What Is the “Common Good”?
Americanism Offers a Unique Answer
What IS Americanism?
This question amounts to:
- How is society in the United States different from most other societies throughout history?
- What is American society’s essential characteristic?
- How can that characteristic be preserved and strengthened?
There are many opinions on the question. In the Americanism Book Study, we are exploring the best answer — an answer given by Ayn Rand.
The essential characteristic of American society is the recognition of individual rights.
In this session of the American Book Study, we look at how individual rights must be defended. It is not sufficient to argue for rights on the basis of some vague notion of the common good. Whose good?
Likewise, it is not sufficient to argue that freer economies create more wealth than the more regulated economies. We need to argue for laissez-faire capitalism (and a clear vision of what that entails) on a moral basis — not merely on the basis of historical statistics and economic data.
The argument for freedom (and against dictatorship and economic controls) is fundamentally an argument about what is morally right and wrong.
While it is true that capitalism does create more wealth, that is not the primary justification of capitalism. That is not the starting point of our argument.
The fundamental argument for capitalism (for economic freedom, individual rights, and property rights) is that human beings survive by using their own minds long-range, and therefore, human flourishing requires that men be left free to think, to produce, and to control what they have produced.
Government controls always deprive people of the ability to use their minds. Over the long-term, that leads to a diminishing of the power of essential driver of human life, which is the mind.
In order to survive, man must use his mind freely (and then take the productive actions that this entails). All the values we have in this world depend on the ability of men to use their minds freely, and then to act as their own minds direct.
Freedom of thought (and of productive action) is, therefore, the essential good that government should be protecting, not trampling.
Such freedom IS the “common good” that governments exist to defend.