Denying the common good

A common libertarian move, when encountering a claim about the common good, is to deny that any such thing exists. As someone said to me today, "There is no common good: only a multitude of individual goods."

Such a denial flies in the face of both common sense and the bulk of the Western philosophical tradition. Imagine the cells of your body declaring that there is no common good they share, but only an individual good to be sought by each cell on its own. We have a name for cells that "think" this way: we call them cancer cells.

It is easy to generate an example where a society of individuals each pursue what they see as their individual good at the expense of the common good. For instance, imagine a society composed of individuals who each decide that children are a bother, and get in the way of having a good time. It is obvious that on the societal level, this is suicide: this society will not survive the current generation.



9 comments:

  1. On the subject of cells Google apoptosis.

    They are not even logically consistent on this topic. It is quite clear that there are different mechanisms within the brain, and the decisions of human beings are the result of collaboration amongst systems. Yet they insist on seeing these collective decisions as being made by one Atomic thing. If you can have emergents at one level you really need to explain why you disallow it at another level, especially when we can see with our plane eyes the emergence. It is certainly easier to see emergents and systems in human society that it is in the operation of the brain.

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  2. On the subject of cells Google apoptosis.

    They are not even logically consistent on this topic. It is quite clear that there are different mechanisms within the brain, and the decisions of human beings are the result of collaboration amongst systems. Yet they insist on seeing these collective decisions as being made by one Atomic thing. If you can have emergents at one level you really need to explain why you disallow it at another level, especially when we can see with our plane eyes the emergence. It is certainly easier to see emergents and systems in human society that it is in the operation of the brain.

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  3. We might also call it a transcendental contradiction, taking some language from Kant. When Kant writes in his essay Perpetual Peace that "We may think of Public Right in a formal way after abstracting from all the matters to which it is applied in detail," he points out that rights are public rules which govern the commons. (You've pointed this out before - do we allow fractional reserve banking in Ancapistan? Land ownership? I.P. laws?)

    On a slightly related note, thank you for all these posts. You have de-converted one former ancap!

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    1. First I had to convert THIS former ancap! And you're welcome.

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  4. What exactly is a "common good" (yes, I'm serious)? Is morality a common good or is that the wrong terminology to use?

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  5. there is no common sense, only a multitude of individual senses.

    %>)

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  6. Such a denial flies in the face of both common sense...

    There is no such thing as common sense, only individual senses. Five of them, in fact.

    (I'm just trolling on this one.)

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    1. I believe Paul in Romans 1 would be to disagree.

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  7. It's a tactic I've encountered often among libertarians.

    Non-libertarian brings up free rider problem.
    Libertarian: "What problem?"

    Non-libertarian brings up tragedy of the commons.
    Libertarian: "The reason we have a tragedy of the common is because we have a commons. The solution is to get rid of it."

    Non-libertarian brings up law.
    Libertarian proposal involves something that sounds exactly like a state.

    I wonder who this approach originated with.

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