SS: The Common Good

“The common good is no longer a fashionable idea,” writes Robert Reich in his latest book, The Common Good. Yet renewing the concept, he argues, is urgent: “If there is no common good,” he writes, “there is no society.”

Reich’s new title offers both a careful accounting of the American history of moral deterioration, beginning with the Nixon administration, and a call to arms to bring back moral leadership. It’s also a searing indictment of the Trump administration’s frequent dismissal of “the common good,” which Reich believes undercuts our democracy.

Reich makes a persuasive case that the shift toward greed and power and away from the common good has been hugely detrimental to our society. He urges leaders to renew trust in institutions they oversee; if they are found guilty of using their positions for personal gain, Reich presses us to hold them accountable.

Reich has served in three administrations, including as Secretary of Labor for Bill Clinton, and is the author of thirteen books including 2015’s Saving Capitalism. He is currently a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley.

Go here! Enjoy.

One thought on “SS: The Common Good

  1. As Mark Lilla writes in his must-read book _The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics_, ‘the common good’ has been abandoned by both the political left and the political right — perhaps even more startlingly by the political right. And he makes quite a good case for this being the reason why the Democrats have continued to lose their traditional base, with increasing number of working-class people voting Republican.

    The right, since Reaganomics, holds that there is no common good because the invisible hand of the marketplace will convert our personal selfishness into the best of all possible worlds. They therefore undermine efforts to work collectively, especially through the government.

    The identitarian left of Obama, Clinton, and… Oprah? (as opposed to the more inclusive egalitarian left of Bernie Sanders) also holds that there is no common good, because what’s most important is finding ways in which one’s subgroup (unless one is a white straight male) has been historically marginalized, and dwelling on the ways in which the patriarchy/white supremacist society/transphobic mainstream/etc. has harmed one, and hence treating appeals to the common good as naive support for oppressive power and tendencies.

    Neither of these approaches involves room for us to sincerely talk about, or promote, the public good. They are both devoted to protesting things from the outside and then tearing them down. Neither really involves uniting people despite their differences and working on a positive, rather than negative, project. (Getting the government off your back, or ferreting out alleged cases of sexism/racism/etc., are negative rather than positive projects).

    This is a telling sign of how things have fallen in just a few years from the world in which the projects for the common good as promoted by, say, Peter Singer were seen as good things in themselves:


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