Many of us must think of ourselves as exemplary individuals when it comes to serving the common good yet in reality, we are a population who only want to serve our self-interests as appose to the interests of the whole community. As human beings, we are naturally self-centered and we are always seeking for what is best for us, so how will the common good be incorporated in such communities? In response to these inquiries in “The Common Good: Theoretical Content, Practical Utility”, Galston (2013) examines both the notion of the common good and the outcomes of the system if it was integrated on a certain community. In this sense, he argues that there are three pillars to the common good that are based on three social facts; Inherently social goods, social linkages and the good of the commons. The common good is established in this sensation for the reason that we as human beings are naturally social creatures; we want to feel belonged and associated in a community. In addition, Galston disputes that “the common good is an achievement, not a fact” especially in the face of challenges: how can we define the limits of the community? Will everyone is satisfied? For the common good to be successful within a community, all individuals must put in the effort to work together as a united community, however, in order for them to unify they all must be treated equally in terms of getting equal benefits and also having proportionate burdens of responsibilities.
Galston refers to three socials facts; Inherently social goods, social linkages and the good of the commons and he states that these comprise the base of the common good. We as human beings are social creatures that want to be around others who have a common mindset in order to achieve a common goal, thus, the common good ultimately serves our interests. Some goods have to be shared with other people because we cannot enjoy them alone. One example that was portrayed in the text was chess, we can play chess alone, however, we will not have the same experience when we play it with another person. The second aspect is social linkages, this means that our actions can affect other people’s lives. For instance, public health, there are many contagious diseases in society and if a person gets infected other people’s health is at risk, which means that public health is linked from one individual to another. In other words, there will be situations where the common good will be wanted to serve society as a whole, but ultimately to serve our self-interest. The final aspect of the common good is the good of the commons, which means that being social creatures requires us to have shared places for instance like parks, malls, and even tech-based platforms. So, in order for them to be shared fairly by everyone, each individual should behave in these places in a mindful way and keeping in mind that our actions affect other people.
The common good like any other system comes with challenges and responsibilities that have to be overcome by the individuals. One of the main challenges that Galston advocates are the fact that we all have individual interests and sometimes these interests will overlap or contradict the community’s interests. In the face of these challenges the individuals of the community should understand that “the common good is an achievement, not a fact” that is because the common good is something an individual has to work for to achieve, as appose to being something that exists without commitment and determination. There has to be some preconditions or values implemented in a community in order for the common good to be successful within a community. One of the main Values that has to preoccupy in a community is ‘unity’; Galston states that “The people from it must want to live together as a unity, and they must think of themselves as sharing a common fate”. Thus, we should all think of ourselves as one big society instead of thinking that we are communities that are separated by individualistic interests. It is ideal that a community is able to define its limits, even though it is very difficult to impose limits in a community. Imagine having a community share a particular good or resource, how is the government going to make everyone share this resource in a mindful way? In other words, is every individual going to think about the common good? The perfect representation would be the usage of fossil fuels since it is a massive issue in the environmental world. We all know that fossil fuels are the number one cause of climate change and our use of these resources are increasing every single day. When individuals are using these resources, they should think of how it is affecting other people or in fact affecting the environment we all live in which is ultimately the goal of the common good. The government can set restrictions on the usage of these resources by penalizing individuals or institutions who go over the limit by increases taxation for instance. In addition, communities should not only think about their generation when exhausting resources but they also should think about the generations to come. Galston argues that we cannot “risk leaving future generations with diminished shares of the goods”, therefore, no generation should enjoy the resources in an unfair manner that will result in other generations to have a scarcity in a resource.
The common good must be thought of as a teamwork effort; everyone or rather most people most contribute to it, in order for it to be a success in the community. However, in order for everyone to be motivated to contribute to it, everyone should get an equal amount of benefits and responsibilities. For the common good to be valuable in a certain community all existences should benefit, a perfect example that was portrayed in the text is gentrification, this is when the government renovates buildings to satisfy middle-class people. That is the government using taxes to satisfy middle-income people while completely neglecting the low-income people. It is completely unfair to those people because they have been paying taxes all their life for the ‘common good’ for the government only to use their taxes to benefit only part of the community. The common good is important for the reason that it “offers a voice for all”, which means that everyone from minorities to majorities can voice their disputes and interests freely to avoid injustice.