Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Common Good

I've been thinking about Plutocrats, by Chrystia Freeland, and philosophy and ethics.  I'm realizing that the concepts of "the common good" and "individual rights" need to be discussed as we slide towards third world status.  Googled "the common good" and found this entry from Santa Clara University.

I grew up at a time when folks could actually work their way through college and earn a degree without debt from student loans.  Not at Harvard or Stanford.  I do not think that the practice of recognizing "the common good" means Harvard and Stanford should be affordable to the entire population.  I'm also not convinced those universities and their like are superior.  I suggest they are where the powerful go to learn how to maintain their power and influence.  I did not come up with that idea on my own--much smarter people than I have written about it.

This was also a time when the country recognized its responsibility to the men and women who fought in WW II and helped provide them an education when they came home from the war.  This benefited the entire nation (in my opinion) as it helped to create a middle class that made us a stable country for many years.  Thus, our generosity towards these people contributed to the common good. 

Our leaders now treat the armed forces as just so much cannon fodder (now there is a grand tradition), to be used, then discarded with as little cost to the economy as is possible.

The "common good" is an idea.  I think (not sure however) that it was a more popular idea in the 1950s and 1960s, then in the 1970s corporatism began its stealthy takeover of the world.  Is there a correlation with the popularity of the MBA degree?  I don't know, I'm asking.

The push/pull between individual rights and "the common good" could provide a checks and balance system.  What I see is that "individual rights" has become corrupted thanks to our Supreme Court, corporatism controls the government, the populace has been educated to vote against its own self-interest, the media is hopelessly corrupted.  I try to be optimistic and find that increasingly more difficult.

In reality, the real individual, a human being separate from other human beings, has less protection from the state.  Meanwhile, created individuals such as corporations, Kochs, Waltons, many hedge fund managers (the super wealthy) at the expense of actual individuals.  Our rights are being, have been, eliminated over the past 50 years.

Like many people, I think in generalities and have to be reined in constantly.  Having wealthy friends means I've had to give up thinking of wealthy people as a general group.  I don't think my friends are in the 1% which is good.  I think many of the 1% are sociopaths then have to remind myself that Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are not sociopaths.  Gates is a businessman whose ethics might come into question.  He is also following the Carnegie example and using his robber baron gains to benefit many.  I also have to recognize that many wealthy people are actually very generous and think about the common good while attempting to protect their own interests. 

Sigh.  It would be so much easier to just rely on stereotypes (and neurons) but then I'd have to watch Fox news and read Glenn Beck, etc.

Thinking is not easy and maybe not even fun.

Unlike the great thinkers of the world and of history, I don't seem to be able to think these things through on my own, by myself.  I rely on friends to help me see the possible flaws and variations and traps and only do this through discussion which there does not seem to be a lot of time for in our world.