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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 4/10/14

What Did Happen To The Common Good?

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Richard Turcotte
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The common good principle promotes fairness and equality. A progressive government guards against discrimination and works to prevent underserved communities. It operates on the principle that we're all in this together, not that you're on your own. Being in this together means that we get the benefits of everyone working for the common good, as well as the responsibilities.
Using the common wealth for the common good creates prosperity and fosters community. "In business, the common good principle results in ethical business practices. An ethical business does no harm--to individuals, communities, or the environment. It also contributes real benefits to the public as well as its employees and its community.

What seems on its face to be a reasonable description of the conceptual ideal upon which this nation was founded and the accordingly governed for a few hundred years has been under attack for years. One Party has made it clear that Almost No Government is the objective, and they have done their damnedest--more so since January of 2009 than ever before--to make sure that almost nothing about government works as it should and has since the late 1700s.

The Republican Party operates on the assumption that only small government--if that--is necessary or proper. Ideological differences aside, when one group takes it upon itself to proactively gum up the works at every turn, we've moved beyond philosophical differences into a very dark chapter of present history.

There's an adage suggesting that one should be careful what is wished for, and it might be be a useful and eye-opening experience for passionate supporters of that principle to ask themselves what happens if their ideology prevails? In the early 1800s a fledgling nation may have made do with a small government, but in an age of ever-increasingly complexity and the blurring of economic ad political boundaries and borders, small government as an abstract notion needs to bend to present-day realities.

The federal governments, warts and all, should be as involved/not-involved and large/small as circumstances and needs dictate. Acknowledging that requires more than a bit of contemplation and compromise--among other essentials. Knee-jerk insistence on a hundreds-of-years-old philosophy without an appreciation for the fact that it is 2014 and 1614 is many things (idiotic and shortsighted, for example), but it is neither wise nor advisable.

The Right may grind its collective at the notion there is much good in government (especially when cooperation and not obstruction is the primary tactic), but to suggest that in modern times removing government from every corner of commerce and culture is nothing but the illogical rants of the uninformed and unwise. That the Republican Party has no problem with uttering pronouncements about old white guys' notions of women's reproductive and health needs, or how biological imperatives should instead be legislated, but solving problems--especially those affecting more than few dozen thousand of the wealthiest and most privileged--well, we can't have that!

As George Lakoff also noted in the above-linked work:

[According to conservative philosophy] the 'common good principle' is seen as interfering with the free market, the system that rewards discipline. The freedoms that progressives want to expand-- particularly freedom from want--are not seen as 'freedoms' by conservatives. The 'human dignity principle' is rejected by most conservatives because they believe humans do not have an inalienable dignity but must prove their self-worth through self-discipline. If they cannot provide for themselves, too bad. There are exceptions: God-fearing, churchgoing, hardworking people with conservative family values are the 'worthy poor,' deserving of private charity.

Nice if you can get away it, Right?

That the Republican Party has gone several steps further than merely advocating for their beliefs by doing all they can at every opportunity to make certain that there are few opportunities if any for most of us--especially those most burdened by those very "principles" suggests a complete disconnect from any notions about basic decency or acting in the best interests of the nation.

As E.J. Dionne noted:

Our current discussion of what constitutes 'freedom' is shaped far too much by a deeply flawed right-wing notion that every action by government is a threat to personal liberty and that the one and only priority of those who care about keeping people free is for government to do less than it does.

Have any of the blind adherents to this and related notions stopped to consider what happens when the policies driven by this narrow-minded and often inhumane ideology take root in society? What magic potions are everyday, middle-class conservatives going to consume in order to protect themselves from the harsh consequences of stripping our nation of the protections and enactments which have been essential components to America's progress and standing?

What happens then? isn't all that difficult a question to ask, although it's duly-noted that even a moment or two of introspection will lead to more than a bit of heartburn and indigestion when it dawns on the non-wealthy and non-privileged few that the America they so fervently seek to "take back" has in fact been stolen from them by the very groups and leaders they entrusted to look out for their interests.

Perhaps a Plan B is in order? The 1%-ers and their paid-for elected officials may be apoplectic at the thought, but isn't getting what one deserves one of their guiding lights?
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Looking Left and Right: Inspiring Different Ideas, Envisioning Better Tomorrows I remain a firm believer in late U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone's observation that "We all do better when we all do better." That objective might be worth pursuing (more...)

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