Common good

Common good
See also

Common good are goods that could be private goods for physical reasons, but for various reasons are available to every citizen and financed from public funds. As a noun common good is the benefit or interests of all.

"Starting with a definition of the term common goods seems necessary for two reasons. First, the term common goods is relatively new. Thys, the introduction of yet another term must be justified. Second, as we have seen, there is already a host of semantically or conceptually related terms such as public goods, collective goods, commons, collective action problems, social dilemmas, and so forth. Some authors use some of them as synonyms while they seem to mean different things when used by other authors or in other disciplines. In this context, it is important to clarify what a term extends to "(Holzinger K. (2008), p.28).

Common goods can be used as a synonym for all goods that are not purely private. A private good is understood as a good that causes no external effects, that is, its production or use by an agent has no effects on the utility of other agents. Common goods are defined as goods characterized by the presence of external effects. Depending on the exact nature of the good, common use may be unavoidable (at least at a reasonable cost), practicable, or even remunerative; and the optimal provision of these goods may require some form of common action (Holzinger K. (2008) p.30)

A historical survey of the common good

Plato addressed the notion of the common good in his political theory, which he developed in close connection with his ethics. For the Greek mentality, life was essentially communal. It was lived out in the city-state and could not be conceived apart from the polis. No human being could be perfectly good unless in some way connected to the state. It was only in and through a society that the good life was even possible for man, and for Plato, society meant city-state.

Thus for Plato, the common good was identified with the virtue of citizenry. For him, the polis had primacy over the city since it was the first one that was divinely sanctioned by Hermes' gifts of justice and reverence. And individual human beings had dignity and worth only by living as part of a political community recognized as being intrinsically just. This type of society based on just laws, namely a society like Athens, was natural for Plato. Thus the common good was the virtuous life of the whole community as carried out by the state (Lavastida J. (2000) p.159).

Philosophical concept

The common good, as a philosophical concept, is best understood as part of an encompassing model for practical reasoning among the members of a political community. The model takes for granted that citizens stand in a “political” or “civic” relationship with one another and that this relationship requires them to create and maintain certain facilities on the grounds that these facilities serve certain common interests. The relevant interest and facilities together constitute the common good and serve as a shared standpoint for political deliberation. When citizens face different questions about legislation, public policy or social responsibility, they resolve these questions by appeal to a conception of the relevant facilities and the relevant interests. That is, they argue about what facilities have a special claim on their attention, how they should expand, contract or maintain existing facilities, and what facilities they should design and build in the future.


Author: Monika Broszkiewicz