The Common Good Is Becoming Uncommon

Blog#97- 2/1/22

By Richard Davis

The words “common good” recently popped into my brain and I have been trying to understand what that means in a world that is increasingly being turned upside down on a daily basis. I looked for definitions of the common good and have come up with one, from the web site ThoughtCo, that describes what I am thinking about.

“The “common good” refers to those facilities or institutions that benefit all members of a given community. The common good contrasts with those things that benefit only specific individuals or parts of the community. Examples of elements making up the common good include basic rights and freedoms, police and fire departments, national defense, courts of law, highways, public schools, safe food and water, and natural resources. In most cases, providing the elements of the common good requires a degree of individual sacrifice such as the payment of new or higher taxes. Today, many impactful social problems are caused by the lack or failure of essential elements of the common good.”

I still believe that most civil societies around the world are operating within this concept of the common good for the most part. But what is troubling is that forces are at work that are opposed to the common good. An example is when Democrats in this country try to expand programs that help some of the more vulnerable people in our society.

Those who oppose such egalitarian action label those who would expand child support benefits and other socio-economic support programs as socialists. They want us to believe that helping other people undermines the American way of life because we are adopting principles from other societies that treat their people more equally.

In other words, there are those among us who would rather be selfish and pay lower taxes and have more for themselves at the expense of the less fortunate in our society. The best example of this toxic political force exists in the world of Donald Trump and his supporters. They do not believe in the common good because they only want what is best for them.

Look at their approach to the pandemic. They want us to believe that wearing masks and getting vaccinated should be an individual choice and that our rights are being taken away when government asks us to do something in the best interests of the common good. Quite simply, it is the same kind of selfishness that a child might display in a sandbox when another child wants to play together. “No, this is my sandbox. Go play somewhere else,” they might say even though the sandbox was paid for by the local town and is supposed to serve all children.

It is the same line of thinking that people used when they shouted that they don’t want government to mess with “their Medicare”. They want it both ways and don’t consider where their programs come from and how they operate. I suspect many of the people who mounted the capitol during the January 6 insurrection decried the over-reach of government. Would they be willing to let their house burn down or refuse government subsidized health care because they don’t want government telling them what to do?

All of this is a prelude to the next presidential election. If the current government does not hastily prosecute Trump, his family and his allies before the election we run the risk of obliterating this country’s efforts to move closer to a concept of the common good. Once that happens a lot of people will suffer and die because the individual will become more important than society.

Comments | 1

  • What to do?

    So, how do we teach the common good and strengthen the concept? The people to reach are the ones you have the harshest words for, so that’s unlikely to change minds.

    Frank Luntz, formerly evil pollster, has done some soul searching. He’s really worried, too and admits fully to his contribution to the unravelling of democracy.

    He suggests “the children” might be a way to unify people:

    ““If you want to bring people together, you do it over their children. You guys are divided on just about everything; this crushes that divide. This brings people together and it’s not been done before. I’m waiting for a political party or movement to capture the next generation as their focus.””

    I highly recommend watching his full Frontline interview if this topic interests you. He’s been polling people regularly and has keen observations.

    Here’s a bit from it:

    ” Q: … The two presidents, change-oriented. Where are we now? Where are we going?

    I know where we are, and I know where we’re headed, and you really don’t want me to answer that question.

    Q: Because?

    If I answer that question, everybody watching will turn off their TV and just go grab a bottle of something incredibly strong and drown their sorrows. I don’t know if this is recoverable. And remember, the people you have sitting in this chair have much more important jobs than I do, have been in places I’ve never been. But what they haven’t heard are the voices of so many thousands of Americans who have told me just how unforgiving they are, how bitter they are towards the other side. Everybody wants to speak; nobody wants to listen. Everyone wants to be heard; nobody wants to learn. And these aren’t just cute sound bites; it’s real.

    There are two senators who I brought to prove this when I was arguably depressed, because I wanted them to see what I saw and hear what I heard, one Democrat, one Republican. Both of them left after half an hour; they couldn’t take it anymore. Women who had never met each other, women who are supposed to be—this whole thing about women get along; they compromise; women can save the world; men want to fight; women want to work together. Bulls—. These women were more vicious to each other, and they knew nothing of their backgrounds; they’d never met each other before. And the ugliness was impossible.

    I know what the future is, and if we do not change this course right now, our children will grow up in an environment where there is no compromise, where there is no cooperation. Our children are being taught to be judgmental at a time when we should be more open than we’ve ever been. They’re taught that their opponents are stupid or destructive or even worse. Our kids are taught to bully. Our kids are taught to ignore. It’s not just how adults treat each other; our children are watching. Our kids are watching. “

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