What in the world is the common good?
The phrase "the common good" can be interpreted in a variety of different ways.
The definition of the common good that resonates most with us is: the most good for all people and the flourishing of the most vulnerable in a society. This is different than the public interest which is often described as the most good for the most people.
Why is the common good important?
Our life choices and every day decisions affect more than just us or those with whom we have close relationships. When we consider the common good in our career paths and everyday decisions, we have the ability to actively participate in restoring systems of injustice, creating change where it is needed, and contribute to a more beautiful world where people flourish and the vulnerable thrive. A lofty goal? Yes. A worthy one? Absolutely.
We resonate strongly with the article "What's So Great About the Common Good?" by Andy Crouch. Here are a few excerpts that can provide clarity and inspiration.
Seeking the common good in its deepest sense means continually insisting that persons are of infinite worth—worth more than any system, any institution, or any cause. Societies are graded on a curve, with the fate of the most vulnerable given the most weight, because the fate of the most vulnerable tells us whether a society truly values persons as ends or just as means to an end.
And the common good continually reminds us that persons flourish in the small societies that best recognize them as persons—in family and the face-to-face associations of healthy workplaces, schools, teams, and of course churches. Though it is a big phrase, "the common good" reminds us that the right scale for human flourishing is small and specific, and that the larger institutions of culture make their greatest contribution to flourishing when they resist absorbing all smaller allegiances.
The common good is a matter of choices, not just ideas. And those choices are often local, not grand social schemes. My decisions about where to live and what to eat and buy, as well as what to grow and create, whom to befriend and where to volunteer, whom to employ and how much to pay, aren't just about my private fulfillment. They will also either contribute to others' flourishing or undermine it. Indeed, all things that are truly good are common goods, meant to be shared and enjoyed together. And if the return of "the common good" reminds us of that truth and that hope, and shapes the way we live among our neighbors, it will have done a world of good.