From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Common Good: We are each other's keepers

Bust of Aristotle (Public Domain)
During a November 6, 2009 Religion & Ethics Newsweekly interview, Daniel Callahan of the Hastings Center discussed his concept of the "common good."

Callahan emphasizes that "common good" not only includes friends and people we know, but also strangers.  He interprets Aristotle's view of humans as "social animals" to mean that we should "think not only of ourselves and our family but also of the neighbor… the person we don't know, and somehow knit that together into some meaningful whole."

Although Europe seems to have a strong sense of this "common good" principle (stemming perhaps from "their wars and other terrors they have gone through"), the United States has been fraught with ambivalence on that score.  Callahan describes Americans as wanting to help the poor, but not wanting to raise their own taxes - wanting health-care reform, but not wanting to have their own care plans mitigated…

How – then - can such ambivalence be resolved?  Keying into the enormous costs of medical technology, Callahan wonders, "…when does a good thing turn into a bad thing?"  Surely this technology will allow some to live longer healthier lives, but at what (and whose) expense?  If the American health-care system becomes so top-heavy that it caves in under the weight of its own luxuries, would anybody (rich or poor) ultimately be the winner?

Is "common good" therefore a viable yardstick against which health-care (and other) reforms should be measured?  Should the "haves" give up something so that the "have-nots" can also thrive?  Many "have-nots" think that they should.  "Common good" theory might very well agree...      


Copyright November 16, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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