Solidarity Blues: Race, Culture, and the American Left

By Richard Iton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIVE

Beyond the Left II
Making the Public Good

The common or collective benefits provided by governments are usually called
"public goods." A common, collective, or public good is here defined as any good
such that, if any person . . . in a group . . . consumes it, it cannot feasibly be with-
held from the others in that group. . . . Students of public finance have, however,
neglected the fact that the achievement of any common goal or the satisfaction of
any common interest means that a public or collective good has been provided for
that group. —Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action

Is there then, any place for Socialized Medicine? Since all experience shows and
history attests to mankind's unquenchable thirst for freedom with justice, it fol-
lows that any system which limits freedom and justice, which imposes coercion
and restricts voluntary effort towards self-betterment—has no place in the ad-
vanced and just society. A system which commits its citizens to mental and fiscal
imprisonment, which in its aim to abolish uncertainties unavoidably eliminates
opportunity and challenge, and leaves only the boredom of a limited certainty—
such a system can only be regarded as reactionary in the historic evolutionary
process of man. —Matthew Lynch and Stanley Raphael, Medicine and the State

The left, it has been suggested throughout this discussion, can be approached from at least three different perspectives. The conventional approach focuses on parties and labor movements and their attempts to garner popular support. A second approach would extend the discussion beyond unions and parties and examine the conventional left as one possible element within the larger movement to establish or maintain the provision of a range of public goods. In this context, the conventional left would be seen as an intermediate public good, as a means to the achievement of other public goods. 1 From this perspective, I posited, it would be possible to achieve or maintain the provision of these public goods, conceivably without a conventional left, as a result of

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