So, what does “social contract” mean?
social contract, n.
: an actual or hypothetical agreement among the members of an organized society or between a community and its ruler that defines and limits the rights and duties of each
First known use of the term “social contract”: 1837
The idea originates from a philosophy first argued by Socrates; then by Plato in his Republic; and several hundred years later by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who strongly influenced the Founding Fathers of the United States. Recent social contract theories and critiques are argued by John Rawls, David Gauthier, feminists, and racially- minority-, and economically-conscious people based on the needs of society. ref.: Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in 2012, Harvard Law School professor, bankruptcy law specialist, author, contributor to the oversight of the 2008 U.S. bank bailout, Chair of the TARP Congressional Oversight Panel, and lead creator of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has a really good answer of how America worked quite well until recent times. Her social contract philosophy is based on real-world experience and common sense. [2 min]:
The “haves” in America today have forgotten that with great power comes great responsibility. Some of those responsibilities are honoring their part of the social contract: reinvesting in American education, good jobs, public services and infrastructure so the whole system continues to work for everyone.
They have forgotten they are not individual wheels off on their own, but cogs in the machine that is the American economy. When they disconnect their cogs from our American economic machine, they break the machine, and it hurts everyone, including them.
So far, they haven’t felt much pain for their actions. Their pain will come soon if they don’t reengage themselves in America’s economy, contribute their fair share in paying a fair amount of taxes, and creating good jobs in many thousands of communities throughout the U.S. where people who can do those jobs live.
Elizabeth Warren, Social Contract