Chapter 21 – A New Economic System: The social contract

Have you ever thought about how residency in cities works in a modern city today? Specifically, how do cities control who lives there, and how do cities train the people who wish to live in the city? You might be thinking “Wait, what???”, because we all know that nothing like this ever happens in any American city. Cities do not “select” who gets to live there, and cities do not “train” people before allowing them to start living in the city.

Why is that? Why do we allow any random person, no matter how good or how evil, to arrive in any city and simply take up residence? Random selection is exactly how we populate cities on Earth today. If someone wants to live in city X, they simply move in. There is no application they have to fill out, and no training whatsoever is required. Anyone in the United States, even if they are not here in the country legally [ref], can come take up residence in any city whenever they feel like it. As long as a person has money for rent (and sometimes even if they are destitute), he/she suddenly becomes a resident. If the newly arriving person happens to be a complete asshole [ref], [ref], or happens to be destitute and therefore immediately starts begging on the city’s streets, the quality of life in the city has just been diminished for everyone else to some degree.

We will be implementing a new economic system and building a new type of city to embody it, and one thing about this new economic system is that it is innovative and different. People arriving in the new city will therefore need to undergo a period of training in order to understand what is going on. In addition they will be signing on to a social contract that specifies the nature of the relationship between the city, its economy and its citizens:

  1. This new economy will be incredibly beneficial to the people who are participating it, especially if they are coming from someplace like a slum or a refugee camp.
  2. In return, people will be expected to materially contribute their productive time to this economy, and if they do not, everyone will suffer.

A specific written contract, to be signed by each new resident, will spell out all of the responsibilities and benefits found in the new city.

What does this contract mean?

The benefits will be profound in this new economy:

  • Everyone in the new economy will get access to incredible, high-quality and abundant food.
  • Ditto for clothing.
  • Ditto for housing.
  • Ditto for health care.
  • Ditto for education.
  • The new city will be safe and free from violence, theft, bullying, harassment, cat calling and other asshole behaviors [ref], [ref].
  • And so on…

In return, citizens will have responsibilities:

  • Everyone must contribute willingly, happily and competently to the creation of food, water, housing, clothing, etc. that everyone in the new city needs.
  • Everyone needs to follow all the laws and rules of the city.
  • Everyone needs to contribute to the health and safety of everyone else by being safe and not impinging on the safety of others, which means:
    • To not murder
    • To not steal
    • To not assault
    • To not harass
    • To not oppress
    • To not join gangs
    • To not pollute
    • To not be a jerk or an asshole [ref], [ref]
    • To not waste the time of other residents
    • Etc.

All of this will be spelled out in the social contract.

Training

There will be a multi-week training program for every new resident of the city. The training program will cover things like:

  • The nature of the new economy – its motivations, goals and benefits. What the residents receive from the economy and what they are expected to contribute in return.
  • The nature of the task allocation system, how it works, how to configure your individual preferences, how to respond to assigned tasks, how to take sick days and vacation days, etc.
  • The way food, products, shopping, transportation, clothing, housing, etc. work in the new city.
  • The laws of the city, and the punishments when laws are broken.
  • The rules of interaction between people in the new city (e.g. the no-asshole rule [ref], [ref], no racism, no sexism, no bullying, no laziness on the job, no vandalism, proper queuing behavior, etc.), and the punishments when rules are broken.
  • The rights and responsibilities of residents.
  • The benefits, responsibilities and rules around having children.
  • The asshole behaviors that will get you detained and retrained. Things like racism, sexism, homophobia, religious fanaticism, bullying, harassment, laziness, littering, stalking, cat calling, etc. are corrosive to society.
  • And so on…

The point is to make everything about living in the new city explicit, well-defined and well-known to every resident. It is just like a driver’s license:

  • Drivers receive training, and they have to take a test, before they are allowed to start using the highway system.
  • Drivers are then re-tested periodically (e.g. every few years) to make sure that they do not forget the rules of the road.
  • If drivers do not follow the rules, they are pulled over and ticketed or jailed.

Residents in this new economy will receive training so they understand the acceptable rules of behavior that they are expected to follow. They will need to take and pass a test periodically. If they do not follow the rules, they will be ticketed or jailed. This is the nature of the social contract in the new city.

Signing the Social Contract

Once residents have completed training and passed the test, they then sign onto the social contract of the new city. The contract puts everything in writing. In return for all of the benefits that residents receive from the new economy (food, clothing, housing, health care, police protection, fire protection, water, etc.), and the rights they receive as citizens (safety, freedom, etc.), they agree to uphold a set of responsibilities on their part (e.g. treating others in the city humanely, obeying all laws and rules, working competently, etc.).

This process of training and contract-signing will be of tremendous benefit to everyone in the new city. The relationship between citizen and society will be explicit and easy to understand. In return for receiving the tremendous benefits of the new economy and society, everyone living in the city will do their part. Everyone will contribute by doing work, and doing their work competently. Everyone will treat everyone else humanely. Everyone will need to follow all of the laws and rules. And so on. When everyone is working together like this in a society, everyone benefits.

