The Common Good


Lady Justice of Justica, Frankfurt, Germany

Noam Chomsky is an intellectual whose writings probe deeply into public affairs. He is critical of U.S. foreign policy and capitalism. Even though I disagree with his public policy prescriptions (because the wealthy elite fight back if attacked and that hurts you), his insight into the darker, unpleasant nature of private property rights is hard to ignore.


For example, he discusses the “social arrangements that are conducive to people’s rights and welfare, and to fulfilling their just aspirations – the Common Good. Chomsky criticizes capitalism because he believes it subjugates the Common Good. He cites the “vile maxim of the masters of mankind… all for ourselves, and nothing for other people”. He writes essays about greed and the “ravages of concentrated private capital”.


Chomsky objects to capitalism’s “subordination of working people to the masters of the economy, and the subjection of everyone to the restrictive discipline and destructive features of markets”. Most radicals like Chomsky acknowledge that the existing system is not going to change but they still argue for “widening the floor of the cage – the cage of existing coercive institutions that can be widened by popular struggle”.


As an estate planning attorney, I don’t worry too much about the Common Good – not my job. But I am concerned about what’s good for my clients – so I worry about public policy and tax law changes aimed at confiscating wealth “for the Common Good” because that has a direct impact on you.   Fortunately, for those of us in the Mass Affluent (maybe not for America’s poor), our constitutional democracy will not allow the elimination of private property and other protected liberties. There’s plenty of room on the cage floor for you. Our nation’s founding fathers constructed a system which would last for ages – even if that system is considered cruel and aristocratic by some.


The U.S. Constitution is a document purposely designed to check democratic tendencies and mob rule. It may be a merciless, powerful legal sword but it’s counter balanced by guys like Chomsky who champion the poor and seriously question the legitimacy of a “system of domination that constrains human development”. Politicians can try to forcibly impose the Common Good (who decides and what is that exactly?), but they cannot eliminate private property rights without repealing the Constitution.


Your Estate Planning War Chest is secure among fierce intellectual warriors who continue to rattle the gilded cage of capitalism. Fortunately, with no other viable alternative (as history demonstrates), our economic system is stable and effective – more on the superiority of free markets next week.


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