A Social Contract for the United States



Christopher Ebbe, Ph.D.    7-19


ABSTRACT:  All social groups are held together by their internal social contracts, but such has never been specified for the U.S.  A format is offered for a social contract that could be affirmed (or not) by every person transitioning from child to adult in the country.


KEY WORDS:  social contract


Every social group has an agreed upon set of goals and rules that apply to all members, called a social contract.  For most people, the elements of this contract are known dimly, and modern nations tend not to have actual written forms of such a contract.  In this age of multicultural mixing, it would be instructive to see if general agreement could be reached on such a contract in a large country such as the United States.  Every person transitioning from childhood to adult status could be asked to seriously consider and sign such a contract.  This would be somewhat analogous to confirmation in religious groups at the point where a child is ready to take on adult responsibilities.  A contract of this nature is a way of stating what it “means” to be a citizen of the country, and it would be in the form of a promise by the individual to conform to certain stated expectations of the citizenry in general.  It is unlikely in our country that such a signed contract would be enforced, but to have signed such a (non-enforced) contract would be a nudge for the signer toward acting in the ways appropriate for a citizen, and signers might remember what they had promised when faced with certain circumstances in later years.


Citizens will undoubtedly vary somewhat in what they would like to include in a social contract, the discussion of which could be quite valuable in clarifying the values of the populace.  If a person disagreed with the contract and did not want to affirm it (e.g., would not affirm an intent not to steal from others), this disagreement could be of interest to neighbors, since they would bear the brunt of the results of that disagreement!  Over time there might be need to update such a contract, as values shift.  Given our country’s strong background of individual freedom, some in this country will not wish to have a social contract at all, feeling that it is too confining, but a group cannot exist harmoniously without one, even if it is vague and “understood” rather than written.  If one-third of people would not affirm their intent not to steal, for instance, it would represent a great amount of future social turmoil for all citizens.


SOCIAL CONTRACT BETWEEN ALL U.S. CITIZENS AND ALL                                                     OTHER U.S. CITIZENS


As you go from being a child to being an adult in U.S. society, you are asked to think about what it means to be an adult citizen of the United States.  One aspect of being an adult citizen is participating in the system of rules and expectations of other citizens.  Some of these are explicit, as in our laws, and some of these are not usually written down but are understood through observing what others expect of us (for example, the expectation of giving some kind of recognition or greeting when you encounter another person, or responding to that person’s greeting).  We ask that you think about the following expectations, each of which are valuable in creating and maintaining a harmonious and happy society.  We hope that you will agree with these expectations and will sign this document and keep it to refer to as needed.  No one will formally enforce these expectations (except for the laws), but you will discover their value to society as you mature further.  If you seriously disagree with any of the items, you may note that in the margin but sign the document anyway.  You should then question yourself as to why you might like others to live by that item but choose not to live by it yourself.


1. I affirm that I will to the best of my ability adhere to the laws of this country, including those regarding theft, murder, fraud, and all others in which one citizen is harmed by another.


2. I affirm that I will to the best of my ability defend the country from external attacks and from internal subversion aiming to overthrow the Constitution.


3. I affirm the right of every citizen to the equal protection of the laws, regardless of any differentiating factors such as race, age, and gender.


4. I affirm the right of everyone to request redress and fair application of laws and administrative actions when they seem unfairly administered.
[examples–non-violent protest
seeking redress through the courts.]


5. I affirm the equal right of every citizen to seek a good life for himself/herself, regardless of any differentiating factors such as race, age, and gender.


6. I will strive to treat everyone with basic respect and acceptance, since all are basically equal here.
[examples—treating others courteously at all times
letting others be themselves, unless they are                                                              harming others]

7. I will strive to treat everyone fairly, since all are basically equal here.  I will not harm others by withholding from them the opportunities that all enjoy legally.

[examples–discrimination in loans, housing, employment, post-                                                  graduate education
unfairly favoring those whom I know over those to                                                    whom I am related]

8. I will try my best to tell the truth and be honest with others about everything that I know that could harm them or be to their disadvantage.  I will not use deception or omission to try to get something from others.

[examples—untruthfully or incompletely representing a                                                                 product to a customer
lying about what one is agreeing to do
claiming disability when there is none]


9. I affirm that I will not act in ways that harm others, whether those are prohibited by law (theft, murder, fraud, etc.) or not (deception, lying, etc.).

10. I will take responsibility for my actions and for their impact on others (and on myself).
[examples–cooperating in repayment for damage or harm that                                                  I cause
admitting my guilt in court when appropriate
not blaming others for my actions]


11. I will do what I can to assist others in this country who are affected negatively by unusual natural phenomena (flood, lightning, fire, etc.).


12. I will support our democratic system by voting and by communicating my wishes and preferences to our elected representatives.

13. I will strive to the best of my ability to support and take care of myself and those who are legitimately dependent on me, including appropriate saving for retirement.

[examples—working to support family
faithfully paying court-determined alimony and                                                        child support]


14. I affirm the right of everyone to express his/her needs and to hold and express his/her opinions, even if I disagree.


15. I affirm the right of everyone to freedom of religious belief and to expressions of religious belief as long as those expressions do not harm others and do not inappropriately disadvantage  or burden others, as determined by various levels of government and ultimately by the courts.


16. I will support political compromise when it is needed to solve problems that affect us all, rather than insisting on getting exactly what I want from our legislators.


17. I affirm that I will cooperate and work helpfully together with others in agreed-upon projects that are essential for the health and welfare of all.  I affirm that cooperating will get more done than seeking only my own advancement.
[examples–appropriate cooperation in employment
appropriate participation in local government]

18. I will support the provision by government of things essential for life to those who are unable to provide those things for themselves.  (This will require figuring out who truly cannot provide for himself and who could provide but chooses not to.)
[examples—various public supports, like food stamps and low-                                                   cost housing

necessary healthcare]


19. I will pay my fair share of the monies needed for carrying out activities approved by government, and I will participate in defining the fair share of various citizens.  I will participate in determining what government’s approved activities are by being an informed voter.
[examples—paying taxes based on my actual income]

20. I will responsibly pay my debts, and I will protect the economic welfare of all by borrowing only what I can pay back.
[examples—not accruing credit card debt that I cannot pay for
not buying houses that I cannot pay for out of                                                          current income]


21. I will not seek advantage for myself by identifying certain others or certain groups of people as inferior and undeserving or by discriminating against them inappropriately.  This includes women, children, the disabled, and those of other races, religions, etc.


Citizen of the U.S.A.