Common good

Common good

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Encyclopedia
The common good is a term that can refer to several different concepts. In the popular meaning, the common good describes a specific "good" that is shared and beneficial for all (or most) members of a given community
Community
The term community has two distinct meanings:*a group of interacting people, possibly living in close proximity, and often refers to a group that shares some common values, and is attributed with social cohesion within a shared geographical location, generally in social units larger than a household...

. This is also how the common good is broadly defined in philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

, ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

, and political science
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

.

However there is no strict definition of the common good for each situation. The good that is common between person A and person B may not be the same as between person A and person C. Thus the common good can often change, although there are some things such as the basic requirements for staying alive: food, water, and shelter - that are always good for all people.

The common good has sometimes been seen as a utilitarian
Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes the overall "happiness", by whatever means necessary. It is thus a form of consequentialism, meaning that the moral worth of an action is determined only by its resulting outcome, and that one can...

 ideal, thus representing "the greatest possible good for the greatest possible number of individuals". In the best case scenario, the "greatest possible number of individuals" would mean all sentient
Sentience
Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences. Eighteenth century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think from the ability to feel . In modern western philosophy, sentience is the ability to have sensations or experiences...

  beings. This definition of the common good presents it as a quality which is convertible, or reducible, to the sum total of all the private interests of the individual members of a society
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 and interchangeable with them. But this is a narrow, and many would argue impoverished, view of what the common good might encompass.

Another definition of the common good, as the quintessential goal of the state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

, requires an admission of the individual's basic right in society, which is, namely, the right of everyone to the opportunity to freely shape his life by responsible action, in pursuit of virtue
Virtue
Virtue is moral excellence. A virtue is a positive trait or quality subjectively deemed to be morally excellent and thus is valued as a foundation of principle and good moral being....

 and in accordance with the moral law. The common good, then, is the sum total of the conditions of social life which enable people the more easily and straightforwardly to do so. The object of State sovereignty is the free choice of means for creating these conditions. Others, in particular John Rawls
John Rawls
John Bordley Rawls was an American philosopher and a leading figure in moral and political philosophy. He held the James Bryant Conant University Professorship at Harvard University....

, makes the distinction between the Good, that is actively creating a better world however that may be defined, and the Just
Justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

, which creates a fair, liberal
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

 social infrastructure that allows the pursuit of virtue, but does not prescribe what the common good actually is.

Some assert that promoting the common good is the goal of democracy
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

 (in the sphere of politics
Political science
Political Science is a social science discipline concerned with the study of the state, government and politics. Aristotle defined it as the study of the state. It deals extensively with the theory and practice of politics, and the analysis of political systems and political behavior...

) and socialism
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 (in the sphere of economics
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

).

Catholic social teaching


The common good is a concept central to the Catholic social teaching
Catholic social teaching
Catholic social teaching is a body of doctrine developed by the Catholic Church on matters of poverty and wealth, economics, social organization and the role of the state...

 tradition beginning with the foundational document, Rerum Novarum
Rerum Novarum
Rerum Novarum is an encyclical issued by Pope Leo XIII on May 15, 1891. It was an open letter, passed to all Catholic bishops, that addressed the condition of the working classes. The encyclical is entitled: “Rights and Duties of Capital and Labour”...

, a papal encyclical by Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo XIII
Pope Leo XIII , born Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci to an Italian comital family, was the 256th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, reigning from 1878 to 1903...

, issued in 1891 to combat the excesses of both laissez-faire capitalism on the one hand and communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 on the other. In this letter, Pope Leo guarantees the right to private property
Private property
Private property is the right of persons and firms to obtain, own, control, employ, dispose of, and bequeath land, capital, and other forms of property. Private property is distinguishable from public property, which refers to assets owned by a state, community or government rather than by...

 while insisting on the role of the state to require a living wage
Living wage
In public policy, a living wage is the minimum hourly income necessary for a worker to meet basic needs . These needs include shelter and other incidentals such as clothing and nutrition...

. The means of production were considered by the pope to be both private property requiring state protection and a dimension of the common good requiring state regulation
Regulation
Regulation is administrative legislation that constitutes or constrains rights and allocates responsibilities. It can be distinguished from primary legislation on the one hand and judge-made law on the other...

.

Another relevant document is Veritatis Splendor
Veritatis Splendor
Veritatis Splendor is an encyclical by Pope John Paul II. It expresses the position of the Catholic Church regarding fundamentals of the Church's role in moral teaching. The encyclical is one of the most comprehensive and philosophical teachings of moral theology in the Catholic tradition...

