I believe in the importance of the Common Good. When I was growing up, I remember people talking about doing things for the Common Good.
Nowadays, our society seems to encourage people to act out of greed and self-interest. Corporations do things to provide profits for executive managers and stockholders, even if it may hurt the Common Good. Our government has approved tax cuts for the wealthiest members of our society, even though it may mean cutting programs for those in need.
Efforts are made to reduce the tax burden of corporations and wealthy individuals. Corporations receive large amounts of “corporate welfare”, which helps increase their already large profits. At the same time, individuals at the bottom end of the socio-economic ladder are expected to subsist on a minimum wage that is not adequate and may not be increased for years.
In the book The Cheating Culture, subtitled “Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead”, Dr. David Callahan describes the cheating that occurs throughout many areas of life in America. Cheating in high schools and colleges. Fraud in the business and investment world. Overbilling by law firms. Journalists making up news stories. Use of illegal drugs by athletes. And on and on. He asserts that there is a culture in America that believes “everyone is doing it” and “unless I do it, I don’t stand a chance at success”. The focus is on ME and what will benefit ME. Little thought, if any, is given to the impact my actions will have on other people, my community, my country.
I believe that this “me-first” approach to life is self-destructive. Maybe not in the short-term. But, over time, it will fall apart, because its foundation is not built on the qualities that we believe are the basis of a moral and good life: truth, honesty, integrity, caring for others. We hear many preach these values. But few of our leaders actually practice them.
The “bottom line” has come to dominate our business or political practices. Business leaders will only act for the Common Good if it does not have an adverse effect on the bottom line. Political leaders speak about lofty goals for our country and about how much they care for the citizens they represent. However, many are beholden to special interests, which make large contributions to their re-election campaigns. Laws are written to benefit these special interests and not society as a whole. Members of Congress slip into budgets “earmarks”, that may not reflect a wise use of taxpayer money, but which will get their constituents to re-elect them, or lobbyists to provide financial support for their re-election.
I believe we are better than this! We need to change our values and realize that we are all in this together. We need to recognize that acting for the Common Good is, in the long run, best for our community, our country and our world.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.