The social contract means different things to different people and depending on where you are on the American political spectrum will show what you think of it. And for people on the Libertarian-Right or are Center-Right Conservatives, the role of government when it comes to economic policy and what government should be doing for people is very minimal. And people on the Right tend to just want government there to enforce contracts and laws that are designed to prevent and breakup monopolies and what is called unfair competition.
And for people who are fairly far to the Left, but still believe in having at least some type of private enterprise system, meaning capitalism, but have a big role for government especially the Federal Government in that capitalist economic system and are Progressives or Social Democrats that is more common in Europe in countries with more socialist economic systems, people who have these politics want the Federal Government there to do a lot for the people. And even to the point to be there that no one goes without or has too much. And have a government big enough to provide most of the services that people need to live well in life.
Really since 1980-81 when Ronald Reagan ran and then of course was elected President of the United States, America has been debating the role of government in America especially as it relates to the economy. And back then it was a debate between Conservative Libertarians on the Right, the Goldwater/Reagan faction of the Republican Party, versus the Progressive or even Social Democratic FDR/LBJ faction of the Democratic Party.
Back then it was between Conservative Libertarians looking to roll back the New Deal and Great Society, versus the FDR Progressives looking to keep in place what they built. And the debates between Ron Reagan on the Right and Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil on the Left generally ended somewhere in the middle. With these social programs not getting expanded or ended, but reformed to be made to be more efficient and more affordable for years to come. With the 1983 Social Security Reform Act being a great example of that.
In the early 1990s with help from groups like the Democratic Leadership Council, Liberal Democrats on the Center-Left in America because of political success of Reagan Republicans on the Right emerged as a strong force in the Democratic Party to fight back against the anti-government Right in the Republican Party. That was not about increasing government and taxes in American lives, or throwing out New Deal and Great Society programs. But wanted government to be more efficient and limited to doing the things that Americans need from government especially the Federal Government.
New Democrats want government to help people in need who live in poverty and in many cases lack the skills to be successful in life on their own. To get themselves the tools that they need to be successful in life. Instead of government trying to do practically everything for everybody or practically nothing for people. This is what is known as the New Democratic Coalition that gave Mike Dukakis the Democratic nomination for president in 1988. And of course Bill Clinton the Democratic nomination for President in 1992. And a big reason why Governor Clinton was elected president in 1992, because he was seen as a New Democrat who wouldn’t try to tax people to death or out of business.
So far over the last thirty years the Reagan conservative side has won in the sense that Americans tend to not be looking for an increased role of the Federal Government in our economic lives. The New Democrats in the 1990s were successful in holding back the Conservatives and preventing them from rolling back the New Deal and Great Society. But also in presenting an alternative agenda to for Americans in saying that government can’t do everything for people and can’t do nothing. That we need it there to do the things that we all need government for. And government can also play a role in providing able-bodied and mentally able people get themselves the tools that they need to be able to make it on their own in life and be successful on their own.