Is the common good an ensemble of conditions ?

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While appeals to the common good are a stock feature of political debate, the character of the common good in such discussions is often unclear. Since the 1960s the Roman Catholic magisterium has understood the common good according to a formulation of it as « the sum total of conditions of social life that allow social groups and their individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfillment ». This formulation (which I call the Vatican II formulation) has been criticized on at least three grounds : first, it reduces the common good from a true final cause to something merely instrumentally good ; second, its status as instrumental to the perfection of individual groups is still too demanding given the pluralism about perfection in modern societies ; and third, the formulation represents a deviation from the sound understanding of the common good found in specifically Thomistic-Aristotelian political philosophy. After some clarifying remarks about the formulation itself and the history of the idea of the common good itself I discuss each of these criticisms and conclude that the Vatican II formulation can be understood as appropriate in view of specifically modern political institutions and practices against the background of the older conceptions associated with the Thomistic-Aristotelian tradition.

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This chapter defines “good wealth” in terms of its interdependent and organic relationship among wealth’s creation, distribution and charitable dimensions. The relationship among these three functions of wealth fits well with what Catholic social teaching refers to as “moral ecology.” In terms of wealth creation, business enterprises are the economic engine of society. We also need to speak of wealth distribution, and in particular a just distribution. The third dimension of wealth is its charitable function, in many respects the most excellent of the three functions of wealth. This chapter addresses the tensions and challenges among these three dimensions and points to innovative practices where the three dimensions of good wealth can be integrated.
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