I just got back from a long run and as is my wont I like to pick a topic to dwell on to help the miles pass. Being Ted’s Head day it made things even more productive. As I left off last week I have this thing about common good and is it even possible? My opining could be an elixir or can of worms. You decide.
What is the common good? The classic definition is that which is shared by all or at least a majority of a given community. You build a hospital, or finance a police force or designate an area for open space. That is considered for the common good. It is to be utilized and enjoyed by everyone. This is all fine until someone has to give up something for the rest of us and we test our mettle for generosity. Some have to pay higher taxes. Others have to donate or sell land or give a bequest. Others their right to privacy. Tough stuff.
Now by town, state or country we have to arrive at what is proper and what is overkill. I might think I am being levied upon beyond reasonableness and you may deem I am not giving my proper share. Today we have the classic too much or too little government. Some think we need infrastructure for growth and others are content to leave things just as they are.
At the moment we live in a condominium with 68 other units. Everybody has their own idea of heaven and we do a decent job of sorting out but sometimes it is only the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. When we were in Hawaii there were speed bumps in the small village that were spaced a hundred yards apart. Everyone hated them except the activist that bitched to the HOA. So do you make sure everyone is heard or do you just seek the majority opinion?
In a democracy 50.1% is a winner. That also means the other 49.9% feels short shrifted. Throughout the world there are governmental forms where minorities are a fact of life. Lo and behold this requires some compromise to form a bloc of people that feel more or less the same way. Not completely on one side to the other but as they say, “close enough for government work.”
Our Supreme Court has thrown a bit of a wrinkle into our process in their “Citizen’s United” decision. To them corporations are people and with a decided advantage. Their votes really count for more because their wallets are full and largesse towards kindred political spirits gets the desired result even though it may not exactly be the will of the majority.
I guess around mile three I am beginning to wonder if this thing can work at all? If everyone feels like they are being screwed then how do we ever sing out of the same hymnal? This is being exacerbated today as more and more small players gum up the works so to speak. A small group of students can keep a lecturer off campus. Lovers of the snail darter held up a dam in Tennessee for so much time the costs to the general public and ergo you and me got the short end by having more tax dollars wasted. Was this beneficial to the masses?
This has all been debated since the time of Plato and Aristotle. Our current conundrum is no different. The people want a say or at least to feel like someone is looking out for them. That is how the Donald got elected. It wasn’t because of his good looks and charm or his charisma. He was just something different and boy is he ever! At the same time the cognoscenti were egotistical enough to say they knew how to do it and just shut up and vote for me.
Sooner or later the locals have just had it. Look at the Arab Spring, Venezuela, the populist movements in Europe and unrest elsewhere. Smaller nations don’t understand the innuendos of global initiatives and don’t want to play ball. Alliances are frayed and entirely new ones are formed. Times change and definitions are rewritten. What is the common good today? Should everyone be released from poverty? A noble cause but doable? Can the UN dictate what works for everyone worldwide? Democracy is actually on the down slope right now. Tough questions.
It is far too simplistic but there is an element of the Golden Rule present. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Every move or decision you make is not just with you in mind but the world at large in however you deem that to be. Can a senator say this is good for the people but it will probably cost me my job? Can the rich say we have a little too much and we should share the wealth? Can the poor say I have to do more for myself rather than relying on the dole? Big moves. Mind benders. A fools journey?
I looked up the word consensus and its synonyms: agreement, harmony, concurrence, accord, unity, unanimity, solidarity. Do you think any of those concepts are applicable today? Go to your next school board meeting, town council, labor negotiation, or session in Congress. It would take some very big open minds to bridge these chasms.
You say it is life and maybe so. That’s the nature of the beast. I think we are so wary of one another and protective of our own that it is not in the cards. At least not in the near future and that is tragic. Maybe we need another 9/11 or almost depression to shake us up. The common good necessitates community in every nuance. It involves sharing and compromise. I really doubt we have it in us.
Ted The Great.
Mavs owner, Mark Cuban described Donald Trump as the chemotherapy for the cancer that has crept into our democracy. Funny but apt.
From The Transatlantic Academy:
“Democracy is in trouble,” the report begins. “The collective engagement of a concerned citizenry for the public good — the bedrock of a healthy democracy — is eroding. Democratic governments often seem crippled in their capacity to deliver what their people want and need. There is widespread concern about apparent declining rates of voter participation and about the alienation or disaffection of citizens from the political process.” Uh Oh!
Democracy is a process that relies upon optimism regarding the future. It also rests upon the belief that the system is fair. Finally, people must believe that it possible to make substantive changes. The extreme concentration of wealthy undermines all three views.
Psychology Today 1/20/2015