Can Capitalism Save America? Part II

September 17, 2020

Last newsletter I wrote about the need for each of us to look at ourselves and figure out how we are using our time, talent, and treasure for the common good. This is ultimately what we can control in a world that increasingly feels out of control. But what exactly is the common good and does that even exist? And can we think about this while putting aside political party affiliations while dreaming of what can and should realistically exist.

We as humans can often complicate things and ideas. So rather then get into a fruitless dissection let me be so bold to say this idea of the common good is known innately in us as well as from watching how the world works around us. Historically, the idea of the common good has been applied across philosophy, economics, and political science. According to Britannica, common good, is that which benefits society as a whole, in contrast to the private good of individuals and sections of society. In the context of economics, how do we play this out? Can we generally agree on some ideas that help us act in ways that are congruent with the common good versus destructive to it?

I believe there are some principles or statements that most can agree upon as it relates to playing out economics in the realm of the common good. Let me suggest a few.

The first principle is the mindset of agency and responsibility of ourselves, to our neighbors, and to doing good. Just think about common sayings of wisdoms that fit within this framework. Treat others as you would like to be treated. It is more blessed to give than to receive.

Second, work is foundational to human flourishing especially when connected to something bigger than oneself. We all have been reminded of this through the lives of individuals, communities, and companies dealing with disruptions and loss of work due to COVID.

Third, a strong middle class is essential for a healthy economy and social structure. There are numerous reasons why this is good, but simplistically we need rising incomes for the masses to fuel an environment of health, growth, and stability for all.

Forth, equality of opportunity is not only good but also an ideal to strive for. Embedded in this statement is a recognition that we all are created equal with inalienable rights, unique skillsets, aptitudes, and capacity. This reminds me of what my coaches used to say to us. You are only as good as the last player on the team.

Finally, economics is not just about numbers and money, but should take into consideration people’s motivations and emotions like love, joy, and freedom. While these may sound touchy-feely we need to make sure that fear and greed are counter balanced.

These principles give us some guide-rails as we all strive to live within the constraints of economic and human realities. There is real hope in the midst of the negativity of our current situation, but we have to get back to these principles with an overall commitment and focus on the common good. There is so much more to explore and go deeper on, but next time I will jump ahead to a practical solution which can help pull these principles forward.

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