The Public Good

1 June 2004

Platitudes and Maxims About the Public Good
by Craig J. Cantoni
May 23, 2004

Have you ever noticed that those who spout platitudes about the public good tend to be the people who benefit the most from the so-called public good?

Take seniors who say that there is a public good to them getting free medicine from the government, so that they don’t have to eat cat food and live in a cardboard box under a bridge, or whatever exaggerated claims they make. There is no doubt that the seniors receive a good, but it comes at the expense of future generations that will be picking up the tab. As is often the case, the public good for one person is a public bad for another.

This leads to the following maxim:

Those on the receiving end of a public good like the public good more than those on the paying end.

Another example is the claim that there is a public good to using public money to build sports stadiums for privately owned sports franchises, because the franchises are good for the local economy. There is no doubt that an economic good accrues to team owners, players, sports fans, newspapers that cover sports, and the owners of bars and restaurants near stadiums. But if any good accrues to non-fans and taxpayers at large, it is far smaller than the good that accrues to those who receive a direct benefit.

This observation leads to the second maxim:

When the recipients of a public good are allowed to define what is a public good, there are no limits to what can be called a public good and what can be taken from the public treasury in the name of the public good.

The first two maxims seem so obvious that one has to wonder why they are not obvious to the average American. The answer is another maxim:

Socialism results in socialized thinking.

The best example of this is public education, which has been around for so long that few people question why compulsory education has to be delivered by government schools or why it is a good idea in a free, pluralistic society for the government to have a monopoly on k-12 classroom thought. If someone has the temerity to raise such questions, he either gets platitudes about the public good in return, or worse, looks that say, ”What kind of question is that, you right-wing extremist dumb ass?”

If you doubt me, try this experiment: Ask public school parents if it is fair for religious school parents to pay double for 12 years of education in order to exercise their constitutional and natural right of religious freedom. Typically, like dogs responding to a doggy biscuit, the Pavlovian response will be thoughtless, repetitious barking about the public good. ”Bow-wow, public good, ruff-ruff, public good, wag-wag, public good, sniff-sniff, public good!”

Sometimes the response is different. For example, I once posed the same question to a leftist dean of education at a forum on school vouchers and tax credits. He responded that I was mean-spirited and selfish for asking the question. In his twisted Bolshevik brain, I was mean-spirited and selfish for asking the question, but public school parents are not mean-spirited and selfish for taking money from religious school parents, who, unlike public school parents, get mostly platitudes about the public good in return for their school taxes.

This leads to a fourth maxim:

Those who have been indoctrinated by the government don’t know that they’ve been indoctrinated.

As proof of this maxim, it is rare to find an American who understands that government schools engage in a form of indoctrination, although it is obvious to an outsider that unionized teachers on the government payroll favor collectivism over individualism, because they have a built-in bias for the collectivism of unions, the government and public education.

It’s no accident that students are not taught economics in government schools, for that might lead them to question the economic hokum put out by the regulatory/nanny state and its allies in the National Education Association and mainstream media. It’s no accident that they are not taught that the NEA is one of the most powerful lobbies in the nation, for that might lead them to be suspicious of the NEA’s constant clamoring for more money. It’s no accident that students are not taught about the dark side of socialized medicine, for that might lead them to question why government schools conduct enrollment drives to get parents to sign up for free government health care. And it’s no accident that they are not taught that the stated purpose of public education at its beginning in the mid-nineteenth century was to indoctrinate southern European immigrants and Catholics in the thinking of White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestants, including the St. James Bible, for that might lead students to wonder if some form of indoctrination is continuing today.

Granted, indoctrination in religious dogma takes place in religious schools, but there is one important distinction between that indoctrination and the indoctrination that takes place in public schools. If parents don’t like religious dogma and don’t send their kids to a religious school, they are not forced to pay tuition to a religious school. But if parents don’t like the secular humanism taught in public schools and don’t send their kids to a public school, they are forced to pay public school taxes.

Which leads to the last maxim:

When the public good is based on taking money by force from some people and giving it to other people, it is not good.

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Mr. Cantoni is an author, columnist and founder of Honest Americans Against Legal Theft (HAALT). He can be reached at

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