The Common Good

What Jim Wallis, Chicago, and Free-Market Economists Can Teach Us About the Common Good

Date: April 26, 2013

This disheartening reality is the topic of Jim Wallis's recent book, "On God's Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn't Learned About Serving the Common Good." His general thesis is an honorable one: He argues that rather than claiming God is on our own political or ideological side, we should make sure that we are on his side. This approach takes humility and thoughtful reflection, which are hard to come by in today's partisan political atmosphere.

The obvious predicament we then face is figuring out what God's side is, exactly. We know a few things for sure: God is both loving and just; he cares deeply for all of humanity, especially "the least of these"; he calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves; and as a community, we are called to pursue the common good. But how are these truths to be carried out day-to-day and what is government's role?

Wallis attempts to offer a "balanced" approach to these questions—that is the purpose of the book, after all. For example, he emphasizes that both civil society and government are needed to combat poverty. Ideally, civil society (families, friends, churches, communities) will care for the poor, sick and needy, but government must step in when that system fails. In theory, I agree with Wallis here.