Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Common Good is Not-For-Profit

The Common Good

There are some that say the purpose of national government is no more than to protect our national borders and to regulate interstate commerce. And for what purpose are our local governments? Some say to keep the peace and to protect the public safety. In fact, the purpose of government is to protect the Common Good.

The Common Good can be defined as those things that benefit all people equally. Usually it includes the police force, fire fighters, and forest rangers, infrastructure of our cities like roads, traffic lights, sewers, sidewalks, and water, gas and electric lines. Clean and safe water, air and soil are included in the Common Good because we all breathe, drink and eat food coming from the soil. Parks and game preserves are also for the Common Good as well as a just legal and political system. And many include the public airways and utilities that produce electricity in the Common Good. Considering that the World Health Organization has proclaimed that healthcare is a basic Human Right, I would also include healthcare in the Common Good.

Our local governments have created Public Utility Commissions to manage the common resources like air, water, rail safety, and electricity for the common good. They have also created sewer treatment plants and clean water facilities to benefit all people equally at a price that is not-for-profit. Yet our government doesn’t have any means to manage healthcare. Nor do they manage the soil. The food grown in our soil is only monitored for coliform bacteria. Organic farmers who try to produce completely safe food are overruled by courts that favor the petroleum fertilized fields growing genetically engineered crops for which long-term safety is unknown. The courts protect the rights of the corporations to use the unsuspecting American public as guinea pigs to test the long-term safety of their products.

A huge issue, which subverts the Common Good, is healthcare for profit. If health care is a human right, then rationing it out only to those who can pay is not serving the Common Good at all. I recently had an annual check-up. The doctor ordered a few lab tests. One test was the urinalysis. Having done many through my job over the years, I’m quite familiar with this test. It entails taking a small test strip out of a jar and dipping it into a sample of urine and then reading the colors compared to the key on the jar label. It takes about 120 seconds to complete the test and record the results. I was charged $80 for this test. This is healthcare for profit.

In the USA, we have a system which trains doctors to serve their own profits rather than the Common Good. It is done by charging huge premiums for a medical education followed by the equally huge cost of setting up a private practice. It is not unusual for a new young doctor to begin practicing medicine with $50,000 debt in student loans and another $50,000 debt in costs associated with opening a practice. No wonder doctors often seem to favor costly interventions in conflict with serving the patient’s best interests. If medical education were not-for-profit, and the new young doctors could be immediately employed in the national health care system, we would be training practitioners that care about their patients’ good health more than about the next payment on their overwhelming debt burden. A system that reaps profits at the expense of public illness is a conflict of interest.

In addition, there is no agency other than the American Medical Association that monitors the safe practice of doctors. Truck and bus drivers, airplane pilots, air traffic controllers, train engineers, all get regular drug urine tests to insure the public safety, but not doctors. Anesthesiologists and surgeons have our lives in their hands, as well as having the means to write their own prescriptions for drugs of abuse, yet no one is charged with the job of monitoring their competence and ability to provide safe care for the benefit of the Public Good. Did your anesthesiologist get a drug urine test before your last surgery?

It would be unthinkable to most people that private corporations could buy up our public utilities like water and sewer and begin price gauging. But, why not? Our Congress has already passed the law (H.R. 6, Sec. 1273, Repeal of the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935, Aug 8, 2005: Public Law No: 109-58) that allows for the privatization of public utilities. A private corporation will soon be coming to your town to make bids on the local water supply. After that, like with healthcare, it will be rationed out to those who can pay. A glass of clean drinking water could cost $80 like the urinalysis. Price gauging is fair and square among Social Darwinist corporatists. Only the richest shall survive. And when questioned about it, they lie.

I propose that it is the duty and obligation of governments to protect the Common Good not-for-profit. In order to carry out their charge, governments need the support of the people. Therefore governments levy taxes. Residents pay taxes, and their tax dollars pay for roads, bridges, sewer, water, gas and electric lines, police, highway patrol, firefighters, judges, courts, prisons, public health, public schools, public universities, public parks, and governments to administer all these public services. Taxes used to also pay for public hospitals, but such things have now all been privatized in the name of increased efficiency.

There is a small minority of ideological fanatics who believe that governments should be replaced with private corporations which will run everything more efficiently. Those industries that used to be operated for the common good not-for-profit, which have now been replaced by unregulated, for-profit corporations, have unanimously gauged money from the public while the quality of the product or service fell precipitously. The only net efficiencies derived from the privatization process were the ever increasing earnings-per-share for the stockholders.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against private corporations. Competitive markets for commodities and goods are a good thing, but NOT when it entails those items that are strictly and exclusively for the Common Good. Consumer items like clothing, cars, furniture, bicycles, house paint and stereos all have a place in the competitive market. And corporations can also serve the public by producing good products that don’t pollute the environment. Corporations can limit the multiples for the compensation received by top administrators as compared with the lowliest employee. They can make sure their workers are not unfairly exploited and get fair wages and benefits. They can make sure that their workforce, including the Board of Directors and the top administrators, reflect the diversity found in the local area. Pure Capitalism exploits the workers until they can no longer work and then replaces them with a younger worker. Capitalism moderated by social controls prevents slavery, child labor, and discrimination based on gender, sexual preference, race, national origin or religion. Capitalism moderated by social controls provides a 40-hr week, minimum wage, paid leave, overtime pay, vacation time, maternity and family emergency leave, lunch-time, breaks, and much more.

Some corporations find they can’t compete in the global market because they have the extra financial burden of providing healthcare for their employees. This is the justification to move their factories offshore where they can pay lower wages without providing healthcare or other benefits. Essentially, off-shore factories are able to return to the days of pure Capitalism, where collective bargaining for workers did not exist. Yet, the real reason they can’t compete in the global market is because all other industrialized nations provide national healthcare for the Common Good rather than legislating it on to private businesses. Our current government gives tax advantages to factories that relocate offshore rather than providing national healthcare for the Common Good. Obviously, our current government is not fulfilling their duty to serve the Common Good.

Since healthcare is for the Common Good, it shouldn’t be the responsibility of employers to provide it. Healthcare should be provided like water, sewer, roads, police and firefighters, compliments of the government who serve the interests of the Common Good not-for-profit.


  1. Robin, I think that your statement, " I am not against private corporations." should be modified to read, " I am not against highly regulated private corporations."


  2. Now, people, at least the "99%" are starting to think like you do and to call for Justice. There is a glimmer of hope that the people of the whole earth are not solidly on track for a death dealing economic catastrophe. We could still produce a world wide fair economy fashioned along the lines you have suggested in your essay. Now that so many in developed nations are feeling the pinch it is more likely the desperation of the 80% who live on less than $10 per day and the 20% who live on less than $2.50 per day can be felt by the newly poor 99% as well. There is growing harmony and recognition of relatedness amongst the deliberately divided masses. Keep broadcasting your remonstrances. Thank you.