Robert Reich: The American social contract

There are things that Americans actually agree on — and polling proves it

By Robert Reich
Published October 31, 2018 5:00AM (EDT)
  (<a href=''>Christian Delbert</a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(Christian Delbert via Shutterstock)

This originally appeared on Robert Reich's blog.

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 5 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

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 Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written 15 books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's also co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism."

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Democrats Independents Republicans Robert Reich Social Contract The American Social Contract