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What is the Common Good?

The notion of the "common good" is one that is often bantered about, especially in discussions concerning the nature of justice, as well as the specifics of Catholic Social Thought.

Writing in Traces, the magazine of the Communion & Liberation movement, Notre Dame law professor Paolo Carozza has done everyone a service by providing some clarity as to the nature of this abstract concept.

Here is an excerpt:

The common good
A more complete understanding of the common good reveals at least two problems shared by both the historical example and the current one. First, the common good involves the good of each person in society; it cannot be the aggregation of a “collective interest” that considers the good of some number of individuals to outweigh the good of others. Second, the common good consists in the conditions that permit each of those persons, in community with others, to reach for themselves their fulfillment, to develop “the human vocation”(to use the Catechism’s beautiful phrase). So, the “blessings of liberty” are a part of the common good exactly so that each of us, acting together with others in the communities that together give life to our society as a whole, can be free to develop a life “founded on truth, built up in justice, and animated by love”(again, using the language of the Catechism).

Hat tip: Rick Garnett at Mirror of Justice.


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Comments (2)

This is a helpful beginning. I've often wanted a specific clarification on what the common good is. What's interesting here is how the principle of subsidiarity and solidarity form a whole in this conception of the common good. You can't have one without the other. This would be a good reminder to the more political enamored catholics. Too often, the left can't acknowledge subsidiarity and the right can't address solidarity without qualification. Unfortunately, this holds true for more than a few Catholics as well.

Jason A.:

Excellent point. If you are interested in further reading on this topic, I would check out the various writings of philosopher Russell Hittinger. He gets the various nuances and theoretical underpinnings of these terms better than anyone. He will shortly be publishing a massive book on the history of papal social thought from 1789 to the present. Look for it.

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