Individual Rights and Freedoms v. The Common Good

By S. Leon Felkins
October 10, 2004

We would hope that if government must promote anything, it would be the common good[1]. Most of us are not too happy with the government specifically giving help to private individuals, although it is obvious that this occurs routinely.

The common good is a close cousin to the Fascist idea of "total devotion to the state" as promoted by such regimes as the Nazis and the Communists. Nevertheless, while supporters of "democracies" often denigrate such concepts and are quick to blather about the freedom of the individual, as our present rulers do when promoting the war and the PATRIOT Act, most visible actions by the government are nominally for the "common good".

Unfortunately, many forcefully imposed actions for the common good have done great harm to our republic. I will list a few:

This brief outline has attempted to show the dangers of using the common good as a basis for laws, decrees, and court decisions. While it is acknowledged that the common good is the primary purpose of most laws and government actions, it should never the soul basis for such laws and actions.

For if that were allowed, then we could have situations in which some humans would be sacrificed for the common good. As an example, we might have a leader or brilliant scientist that is dying of liver disease. A case could be made that we could sacrifice some "worthless" person or persons in order to obtain a liver transplant for the "greater common good" of saving this great person's life.

Another example would be that a situation might come to be that it would be in the US's "national interest" to invade another country and destroy it because it posed a threat to our people. Hmm, well, on second thought, maybe not.

Mr. Felkins is a retired former military officer, college professor, and computer systems engineer. He maintains a web page on Political Philosophy, "A Rational Life", and another on the history of politics, "The Political Almanac". Email is welcome.

Notes:

1. The "Common Good" is also known as or is closely related to "Public Good", "General Welfare", "National Interest", "Good of the Country", "General Welfare", etc.
2. Total tax burden in the US depends on where you live and your income, of course, but on average, according to the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) in their report, "Hidden Taxes: How much do you really pay?" it is about 56 percent.
3. See "Subverting the Constitution in high school" by Alan Caruba at http://www.eco.freedom.org/el/20040902/caruba.shtml .
4. The RICO act and subsequent acts that implemented the seizing of private property through forfeiture is discussed in the comprehensive article "Policing for Profit: The Drug War’s Hidden Economic Agenda" by Eric Blumenson and Eva S. Nilsen.
5. "The sacred rights of property are to be guarded at every point. I call them sacred, because, if they are unprotected, all other rights become worthless or visionary." -- Judge Joseph Story, 1852
6. "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."