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Pursuing The Common Good

By: Cielito F. Habito, PhD
Greed is good,” a famous line from the 1987 movie “Wall Street,” was a more extreme expression of a postulate advanced by Adam Smith, widely regarded as the father of modern economics. Smith probably would have said it less bluntly, using “self-interest” in place of “greed.” He argued that letting people pursue their own self-interest, as they interact freely through the markets for goods and services, generally leads to efficient economic outcomes, that is, the best allocation of resources in the economy.
The problem is that personal good and the common good (or at least the greatest good for the greatest number) usually don’t converge, especially from the viewpoint of key decision-makers in society. More often than not, actions that promote the common good run counter to one’s own self-interest. The challenge, then, is to get the common good and personal good to coincide. People need to see that achieving the common good ultimately redounds to their own personal good—and that impairing the common good also impairs their own personal good.
The impatient driver who creates a new counterflow lane in congested traffic, for example, must understand that doing so only worsens the traffic jam and will only make himself and everybody else worse off. Taxpayers who conceal their true income from tax authorities must realize that this behavior ultimately makes their own lives harder, as the quantity and quality of public facilities and services are compromised by lack of government revenues. Government’s duty here is to make taxpayers directly see how their taxes are helping uplift their own lives—a connection that is undermined when there is widespread graft and corruption.
Read the full article at http://opinion.inquirer.net/100721/pursuing-common-good