Underlying the principle of the common good is respect for the human person as such, endowed with basic and inalienable rights ordered to his or her integral development. It has also to do with the overall welfare of society and the development of a variety of intermediate groups, applying the principle of subsidiarity. Outstanding among those groups is the family, as the basic cell of society. Finally, the common good calls for social peace, the stability and security provided by a certain order which cannot be achieved without particular concern for distributive justice; whenever this is violated, violence always ensues. Society as a whole, and the state in particular, are obliged to defend and promote the common good.
A huge amount of Catholic Social Teaching boils down to “If it’s good for the family, it’s good.” Libertarian ideology doesn’t put the family at the center, but the individual, including the fictional individual called the Corporation. It also rejects the idea that the state has a serious role to play in defending and promoting the common good and perpetually holds up bogeyman of Nazis and Commies as the only possibility for any state larger than can be drowned in a bathtub. The result is the triumph of the Corporation and the super-rich and the despoilment of more and more of the poor, as well as the steady erosion of the middle class, huge numbers of whom ardently defend the people picking their pockets in the fantasy that they are temporarily embarrassed millionaires who will one day achieve the riches and power of the Talk Radio hosts who lie to them on behalf of the corporations and super-rich and teach them to spit on the poor as their surest defense against poverty.
Here’s reality: the state has a serious responsibility for the common good. So do individuals, of course. But it is rubbish to believe that private charities and individual initiatives alone will do that trick. And the proof of it is the obscenity of my constantly having to posting busking and begging pleas from families with insane medical bills in the hope that our generosity will save them from bankruptcy. Don’t get me wrong. Your generosity is an honor and a glory to God and a beautiful thing in the eyes of the Lord. But cold economic reality is that, at the end of the day, the families begging for your help are still bankrupt because individual initiative can’t supply their needs.
Meanwhile, in Australia, a dear friend whose baby has Down Syndrome has been able to get a huge array of surgeries and treatments for his little boy free of charge because they are not insane and recognize that health care is part of the common good for which the state is responsible.