Finding Direction: Acting for the Common Good 2.6.0
Many reject the existence or value of the “common good” because they believe that the essence of life is competition. They see winning as much as possible for themselves as the ultimate goal. As Ayn Rand said, “What I am fighting [against] is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary value” (The Objectivist Calendar).
In large part, how this rejection of the common good tends toward moral Growth or Decay depends on how we treat others. Are others just means to use on the way to the goal of personal advantage? Are rules just for others to follow? Is reciprocity something that others owe? Is responsibility required of others but never given in return? Are rights more important than duties? If these are true, then this self-centered, self-focused form of “independence” is leading to moral Decay that uses others as objects, demands service but never serves, and exhibits total self-concern.
Others reject the common good because historically it has been corrupted into self-sacrifice for the Reich or for a nationalistic cause or for a charismatic leader. But the common good is not focused on the power of a small group. It is not created by a demagogue to encourage violence or to excuse authoritarianism. The characteristics of Growth must be true for the common good to be recognized and supported.
Without Words We Cannot Think
“An ethic, ecologically, is a limitation on freedom of action in the struggle for existence. An ethic, philosophically, is a differentiation of social from anti-social conduct. These are two definitions of one thing. The thing has its origin in the tendency of interdependent individuals or groups to evolve modes of co-operation . . . . in which the original free-for-all competition has been replaced, in part, by co-operative mechanisms with an ethical content.” Aldo Leopold (1887-1948), Sand County Almanac with Essays on Conservation from Round River (1949), “The Land Ethic: The Ethical Sequence”