Covid-19 and the Social Contract

In a democracy, the intrinsic contract between government and the electorate is that government will use its resources, sourced from taxpayers, to provide a framework within which individuals can meet their primary needs, care for their families, feel they belong, and work to fulfil their potential as a human being. All within a society that is free from fear and guarantees equal rights to all. This is fundamentally different from a dictatorship in which the role of government is to enrich those in power, while the masses are viewed as fodder to enable that goal.

The best way to view this contract is through the lens of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

In this hierarchy, the ultimate goals of people are to fulfil their potential as human beings wrapped in the belief and feeling that they are loved and belong. But to do this, they have to have the basics of security first: they need food, clothing and a roof over their heads. Beyond this, they need to feel financially secure, have an income and be healthy.

It is this that democratic government aims to provide under a contract in which people pay taxes and obey reasonable laws. As we confront the Covid-19 crisis, it has become clear that this contract has been broken. Indeed, it is palpably clear that government has broken the contract. The inept handling of the crisis to date is not the only reason why so many have needlessly died. The conditions for failure were already in place, like kindling waiting for a forest fire.

Over the next 10 days, I will lay out in daily posts how this has come about and, at the end of the series, how we can mend the contract so that this never happens again.