As laid out in the philosophical introduction to LIFE, the basic social contract formed between all members of a society creates the fundamental underpinning that allows individual lives to flourish. For the purposes of clarity in thinking, discussion and implementation it is necessary to define what the constituents are of the basic social contract in a specific society. The constituent elements of the contract will vary depending on the situation of the society, however in this section we will explore what those elements are most likely to look like in the more developed societies today (you know, the ones that have the most to change!).
BASE is an acronym for Basic Assured Standard Environment and refers to the package of services that embody our fundamental social commitment to each other as part of the same social grouping – aka Universal Basic Services. We find the easiest way to picture what this would mean to you, is to ask yourself: If you were walking down the street and bumped into a perfect stranger, what would you be prepared to promise that person if they promised you the same? We think that promise goes something like this:
“No matter what fortune befalls you, I will make sure that you do not die prematurely for lack of sustenance or shelter and I will do whatever I can to provide you with the opportunity to make the most of your life”.
In thinking through what such a promise means in practical terms, in the society in which we live, we have arrived at a description of the services and infrastructure that would make that promise a reality. In so doing we have come to realize that beyond the soup kitchen and a sleeping bag there are features and services on which the true fulfillment of our social promise depend, although they are not readily apparent at first blush. What follows, then, is our description of the Basic Assured Standard Environment (BASE) that fulfills our basic social contract in the time and place in which we live.
The following are the basic elements that make up BASE:
- Legal services
We readily concede that only the first two elements refer to the first part of our social promise, that we will not die for lack of shelter or sustenance but it fairly quickly struck us that to simply keep someone alive was neither useful nor the fulfillment of the spirit of our social contract. And so the remainder of the elements in our list for BASE refer to the second part of our social promise: to provide the opportunity to make the most of life. Interestingly, these other elements are also what we would describe as the necessary prerequisite services that we believe need to be available to everyone, irrespective of their circumstances, in the society in which we wish to live.
This is probably the appropriate point to observe that at no point in our evaluation of our social promise to our fellow citizens did it strike us that what we owed them, or what they owed us, was money. We are firmly convinced that the enactment of the social contract does not and should not involve the exchange of money; money in this context is simply an excuse to avoid living up to the promise. We see this lack of cash in BASE to be a fundamental and important feature because it drives society to focus on the services at the same time that it respects the opportunity of all citizens to contribute in return for reward. Furthermore, analysis of the economic impact of delivering Universal Services instead of cash welfare benefits make proper social safety affordable in a way that welfare does not.
In describing each of the elements of BASE below it is not our intention to provide a detailed implementation, that is for each us to define in the context of the society we live in (and you can add your ideas right here on this wiki, just follow the links from each section heading below). Rather we intend to highlight the features and illuminate the reasons for including each element in the contract. There is, however, an assumption that is perhaps better articulated than not and that is that BASE is inextricably linked to the principle of personal freedom and that, in turn, means two things: that no one is required accept the services of BASE and that all services are provided completely secularly and absent of any bias.