What is “the national good”?

There has been a great deal of talk recently from our Coalition government about working together “for the national good.” This phrase, “the national good” seems to be trotted out every few minutes – as if there has been some dictat from on high that this is the preferred sound-bite of the moment.

Coalition and the national good
What puzzles me, is what they mean by the phrase. It may well be a naive position, but surely in an elected democracy the ruling party should always be working for “the national good”? Is this a backhanded-dig to suggest that the previous government was not working for “the national good”? Or, (much less likely) is it a tacit admission that in the past they themselves have not always been working for “the national good”?

The idea seems to be that in a coalition you can’t have it ‘all your own way’ (in terms of your political beliefs) and so some new standard needs to be applied which both parties can agree on – hence, “the national good.” If this is the case, then one could argue that it is a tacit admission that single-party policies are not in “the national good.”

But theologically the interesting question is how you define “the national good” when you have taken God out of the picture. If there is no external, objective standard of “the good” then you are left at best with a subjective personal view. Which is why some people get upset by some decisions the government makes (which adversely affect them) and others about different policies. At the end of the day, the only real criterion in a God-less world is ‘what seems right to me’, or perhaps, ‘what seems right to the majority’.

The trouble is both me and the majority can be wrong. Where does that leave “the national good”?…

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