We would hope that if government must promote anything, it would be the common good. 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:
The one action by our government obstensibly for the common good that has been the most disastrous over all, is probably the imposition of the Income Tax in 1913 by means of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution. However, as destructive as that amendment was, the major damage to the Republic came by the 1943 legislation that implemented "withholding".
"Withholding" of income tax throughout the year is a diabolical scheme that allows the apathetic public to be heavily fleeced without generating any complaint. If the citizens still had to annually pay their taxes in one lump sum out of their savings, there would not be a massive federal government; there would not be a military budget nearly as big as all the rest of the world combined; there would not be a terribly wasteful and inhumane "Drug War" that destroys the lives of so many young people every day; and there would not be the pervasive Orwellian, "Big Brother is Watching You", invasion of privacy.
How is it possible that the government's fleecing of over 50% of our earnings, necessary to support a huge, self-serving, government — which wastes billions of dollars every year, oppresses its own people, harasses nearly every other country in the world, creates so many laws that no one can go through a day without breaking several, and incarcerates more of its people that any other country in the world — is mindlessly but enthusiastically supported by over half of its citizens?
Government controlled education! Particularly, centralized control. When schools were managed and funded locally, there was a fair chance that most students would get a realistic, life-enhancing, and somewhat honest education. However, the trend has been to centralize control; first to the state level, and then to the federal level. Which is where we are today.
History demonstrates that if government can control education, it will create mindless serfs. By means of laws, regulations and grants (including the supplying of teaching materials), the Federal Government dictates what and how our children will be taught. Since the populace has already been brainwashed to accept this tyranny, there is hardly a whimper of complaint.
Harry Browne opines in "Does the Constitution Contain a Right to Privacy?", that "Perhaps the greatest mistake made in American history was in allowing government to educate our children."
The original draft of the Declaration of Independence, as written by Thomas Jefferson, listed "forfeiture and confiscation of our property" as one of the reasons that justified the American Revolution. Yet today, billions of dollars of property are taken annually by state and federal governments without due process. By means of a series of statutes put on the law books, starting with the RICO act and the "Comprehensive Drug Abuse prevention and Control Act", both passed in 1970, our governments can seize properties worth millions, including homes and life savings, without making an arrest or filing any charges. It is up to the victims to take action to get it back by proving they did not commit a crime -- in spite of our Constitutional promise that we are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
By two other means the public is shown that it really has no right to private property: eminent domain takings and the destruction of land value by means of such laws as the "Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969." While spouting the justification as the "public good", our various governments forcibly take property from one individual and give to another for such things as "increasing the tax revenue," and destroys hundreds of jobs and local industry by such actions as declaring that a forest must be preserved to protect the "Spotted Owl."
In addition to the damage done to the right of private property, the efforts of our government to protect the citizens from the evils of unapproved drug use managed to create the following disasters:
In spite of the promise of the 10th Amendment, the Federal government now rides roughshod over all, citizens and states alike. There is no aspect of our life that is immune to Federal control and interference. How can this be? Trouble started with the Supreme Court decision, McCulloch v Maryland (1819). That precedent established the superiority of the federal government. It was downhill from there. Also see "Gibbons v Ogden (1821)" where the supremacy of Federal powers over states in matters of commerce was established.
Even the goverment's SBA admits that the cost of regulations is about 1 trillion dollars per year; others say that it is at least 1.5 trillion dollars per year — maybe twice that (see the "Cost of Government Day® Report, Calendar Year 2004".)
On this one, the "camel got its nose in the tent" way back in 1877 in the Supreme Court case of "Munn v. Illinois" case where it was decided that "that the general welfare requires that business interests be reined in by governmental authority" and that businesses "must submit to be controlled by the public for the common good..."
Sadly, the "Right to Privacy" is not explicity delineated in the Constitution, but is implied by Amendments 9 and 10, according to Harry Browne, "Does the Constitution Contain a Right to Privacy?", and 4 and 5 by others. Nevertheless we have enjoyed this right for the first 200 years of our existence as a nation. But, out of the needs of protecting the public from Terrorists, Marijuana smoke, and sex toys, our government has found it necessary to severely cripple this right.
The 342 page "PATRIOT act", passed by Congress in just a few days after the 9/11/01 terrorist attack and without any one of them reading it, has significantly reduced privacy and protection against government abuse. There is not room here to discuss the extraordinary reduction in our freedom that this and related acts have imposed. The best analysis I have found is on the web is the comprehensive article, "EFF and EPIC Analysis Of The USA PATRIOT Act".
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.|