Common Good

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Full Title or Meme

The Common Good consists of our shared values about what we owe one another as citizen who are bound together in the same society, the norms we voluntarily abide by and the ideals that we seek to achieve. If there is no Common Good there is no society.[1]

Context

While the general feeling in the US after WWII was that all members of society had pulled together to make the world a safer place, that feeling only lasted about 20 years till the Vietnam war left many in society feeling something quite different.

In November 1956, Time magazine explored a phenomenon that went by various names: “capitalism with a conscience,” “enlightened conservatism,” “people’s capitalism,” and, most popularly, “The New Conservatism.” No matter which label one preferred, the basic concept was clear: Business leaders were demonstrating an ever increasing willingness, in the words of the story, to “shoulder a host of new responsibilities” and “judge their actions, not only from the standpoint of profit and loss” in their financial results “but of profit and loss to the community.”[2]

Then in the 1980's corporate raiders and hedge funds, like that run by Mitt Romney, applied a new metric, shareholder value. If a corporate CEO did not maximize "shareholder value" they were raided and sacked. As you might imagine, by the time of Jack Welch at GE, the CEOs had fully internalized this mantra and now abandoned the ideas expressed above from the 1950s.

Comparing the common wealth of 1975 with that of 2000 we learn that these changes were not so good for most of the population.

Problems

Humans have evolved to support the Common Good for the tribes that sustained them. Ayn Rand described "The tribal notion of “the common good” has served as the moral justification of most social systems—and of all tyrannies—in history. The degree of a society’s enslavement or freedom corresponded to the degree to which that tribal slogan was invoked or ignored."[3] It is clear that we humans now need to find a social contract that accepts "Moral Man and Immoral Society"[4] and find a way to let Trust work again for our commonwealth.

The internet was created as a simple, reliable virtual pipe from one computer to another. There was no transaction fee charged, not identifiers of anything other and computers (the DNS systems) and no particular need for trust. As the internet was opened to commercial uses in the 1990's, the lack of any identifiers for users was overcome with email, the lack of any trust by HTTPS and this evolving Ecosystem managed to provide amazing value in a short time. Now the Distributed Identifier effort is trying to build up a web of trust based on nothing but the work of amoral computers. It is hard to imagine that any better result will come from their efforts than came from the hedge fund raiders of the 1980s.

Solutions

References

  1. Robert Reich, The Common Good. Chap 2 ISBN 978-0525520498
  2. Rick Wartzman, Whatever Happened to Corporate Stewardship? (2014-08) Harvard business review https://hbr.org/2014/08/whatever-happened-to-corporate-stewardship
  3. Ayn Rand, Common Good. —Ayn Rand Lexicon http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/common_good.html
  4. Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society. Scribner’s, (1933)

External References