What is the common good? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy say that the common good “refers to those facilities—whether material, cultural or institutional—that the members of a community provide to all members in order to fulfill a relational obligation they all have to care for certain interests that they have in common.” Put more simply, it is whatever is for the benefit or interests of all.
Why does it matter now? Because it affects our entire society. Examples of common goods include an accessible and affordable public health care system, an effective system of public safety and security, peace among the nations of the world, a just legal and political system, an unpolluted natural environment, and a flourishing economic system. Now, as we struggle to envision a post-lockdown world, is the time to address what is needed for the common good. What do we want this new world to look like?
If the global epidemic has taught us anything it is that we all affect each other, in ways large and small. From the smallest, individual decision whether or not to wear a mask, to the growing referendum for universal healthcare, or marching to end police brutality so that all members of the community feel safe, what we as individuals decide impacts our society. The decisions made by our corporations affect the common good as well. Do they promote a responsible social agenda, or contribute to environmental problems? Do they support their workers with a fair living wage and benefit, or do they favor profit over people? Is there a way to have both?
As we simultaneously re-open society and face the prospect of a another wave of Covid 19, we have a chance to rethink what we want from our society, to identify what was working and is worth keeping, and what was lacking. with massive unemployment does it make sense to have health benefits tied to a job? Do corporations that contribute to global warming bear responsibility to shareholders or to the larger society? Does an individual have the right to skip wearing a mask if it endangers others?
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