I will accept these stories as true.

I understand your point. I do. I just don’t agree it is a good basis for a cohesive society.

Let’s take your first example. Let’s say I have formed an alliance with the nearby cabbage farmer. There are terms, implied or explicitly agreed, and both sides of the party can expect those to be fulfilled.

If I give my money and receive no cabbage, I have a right to be unhappy. If the farmer gives me his cabbage and receives no money, he has a right to complain.

Now let’s say I make a new agreement with the farmer: that I will work his farm every day for the next 3 months — through the winter — and, in return, he will provide me with 10 cabbages a week. He wants to make sure he has enough hands to run his farm, and I want to make sure I have food for my family.

Now let’s say I am doing my job perfectly well but, in the middle of December, the farmer finds out I go to church on Sundays and he hates this, so he decides to fire me. I am faced with starvation for me and my family through no fault of my own, and he has breached the agreement we made. He has acted unethically, and I have a legitimate reason to be angry.

If it is just me, and perhaps I am not as physically strong as the burly farmer, there may not be much I can do about this. I can vow to never work for him again, but maybe farm labour is easy to come by and there is no reason for him to be worried by this. So my family and I suffer a very lean winter, cold and hungry.

Now let’s imagine I hear about a village in the next valley who have collectively decided work together, and to stick up for each other. Joining the community has great benefits, therefore, but it also means giving up certain liberties — for example, the freedom to renege on an agreement without consequence.

If the farmer in the new village decides to go back on his agreement, everyone else in the village pulls together and asks him to reconsider or at least provide compensation. He may not care about losing my labour, but he does care about not being able to get bread from the baker and tools from the ironmonger. So he adheres to the rules of the society. You could say he loses in this case, but he gains security in the knowledge that he will have the same support if he needs it in the future.

I think this is a fair, supportive and mutually beneficial approach, and I’m pretty sure it is the basis for most modern societies.

The situation is no different with a modern employment scenario: the contract goes in both directions. The employee has an obligation to provide the work to a reasonable standard. The employer has an obligation to provide the work and recompense.

In your bakery example, unless there is a spectacularly short notice period, the baker has breached the contract with the employee and, as such, the employee deserves compensation. How much, and what form that takes depends on local legislation, and any particular contract terms but — nevertheless — recompense is due.

As I understand it, it is very unusual (pretty sure it never happens) that in an acrimonious employment dispute like this, that an employer is “forced” to give the employee his or her job back. As you say — neither party is going to want that. Therefore a more normal course of action is financial compensation.

I live in the UK, and I’m aware that there are differences in the protection implicitly given to employees compared to the US, but I’m pretty sure the principle is the same.

Ultimately though, I didn’t want to get into a discussion about employment contracts. The point I actually care about is the idea of sticking up for other people within a society when injustice occurs. I’m not convinced you disagree with that notion, although your reasons may be different for doing it.

In short, I don’t agree with you, and I think if we were to each build societies based on our ideas, I would have little interest in being part of yours. But then probably you would have no interest in being part of mine.

I can live with that.

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