The Common Good

“[t]he common good, and not the person and liberty, [is] the very principle of all law, of all rights, of all justice and of all liberty[.]” -- Charles De Koninck (quoted here)

The idea of the common good is really not that hard to grasp. Consider the Detroit Pistons, a group of fourteen basketball players, a few coaches, trainers, many office personnel, and so on. And let's imagine the Pistons are having an off-year, and, as a result, every single person in the organization decides to spend their time hunting for a new job instead of doing their current one. (So each of the players, for instance, just looks to pad their stats, and stops worrying about winning games.) As a result, the organization falls apart. Although every individual in the group attended to (what he thought of as) his own good, none of them paid heed to the common good of the organization.

Now, given the idea is so simple, why do so many people so strenuously deny any such thing exists? Well, if it exists, I might be properly compelled, either by my conscience or, failing that, the civil authorities, to restrain my will in its interests. So, like a stubborn teenager who yells at his parents, "You can't make me!", I may decide it is more convenient to ridicule anyone who even suggests that there might be a social good to which to pay heed.

This denial makes the proper end of government invisible to anyone who engages in it. And since it is blind to this telos, the entire liberal project is misguided, since it is mistaken about the most fundamental political issue of all: What is government for? This mistake is, for instance, why we find liberals taking destructive positions, such as asserting an absolute right to free speech, even if the speech in question is, say, about to launch a civil war.

And how the mistake arose is not hard to grasp, if we pay attention to history. The alternate, false end of government usually put in place of the true one, that "rights" exist prior to civil society and that "Governments are instituted among Men" "to secure these rights" was formulated by men who wanted to place their wills above the common good, and engage in a series of civil wars in which they repeatedly overthrew their legitimate government.

3 comments:

  1. This has never, ever factored into my liberalism and interestingly, I've modeled myself on the Glorious Revolution ever since learning about it in high school.

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  2. "[t]he common good…is the very principle of all law…of all justice…"

    This can't be right. I'm sure it's not. Justice is not a "common" versus "individual" thing. The common good must be a subset of it.

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  3. Come back Major Freedom. All is forgiven!

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