The Common Good

In my last entry, I referred to the concept of a common good but neglected to define it.

The common good is not simply a good that is owned jointly. It is a good that cannot be converted into private shares, for it transcends each private individual.

A house is not a common good. There may be more than two people on the deed, but they can always sell it and divide its financial worth between them.

A home, on the other hand, is a common good. Once a house is sold, it is no longer the family’s home, so they cannot each take their individual shares of “home.” It exists only when shared.

Marriage, family, children–these are all indivisible common goods.

In modern society, we tend to conceive of rights as something we “own,” as possessions for which we owe nothing to society. As a result, we have a hard time understanding common goods. They are something that may benefit us as individuals, something which we may even have a right to enter into, but they are also something that cannot be grasped at or possessed through individual will.

Family, for instance, has ceased to be understood as a common good. Family is instead seen as a product, as something you acquire exactly when you want it, and can discard when it does not meet your specifications. For instance, if you become pregnant with twins but only wanted one, or become pregnant with a Down’s syndrome child when you wanted a healthy child, you can abort the undesired child. Or if you decide you’re simply tired of marriage, you can leave–no questions asked. No-fault divorce is actually *less* restrictive than the return policy at most stores. We are more concerned with family “rights” than with family duties.

This is why “choice feminism” has mostly reconciled itself to the concept of “stay-at-home moms”, no longer advocating for a mass exodus from the home (a few feminist cranks like Linda Hirshman notwithstanding). Because as long as those stay-at-home moms view their time in the home as a right, as a fulfillment of personal desire, the individualistic framework of feminism remains undisrupted.

But if “stay-at-home moms” were to rebrand themselves as homemakers and start speaking of a “common good” or, Heaven forbid, quoting 1 Corinthians 6:20, then modern political ideologies would really be in danger!


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