Politics and Economics: the Universal and the Particular

One way of starting ethics is to consider the different ways we talk about good. We can easily talk about a good carpenter, a good teacher, a good actuary, etc. There is some standard by which all of these professions are measured by which we can call them good or bad. Moreover, they all deal with limited and somewhat intermediate ends. The question that they arises, what then is a good human? What then is the full, complete and ultimate end of man in all his particular acts? This is a movement from these individual and particular ways of acting to the universal way in which humans as human act, rather than humans as carpenter, teacher, etc.

This mode of thinking can be extended to a discussion of political bodies. Corporations, whatever their size, are political bodies. In the market, they are organized to a particular good and are associated to seek some common good. An insurance company is a corporation that acts toward the common good of offering people protection from risk while maintaining solvency to meet those obligations. This is a particular good, but what about a political body that encompasses not only shareholders, stakeholders and employees but the whole community? What about a political body that doesn’t seek common good as common to this limited group, but seeks the common good as common to all. This political body is the state.

This is of interest to me because I often hear the denial that the state is ordered to the common good, it is intrinsically immoral, etc. This is equivalent to denying the ultimate end of man as man, which is incoherent and increasingly common. Further, many of the criticism against the state per se ultimately must become criticisms of corporations and business communities. The “Agency Problem” is just as much a problem with corporations as it is with the state. It is not a matter of whether the state is ordered to the common good, but rather how is it best to structure the state or corporation to ensure individual men seek the common good, whether particular or universal.

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