Forgetting the common good

Free enterprise and capitalism are touted by the Republicans as the supreme system of economics and freedom. According to them, our country is great because of these principles. Everyone for themselves. Individualism. Make a profit.

The author and philosopher Ayn Rand expresses this ideology eloquently in a number of books. “Selfishness” is the true motivator for all productivity and should be lauded as a virtue. Successful people owe nothing to the unsuccessful.

On the other end of the spectrum is communism. In this ideology, the state is the key player rather than the individual. The general well being of the state (which is the total collection of the individuals) is the main thing. Private ownership is illegal. Profits must be shared by all. Everyone has “creature comfort” rights, such as shelter, food, clothing, etc., which must be provided by the state, which owns everything.

In spite of our fear of socialism (a watered-down version of communism), our country already combines both these two opposed ideologies. For example, the Post Office, public education, the armed services, including the VA, the IRS system, the welfare system, and many other government programs, are funded by the taxpayers, and run by the government.

Business, on the other hand, belongs to the private sector, and is run by the people and corporations, which have now been given the same constitutional rights as people. The name of the game is profit, and the more the better, and there’s nothing wrong with that, according to Rand.

I suppose both systems would work if men’s hearts were pure. Unfortunately, corruption and greed always seem to raise their ugly heads, and ruin it for everybody. For instance, free enterprise, businesses too often try to eliminate competitors and slant the playing field by influencing legislators to pass special interest legislation. And could Stalin have been less concerned with the common good with his murderous, paranoid, iron-handed style of running things?

With the incredible disparity of wealth that exists today, the common good is being left behind, as the elite, with their lobbyist henchmen, seek greater and greater opulence. Clearly, a more socialistic viewpoint would solve many problems for many people, even if Ms. Rand would sternly disapprove.

Fred Dawson