, a papal encyclical by Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II
Blessed Pope John Paul II , born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted ; only Pope Pius IX ...

, issued in 1993 to combat the relaxation of moral norms and the political corruption
Political corruption
Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by...

 (see Paragraph 98) that affects millions of persons. In this letter, Pope John Paul describes the characteristics and virtues that political leadership
Leadership
Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task". Other in-depth definitions of leadership have also emerged.-Theories:...

 should require, which are truthfullness, honesty, fairness, temperance and solidarity
Solidarity
Solidarity is a Polish trade union federation that emerged on August 31, 1980 at the Gdańsk Shipyard under the leadership of Lech Wałęsa. It was the first non-communist party-controlled trade union in a Warsaw Pact country. Solidarity reached 9.5 million members before its September 1981 congress...

 (as described in paragraph 98 to 100), given that truth extends from honesty, good faith, and sincerity in general, to agreement with fact or reality in particular. This greatly changed Rome's political system.
Increasingly, progressive
Progressivism
Progressivism is an umbrella term for a political ideology advocating or favoring social, political, and economic reform or changes. Progressivism is often viewed by some conservatives, constitutionalists, and libertarians to be in opposition to conservative or reactionary ideologies.The...

 Americans are adopting the language of the common good (sometimes referred to as "public wealth") to describe progressive values. As an ethical and moral imperative, the common good is central to the tenets of many religious faiths and can be succinctly described as doing unto others, to use a Christian phrase, as we would wish done unto ourselves (known as The Golden Rule; also see its Confucian complement, "do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you," commonly called "The Silver Rule"). Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 was the first to articulate an ethical understanding of common good, followed by Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo
Augustine of Hippo , also known as Augustine, St. Augustine, St. Austin, St. Augoustinos, Blessed Augustine, or St. Augustine the Blessed, was Bishop of Hippo Regius . He was a Latin-speaking philosopher and theologian who lived in the Roman Africa Province...

 and Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

 who developed the concept into standard moral theology.

Concerning contemporary American politics, the common good language is increasingly identifiable with political actors of the progressive left. Jonathan Dolhenty argues that one should distinguish between the common good, which may "be shared wholly by each individual in the family without its becoming a private good for any individual family member" and the collective good, which, "though possessed by all as a group, is not really participated in by the members of a group. It is actually divided up into several private goods when apportioned to the different individual members." First described by Michael Tomasky
Michael Tomasky
Michael Tomasky is a liberal American columnist, journalist and author. He is the editor in chief of Democracy, a special correspondent for Newsweek / The Daily Beast, a contributing editor for The American Prospect, and a contributor to The New York Review of Books.-Biography:Tomasky was born...

 in The American Prospect
The American Prospect
The American Prospect is a monthly American political magazine dedicated to American liberalism. Based in Washington, DC, The American Prospect is a journal "of liberal ideas, committed to a just society, an enriched democracy, and effective liberal politics" which focuses on United States politics...

magazine
Magazine
Magazines, periodicals, glossies or serials are publications, generally published on a regular schedule, containing a variety of articles. They are generally financed by advertising, by a purchase price, by pre-paid magazine subscriptions, or all three...

  and John Halpin at the Center for American Progress
Center for American Progress
The Center for American Progress is a progressive public policy research and advocacy organization. Its website states that the organization is "dedicated to improving the lives of Americans through progressive ideas and action." It has its headquarters in Washington D.C.Its President and Chief...

, the political understanding of the common good has grown. The Take Back America Conference, the liberal magazine The Nation
The Nation
The Nation is the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the United States. The periodical, devoted to politics and culture, is self-described as "the flagship of the left." Founded on July 6, 1865, It is published by The Nation Company, L.P., at 33 Irving Place, New York City.The Nation...

, and the Rockridge Institute
Rockridge Institute
The Rockridge Institute was an American non-profit research and progressive think tank founded in 1997 and located in Berkeley, California from 2003 until April 30, 2008. Its stated goal was to strengthen democracy by providing intellectual support to the progressive community...

 have identified the common good as a salient political message for progressive candidates. More recently, the common good rhetoric is being used by political actors in an explicitly religious context, such as Kansans for Faithful Citizenship. In addition, non-partisan advocacy groups like Common Good
Common Good
Common Good is a nonprofit organization in the United States that advocates a basic shift in legal structures "to restore common sense to American law." In June 2008, the organization, founded in 2002 by Philip K...

are also championing reform efforts to support the common good.