Rags of Light

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Alan Jacobs, Against the Common Good:

Wendell Berry once wrote, “Community is a concept, like humanity or peace, that virtually no one has taken the trouble to quarrel with; even its worst enemies praise it.” Precisely the same is true of “the common good.” No one will claim to be against the common good; everyone will claim to be for it, from Viktor Orban to Xi Jinping, from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Adrian Vermeule. It appears on both sides of every political equation, so those equations can therefore be simplified by crossing it out. Its invocation leaves us precisely where we were before it was mentioned.

I sympathize. But in many cases I think it’s fairly simple to see if someone is at all serious about community, or peace, or the common good: Ask them “What are you willing to pay for it?” Much of the time, the answer turns out to be “Not much.” Others, such as the Bruderhof, make it obvious that they’re willing to pay quite a bit for these things. Malick’s A Hidden Life comes to mind.
So yes, claims to be for community/peace/common good are generally empty words, especially in the mouths of those seeking power. But there are precious cases where they’re not, and it’s worth the effort to discern.