Social Contract Theorists
Social contract theorists assert that morality involves a set of rules that direct individuals’ behavior and such rules must be acceptable to rational people, provided that other individuals would accept them as well. Social contract theory asserts that states exist to enforce the regulations that facilitate social living. States adhere to the social contract theory; hence, they have an obligation to address both economic and social inequalities within the society. When leaders fail to apply ethical principles in their actions, they contribute in social and economic inequalities. In my opinion, proponents of the social contract have a moral responsibility of offering solutions to economic and social inequality in civil society.
Resolving Economic and Social Inequality in Civil Society
Although the idea of social contract is quite old, its impact is quite up-to-date. Social contract theory is built on the notion that men used to live in the state of nature before they formed any agreement among themselves. In that state, there was no rules nor government, and people experienced hardships and oppression within the society. To surmount hardships and repression, men went to agreements to live in peace with each other, as well as give up their freedom and rights, so that they can be managed by an effective authority. Moving out of the state of nature led to a social contract, where a stronger authority developed rules to guide and protect people’s lives and property. Such contract had to be steered by ethics.
Ethics are moral principles that direct conducts of an individual or a group of individuals. Ethics incorporates standards that define what individuals should do, based on their rights and societal needs. Ethics are not guided by individuals’ feelings of what he/she perceives as right or wrong, nor can they be based on religious beliefs that society accepts, but are reasonable obligations that advise individuals to desist from committing a fraud or a crime. Ethics are not personal feelings, as feelings often diverge from what is considered ethical. Having the right ethics is vital because ethics enable individuals to form a baseline of what is perceived right or wrong.
Social contract members will always endeavor to find ways of resolving social and economic inequalities in civil society because they are concerned about ethics. They perceive the responsibility of offering solutions to social issues as theirs. Effective leaders will always strive to make a contract with their subjects concerning the issues that make the society fail to attain its goals. Hobbes came up with a theory where men can utilize their contractual capabilities to establish a social contract with other interested individuals, thus, aiding in the development of a sovereign authority and civil society (Pope 43). Ethics ensures that all actions are directed by the need to attain social goals, which include gender equality, adequate housing for all, and access to health care services.
In democratic theory and practice, social inequality is perceived as a challenge that inhibit social development. Inequalities occur because the dominant groups in society coordinate them while members of non-dominant groups support them (Costa‐Lopes, Dovidio, Pereira, and Jost 229). The law of nature does not succeed in teaching men how to pursue peace, as it is ignored for short-term gains. In addition, the punishment for breaching the natural law is insufficient to restrain men from taking the advantage of gaining.
The struggle for a better world is often prone to inequalities. Employers offer different wages to employees, yet they perform similar tasks. Women have constantly complained of being denied their rights while most of the richest people in the world are men. Even in a democratic society, individual are not immune to social inequality. Inequality is associated with rising restrictions on democratic rights, as politicians and economists conspire to safeguard their selfish interests. When the government limits public provisions, inequality goes up (Andersen and Curtis 270). Surprisingly, the most equal societies are autocratic rather than democratic because they do not experience conflict during decision-making processes.
Economies are quite effective in the allocation of income and wealth, thus, creating the winners and losers. However, the challenge emerges when they strive to find the right balance, which results in economic inequality. Most Americans believe that wealthy individuals are the cause of economic inequality owing to their greed and self-seeking, even though they do not support socialism. The idea of free markets does not work in enhancing equality, as the country’s tariffs restrict imports to enable local business people to benefit. This practice encourages inequality because the prices of local goods are likely to go up when the supply is low, making the local goods become costly to low income earners.
To resolve economic and social inequality requires a collaboration of individuals who are guided by ethics in order to arrive at the appropriate solution amicably. According to Hobbes, man’s desire for security, as well as order, is innate. Solving economic inequality would involve:
- Raising the minimum wage so that every citizen can afford to live a better life.
- Increasing taxes on high-income earners can help in balancing the purchasing power.
- The government should offer incentives to companies that create local jobs so that such companies can employ local people who are jobless.
- Strengthening the laws to eradicate discriminatory hiring, promotions, and compensations.
Solving economic inequalities can consequently result in finding solutions to social inequalities. Social inequalities and poverty are common issues in societies that are split into classes. Social inequalities in Europe are attributed to institutional differences where the national governments fail in implementing policies for addressing family issues (Eissel, Rokicka, and Leaman 121). The U.S. is home to the richest, as well as the poorest people, and this explains why social inequality in the U.S. is widespread. Other causes of social inequality include race and status.
Social inequality is portrayed through unequal treatment within the community, or during government factions. Denying some people the chance to gain employment, education, as well as to engage in politics, amount to social inequality. Consequently, social inequality hinders the provision of social amenities, such as healthcare, food, safe water, proper housing, and roads.
Solving social inequalities would involve equal distribution of resources to enhance the well being of every individual, regardless of the individual’s race, class, status, origin, or ethnic background. The practice of sharing the natural resources demands that the living standards of individuals who belong to the upper social classes should come down to satisfy individuals at the bottom classes (Artaraz and Hill 205). People should not be discriminated based on their classes and race when offering employment opportunities. Equality of opportunity is essential in ensuring that positions that are granted based on superiority are open to all applicants, as applications are evaluated on merit rather than social class.
People should be empowered through offering them appropriate education, which prepare them to work in government departments, as well as in the private sector. When all members of the society are educated, they enhance their chances of getting good jobs, which in turn transform their lifestyles. In addition to education, access to health care services is paramount in ensuring that all individuals remain healthy as they undertake their duties. Inequality in the provision of health care has contributed to poverty because people become unproductive when they are sick. Enhancing gender equality is critical in fighting inequality, as women are often discriminated in job opportunities and in wages. More women experience poverty than men (Artaraz and Hill 143). Thus, establishing policies that benefit women can help in enhancing gender equality and, consequently, solve social inequality.
Social contract theorists have a responsibility to ensure that economic and social inequality is resolved in the civil society, since their consciousness is driven not by their personal needs, but rather the need to attain social goals. Their actions correspond to moral principles and the rule of law. Failure to distribute resources equitably among communities leads to social and economic inequality. Social inequality is based on the view that some individuals are just disadvantaged owing to their life circumstances. Social and economic inequality boosts the power, as well as the essence of hierarchy, status, and class. Empowering people through education can assist in resolving social inequality, since educated people have higher chances of getting a job than unskilled individuals. Vigorous efforts are needed to alter the structures of exclusion, and incorporate new structure that would facilitate social inclusion.
Andersen, Robert, and Josh Curtis. “Social Class, Economic Inequality, And The Convergence Of Policy Preferences: Evidence From 24 Modern Democracies.” Canadian Review Of Sociology, 52.3(2015): 266-288.
Artaraz, Kepa, and Michael Hill. Global Social Policy: Themes, Issues and Actors. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
Costa‐Lopes, Rui, John F. Dovidio, Cícero Roberto Pereira, and John T. Jost. “Social psychological perspectives on the legitimation of social inequality: Past, present and future.” European Journal of Social Psychology 43.4(2013): 229-237.
Eissel, Dieter, Ewa Rokicka, and Jeremy Leaman. Welfare State at Risk: Rising Inequality in Europe. Berlin: Springer, 2014.
Pope, Thomas R. Social Contract Theory in American Jurisprudence: Too Much Liberty and Too Much Authority. London: Routledge, 2013.