What do we do with the lazy people and the assholes?

The #1 question asked about this new economy is: How will we prevent people from being lazy? And then a related question is: what do we do with people who refuse to follow the rules and often make life miserable for the people around them?

If we want to re-frame the way we characterize laziness, we could say that lazy people are assholes to some degree. Why are they assholes? Because they are not pulling their weight. They are attempting to get a free ride. They are pushing their work onto the people who do work. Lazy people are not fulfilling their basic obligations to themselves, one of which is to provide food for themselves, housing for themselves, etc. through their work.

Since we can re-frame lazy people as being somewhere on the asshole spectrum, this opens up a bigger and more important question: What should our new city do with assholes in general? Assholes seem to be a part of just about any human society, and all societies attempt to control assholes in one way or another. So what will we do with assholes here in our new city?

It is an important question, because assholes can make life miserable for everyone else in a society if they are not controlled.


Bob Sutton, author of “The No-Asshole Rule”, talks about assholes

Think about it this way: If a million people are going to live in a new city, they do not need the asshole people who make life miserable for everyone else: the criminals, racists, religious zealots, terrorists, warmongers, polluters, sociopaths, vandals, arsonists, jihadists, and so on. They also don’t want to be around people who are combative, violent, quarrelsome, seething, bent on destruction, etc. Everyone living in our new city has a right to feel safe and to not be harassed as they walk around living their lives. The way to achieve this is to manage, remove or otherwise disable those who are bent on adding danger and harassment to society. Our city will need a foolproof way to eliminate and rehabilitate assholes.

So now we can answer the question: What do we do with the lazy people, and with all of the other forms of assholery in our new city? The important thing to understand is that assholes have broken the social contract between society and citizen, and are reducing the quality of life for other citizens. The position of the society is: “A resident has broken the contract, and they are making other citizens miserable through their actions. They are not fulfilling their responsibilities as a member of this society. Society is willing to work with them to rehabilitate them, and then they will be re-introduced to the city, but not until they can demonstrate that they are willing to fulfill their responsibilities to other residents.” For minor offenses, this might involve a day of retraining. But if asshole behavior continues, the offender is removed from society for longer and longer periods until the person is banned from the city.

Think about it this way: if a person demonstrates laziness and/or criminal behavior more than two or three times, we simply send them back to the slum that they came from. We bring in a new person who is grateful to experience Heaven on Earth.

There is no reason to allow one person to make hundreds or thousands of other people miserable with his/her behavior. There is no reason to tolerate assholes. Assholes are flagged, given opportunities to be retrained and rehabilitated, and if those efforts are successful that’s great, but if they are not successful, repeat offenders are removed from society so that everyone else can succeed and prosper in peace. In this way, everyone else in the city benefits from an asshole-free society. An explicit, signed social contract following a period of training makes this process much easier to manage, because everyone knows what is going on.

Example

Can we agree that people who are racists are assholes? The reason that racists are assholes is because they make the lives of others miserable because of their race.

Many universities in the United States have zero tolerance policies toward racism and racists. Here is a typical zero-tolerance policy that comes up in Google so that you can see an example:

https://www.cellbio.duke.edu/zerotolerance-policy-for-racism-and-discrimination

When a student or staff member at a university like this starts displaying racist behavior (in a classroom, a lab, a dining hall, on social media, wherever), they are expelled/fired.

Guess what? At universities that apply zero-tolerance policies toward racism, there is no racism. Corporations do this too, as do many organizations, churches, clubs, etc. It is possible to create organizations with tens of thousands of people in them where there is no racism. You could spend years at a university like Duke (and hundreds of others) and never see or experience racism in any form. Racist behavior simply is not tolerated (zero-tolerance), the racists are removed or re-educated, and everyone else gets to experience life without these assholes.

Imagine living in a new economy and a new society where we have effectively eliminated all of the assholes – all of the muggers, burglars, murderers, rapists, pedophiles, stalkers, creeps, gangbangers, thugs, bullies, racists, homophobes, misogynists, drug dealers, drunks, con artists, pickpockets, purse snatchers, boomboxers, arsonists, vandals, terrorists, religious fanatics, cat callers [ref], prostitutes, spammers, phishers, swindlers, con men, embezzlers, bribery-seekers, corruptors, free-loaders, beggars, paparazzi, drug addicts, public restroom defilers, line cutters, road ragers, kidnappers, lazy people, etc. It would be like living in a dream world. We could all walk around on the streets anytime, anywhere, day or night, and feel safe and secure. We would never have to look over our shoulders and worry about the person walking behind us. No one would be harassing us on the street, accosting us, holding a gun to our head for our purse or wallet. We would not have to worry that a terrorist will walk into our favorite restaurant or nightclub and start shooting. This level of safety, security and personal freedom is one of the goals of our new city. We seek a city free of assholes and asshole behavior. We achieve it by explaining these goals to everyone, by having everyone sign a written contract where they explicitly agree to be decent human beings, and then we retrain (and eventually eliminate) the recalcitrant assholes. With the assholes eliminated, this new city will be Heaven on Earth.

Jump to Chapter 22 > > >