher law of morality, which embraces the natural-law rights of individuals.  Individuals, when they entered a social contract to create political society, retained inalienable rights to life, liberty, and private property.  Hence our 1776 slogan, "No taxation without representation."

Rousseau, a philosopher of socialism's atheistic materialism, theorized a social contract that effectively eliminated individual rights by asserting that individuals, upon entering political society, surrendered those rights and made themselves subject to "the general will." 

That, of course, is the legitimization of what Alexis de Tocqueville (in Democracy in America) called the tyranny of the majority, which facilitates seizure and redistribution of private property to achieve socialistic egalitarianism.

Two things are of note in the current context.  First, the "general will" enables regulation and control of all aspects of economic life, corporate and private, by intellectuals and technocrats.  Second, the "general will" negates the entire Bill of Rights, which is expressly and solely aimed at guaranteeing inalienable individual rights against the tyranny of the majority implicit in the "general will."

What Balz refers to as restoring the social contract that has helped provide economic security to workers is a concoction of President Franklin Roosevelt's 1930s New Deal, entirely unknown in the preceding 320 years. 

In 1944, when he began his fourth term (he was the only President egomaniacal enough to be unconstrained by the traditional limit of two terms), President Roosevelt candidly acknowledged in his State of the Union message that the New Deal welfare state was not part of the original Constitutional government of the United States and that the Constitution had never been amended, in accordance with the express provision of Article V, to legitimize the welfare state:

We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all – regardless of station, race, or creed.  Among these are: The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries, or shops or farms or mines of the Nation; The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation; The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living; The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad; The right of every family to a decent home; The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health; The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment; The right to a good education.  All these rights spell security.

It is this "Second Bill of Rights" aspect of the liberal paradigm that leads today's public, ignorant of history, to believe that job security, healthcare, and other welfare benefits are literally  "constitutional rights." 

In addition to the issue of constitutionality, it is a dangerous fantasy to believe that any national administration, Republican or Democratic, can, as Mr. Balz assumes, make business more competitive in a global economy or guarantee workers job security.

What government can do, and does, is impose high taxes and regulations that make business less competitive globally and thereby diminish workers' job security.

Reaching a low point in President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society of the 1960s, it was Democrats' many decades of wide-ranging regulations, sweeping expansion of welfare state entitlements programs, and support for labor unions that destroyed American manufacturing competitiveness, leaving the Midwest  a "rust bowl" of abandoned factories and entrenching Japanese and German products as American market leaders. ESR

Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets. His weblog is The View from 1776. Email comments to viewfrom1776@thomasbrewton.com.


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