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The Common Good

Spread the word of the good deed before it’s too late

By Robert B. Reich
13-minute read
Audio available
The Common Good by Robert B. Reich

The Common Good (2018) is a call for Americans to try and work toward the collective good once again, rather than continue along the path of “whatever-it-takes-to-win,” which has been the overriding mentality for the last few decades. The author outlines the importance of the common good and how we should go about restoring it.

  • Americans who are concerned about the current political environment
  • People who feel that Western capitalism is losing its moral compass
  • Those interested in American cultural and social history

Robert Reich teaches public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. He’s written over a dozen books, including the best seller Saving Capitalism. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, he served as Secretary of Labor.

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The Common Good

By Robert B. Reich
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
The Common Good by Robert B. Reich
Synopsis

The Common Good (2018) is a call for Americans to try and work toward the collective good once again, rather than continue along the path of “whatever-it-takes-to-win,” which has been the overriding mentality for the last few decades. The author outlines the importance of the common good and how we should go about restoring it.

Key idea 1 of 8

The common good sums up the ideals and values society needs in order to function.

On any given day in America, thousands of nurses, doctors, social workers and teachers do what they must to save lives, assist people and spread knowledge. And, to maintain the safety of the community and of the nation, there are thousands of police officers, firefighters and people in the armed forces.

What these people have in common is that they’re all contributing to the common good of society.

The common good is comprised of the values, ideals and norms shared by a society. It is what citizens expect of one another and what connects them to one another. In other words, it’s the unwritten laws of morality that we choose to live by and the ideals we hold as one community.

Explicitly, it consists of ideals like freedom, fairness, equality in the court of law, equal opportunity, respect for others and their opinions, a sense of community and trust in public institutions, such as universities and courts.

This notion of a virtuous society has its roots in the Bible and the Enlightenment.

Indeed, James Madison, the founding father and fourth US president, took direct inspiration from the philosophers of the French Enlightenment when he wrote in Federalist No. 45 that “the public good and real welfare of the great body of the people, is the supreme object to be pursued.”

The Bible also shaped the idea of the common good. America was once a country made up of many religious communities, whose devotees were pious, charitable and dedicated to the good of society.

The common good – a set of social values and ideals – took shape, in part, as a result of this dedication.

If the notion of the common good didn’t exist, we’d probably think that the police, judges, legislators and regulators were benefiting from the laws they were enforcing. And if that were the case, there would be no fairness or justice, leaving everyone to look out for themselves in a jungle where only the strongest, smartest or richest would survive.

Though a chaotic, corrupt society doesn’t sound ideal, there are some who disagree with the notion of the common good. We’ll explore their views in the next blink.

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