What’s Wrong with “the Greater Good”?   Leave a comment

Image result for image of the greater good gone badWhat do all the following have in common?

  • Slavery
  • Trail of Tears
  • Japanese Internment during World War 2
  • Communist confiscation of property in USSR
  • Conservative opposition to gay marriage
  • Racial segregation
  • Free speech zones
  • Prostitution laws
  • Eminent domain
  • Civil Asset forfeiture
  • Restrictions on homeschooling and private schools
  • The War on Drugs
  • Occupational licensing
  • Zoning restrictions
  • Anti-smoking laws

These were all proposals that led to restrictions for some people based on someone’s idea of the “greater good.” At the core of all of these is the idea that individual people’s interests and values just aren’t that important and that individuals are not harmed by “the greater good.”

As positive and well-meaning as the whole thing might seem at the outset, more often than not the “greater good” isn’t a reflection of what’s best for the soul of society, but of what’s best for the people in power.

That works so long as people don’t think about it too much or fight back, but it breaks down pretty quickly when someone challenges the status quo. Those in power can jail or kill individuals who protest, but when individuals begin forming into groups, those in power soon find they must change. That doesn’t mean that what was done to individuals in the name of the “greater good” was acceptable until the group got involved and then somehow right became wrong. It was always wrong. It just hadn’t been challenged yet. 

Different communities will probably always set some rules on what people can do. That is the price individuals pay for living in community. But we would do better if we at least started with the presumption that everyone should be free to live their lives however they want instead of forcing society to fit our own personal preferences.


Posted July 7, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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