Ethical Concepts and the Common Good

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  • Topic: Antonio Villaraigosa, Ethics, Common good
  • Pages : 14 (3522 words )
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  • Published : April 26, 2013
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Ethical Concepts
You need to know

Everyday Ethics…
Have you ever thought…
◦ My small effort won't really make a difference. ◦ No one would ever know. ◦ I don’t know what is the right thing to do.

◦ I’ve seen others doing it.
◦ It will really help my career prospects. ◦ Because of the tight time constraints, I just had to make a quick decision. ◦ Doing the “right” thing costs too much in this particular situation.

How would you respond if your kids were making these same excuses for their behavior? ◦ Oh, Mom, what I do won't really make a difference. ◦ I just didn't know what to do, Dad.

◦ I didn’t think I’d get caught.
◦ If I don’t do it, my friends won't talk to me anymore.

From this perspective, the right answers seem clearer to distinguish.

But somehow it just isn’t that easy.

This week, the lecture will address some concepts that relate to our study of ethics by offering different lenses through which you can view ethically-charged situations.

The topics presented have particular implications for our study of ethics and public responsibility: ◦ ◦ ◦ ◦ The Common Good Conflicts of Interest Cognitive Dissonance Non-monetary Currencies

The Common Good
Something to keep in mind…

What is a Common Good?
A common good is some “thing” that everyone can access and enjoy. No one can be easily excluded. For example, everyone enjoys the benefits of clean air.

In fact, something is considered to be a common good only to the degree that all people have access to it.

Common Good
The common good is an idea that originated in the writings of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. Ethicist John Rawls defined the common good as

“certain general conditions that are...equally to everyone's advantage.” In many ways, the public sector is the trustee of the common good.

The common good consists of having things we depend on (such as social systems, institutions, and the environment) function in a way that benefits everyone.

Let’s read that again…

The common good consists of having things we depend on-

social systems, institutions, and the environment –

function in a way that benefits everyone.

In the public arena, common good examples include an adequate and safe water supply, clean air, clean parks, and a just political system, among other things.

Because things that are considered “common goods” have a powerful impact on the well-being of citizens…

it is no surprise that many social problems are connected to how well these things are functioning.

Common good?
Just like keeping a park free of litter requires each visitor to pick up after himself, maintaining certain social conditions we all enjoy requires cooperative efforts. When everyone does his part, these efforts pay off. For our discussions, it is important to note that the common good does not just happen. That is where government comes in. Establishing and maintaining the common good require focused and deliberate effort.

Challenges to the Common Good
It might make sense that because we all benefit from common goods, we would all willingly participate in establishing and maintaining those goods. Unfortunately, there are challenges that get in the way.

Challenges to the Common Good
Disagreement on what it is

Because people have different ideas of what is important, it is difficult (if not impossible) to agree on exactly what the common good is – what kind of social systems, institutions, and environmental protection is most important. Therefore, one challenge is that we all agree on these complex matters – a notion that runs counter to our pluralistic society.

Challenges to the Common Good
Even if we agreed upon what we valued, we would likely still disagree about the priorities of these things. For example, even if we all agree that affordable healthcare, excellent public schools, and a clean environment are components of the common good, some will say that more should be spent on healthcare...
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