Return to Civility and the Common Good

In The Common Good (2018) Robert B. Reich writes that the people of the United States are focused less on “…the common good” and more “…on self-aggrandizement.”  He says that “…the idea of the ‘common good’ was once widely understood and accepted in America.  After all, the United States Constitution was designed for ‘We the people’ seeking to ‘promote the general wealth….”  Unfortunately, “…the common good is no longer a fashionable idea.”

Reich states that “the Common Good consists of our shared values about what we owe one another as citizens who are bound together in the same society – the norms we voluntarily abide by, and the ideals we seek to achieve, …keeping the common good in mind is a moral attitude.  If there is no common good, there is no society.”

Reich continues “…we must agree on basic principles – such as how we deal with our disagreements, the importance of our democratic institutions, our obligations toward the laws, our respect for the truth – if we’re to participate in the same society.”

Sadly, according to Reich, the first to break the unwritten rules that exploits the common good for personal gain is rewarded.  This has now resulted in the attitudes of “…whatever it takes to win in politics, …rig the economy or to …maximize profits” at the expense of the common good as being somehow acceptable.

In Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct (2002) P.M. Forni writes that “As we pull out all the stops in our frenzy of achievement, we often disregard the norms of civility …we become too busy, too goal-directed.”

The common good is lost in the mindset of self-aggrandizement, personal achievement and over-the-top consumption.  The common good becomes a seeming drag to those who are totally focused on their personal goals.  However, they forget that our country, our society, was built on the common good.  Their fortunes were built on the foundations built by the members of the common good.  We need to treat one another with civility and respect no matter our station in life.  A focus on the common good is essential to the survival of our society.  How can we make it fashionable again?

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Concerned Citizen

2 thoughts on “Return to Civility and the Common Good”

  1. Constitutional safeguards alone don’t protect us from misusing power. Strong democratic norms and following constitutional rules work together in securing the common good. How a Democracy Dies which appeared in The New Republic magazine explained two important norms that protect political liberties.
    These are, mutual toleration of ones partisan rivals and legitimate forbearance, by not using the letter of the Constitution to undermine its spirit. Donald Trump is criticized for abusing democratic norms, but he is not the first. Newt Gingrich benefited from a wave of polarization, especially in the Republican party. With a group of loyalists he promoted discontent within the GOP. ranks to promote political warfare in the party an against the Dems. On the media he described the Democrats as corrupt and sick. He questioned the Democrats patriotism comparing the Mussolini. To build support he sent out audio tapes to his supporters. Finally after he succeeded in shifting congresses makeup the Republicans refused to compromise on the 1994 budget.
    Democrats were also guilty of playing political hardball. The 1998 the House vote to impeach Bill Clinton ran afoul of political norms. The investigation began with Whitewater and when nothing came of it they tried to impeach Clinton for having an extramarital affair. None of these issues approached “High crimes and misdemeanors” the standard for impeachment.
    Thanks to Carl Rove George Bush governed hard to the right which can be seen by his actions in Iraq . The democrats returned the favor by abandoning forbearance in obstructing Bushes appointments to the Federal court.
    Most flagrant of all was the challenge of the Obama legitimacy. The tea party claimed President Obama posed a threat to democracy. Just days after his election congressman Paul Broun warned of the coming of dictatorship. Obama was portrayed on conservative radio for being not only a dictator but worse a closet Muslim.
    Voters have become split on conservative and liberal lines . With no examples of political tolerance and respect for others from our leaders we the people impinge on others opinions making enemies of others.


  2. Thanks for your thoughtful contribution. Both sides are guilty of not doing what is best for the common good and the divisiveness is getting worse. Sadly, I think the task of correcting this destructive way of thinking is overwhelming. Only grassroots activism on a wide scale can change it. And when so many are buying in to the lies put forth by some factions of the news media, change seems impossible.


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