Philosophy of Democratic Government / by Yves R. Simon

The Volition of the Common Good

The problem of united action is relative to means. Now it is perfectly evident that all operations concerning means are conditioned and sustained by more basic operations, i.e., the volition and intention of the end.{18a} Associates may unify their action by way of authority or have to content themselves with the risky procedures of unanimity; clearly, there would be no action to be unified if these men had not antecedently determined that a certain object should have for all of them the character of an end to be pursued through common action. Thus, beyond the problem of united action, we have to inquire into a more profound issue, i.e., that of the very intention of the common good. We know that authority is necessary, under definite conditions, for the proper working of the means; the next question is whether the proper intention of the common good requires the operation of authority.

If we were concerned with a society including stupid or vicious members, the answer would be so plain as to make the statement of the question superfluous. People lacking good will or understanding obviously have to be directed toward the common good; they even have to be compelled not to harm the common good and to serve it positively. The relevant and difficult question concerns a society composed exclusively of good and enlightened people. At first glance, the answer may seem obvious: if all these people are well-intentioned, they spontaneously intend the common good and do not need to be directed toward it. By the very operation of their virtue they aim at the common good and want to subordinate to it their private advantages; without such basic volition and orderly subordination, they would be selfish people, bad citizens, or, at best, well-meaning people misled by illusions.{19} Thus all conceivable function of authority, with regard to the volition and intention of the common good, seems to be merely substitutional.

The question with which we are concerned here is one whose difficulty equals its profundity. It has rarely been considered in proper isolation. The preceding discussion removed the risk that it should be confused with the problem of united action, but there remains a risk of confusion with another neighboring issue. Briefly, most societies are divided into two groups of persons, i.e., those who govern and those who are governed. Now throughout the history of political literature there is a tendency to identify the two following questions: (a) whether society needs to be governed and (b) whether it needs to be governed by a distinct personnel. In fact, there are many instances of direct government of the multitude by itself; unless it is claimed, arbitrarily enough, that these constitute abnormalities, they should suffice to show that the essence of government is independent of these two peculiar modalities: embodiment in a distinct personnel, embodiment in the entire multitude. Citizens of a great nation, we obey laws made by a small body of elected legislators; but members of a New England community were no less governed by the regulations that the whole community issued in its town meetings. The constitution of a distinct governing personnel has to do with the modalities of authority, not with its functions and the grounds of its necessity. How the confusion takes place is easy to grasp. Wonder is aroused by the power that the few claim to have over the many and that the many acknowledge not too reluctantly. This power, if justifiable at all, should be justified by the requirements of the common welfare. It is realized or strongly suspected that the common welfare needs to be taken care of by a body of public persons. There are instances in which the entire people is such a body; but in most cases and in the most impressive and best-known cases the public persons in charge of the common good are, of necessity, specialized, as it were, in the pursuit of the good which is not special or private but common. Thus, in most cases and in the best known of them, the body of public persons called for by the common good is determinately a distinct governing personnel. The positing of government and the positing of a distinct governing personnel are empirically one conclusion, and experience does not direct attention to the difference of grounds. Further, the operation of a distinct governing personnel implies an element of paradox which will be most felicitously dealt with if, by letting it resolve into the more fundamental issue of government itself, we manage to ignore its specific difficulty.

In order that the problem of authority, with regard to the volition and intention of the common good, may be properly isolated, it is helpful to keep in mind, whenever possible, pictures of government without distinct governing personnel, as in the case of a New England town, a Swiss canton, or a nation deciding an issue by way of plebiscite. The entirely different problem of the necessity of a distinct governing personnel will be discussed in another part of this book.

That virtuous people, as a proper effect of their very virtue, love the common good and subordinate their choices to its requirements is an entirely unquestionable proposition. Thus, in a certain way at least, the volition and intention of the common good are guaranteed by virtue itself, independently of all authority. Of this way we do not know, as yet, anything, except that it is essential and basic; for it is not by accident or in any superficial fashion that the just love the common good and surrender for it their private interests. The problem, accordingly, is to determine whether the virtue of the private person regards the whole of the common good or merely some fundamental aspect of it. If, and only if, the latter is true, authority may have an essential part to play in the volition and intention of the common good. We are wondering, in other words, whether the way in which virtue guarantees adherence to the common good is an all-embracing one; should the guaranty supplied by virtue fail to cover some essential aspect of the common good, then direction by authority might be needed, in order that the adherence of society to all essential aspects of its good might be steadily assured. The examination of a few typical instances will provide an answer.

Let the first instance be that used by Thomas Aquinas in his inquiry into the general conditions of morality. The question is whether the human will, in order to be good, ought to agree with the divine will in volito, in other words, whether it must carry agreement with the divine will so far as to desire the very thing whose coming into existence is desired, or permitted, by the divine will{20} (e.g., if God let me know that he wants my father to die tomorrow at noon, would ethical perfection demand that I should refrain from any action calculated to prolong the life of my father beyond tomorrow noon?). Aquinas says that, when a thing is good in one respect and bad in another respect, there is nothing wrong about its being desired by one, to whom it is related in its desirable aspect, and hated by another, who happens to occupy such a position as to regard the thing in its undesirable aspect. Thus the wife of a murderer hates the prospect of her husband's being put to death; she is normally and virtuously concerned with the good of her family, and, from the standpoint which is and ought to be hers, the death of the murderer is an evil. On the other side, the judge, who stands for society, sees in the death of the murderer elements of the common good: justice and determent from crime. The common good, of course, shall prevail, but, significantly, Aquinas considers altogether sound and honest the opposition made to the requirements of the common good by the person in charge of the particular good. The common good itself demands that wives should want their husbands to survive, even though the latter happen to be criminals. That particular goods be properly defended by particular persons matters greatly for the common good itself. The wife of the murderer, as she fights for the life of the man whom the common good wants put to death, does precisely what the common good wants her to do. It is in a merely material fashion that she disagrees with the requirements of the common good: by doing what the common good wants her to do, she formally desires the common good. The common good formally understood is the concern of every genuine virtue, but it is the proper concern of the public person to procure the common good materially understood, which the private person may virtuously oppose.

This analysis of human relations receives increased significance from the truth that it is calculated to manifest in the relation between man and God. To the question whether the human will, in order to be good, must conform to the will of God in volito, Aquinas answers that the only conformity required is formal and that a formal conformity may well be compatible with material disagreement or even demand such disagreement. God, who takes care of the common good of the universe, holds me responsible for some particular goods and wants me to discharge my responsibility. God may want my father to die tomorrow, but he certainly wants me to do all I can to prolong the life of my father; and if I were told by special revelation, under circumstances making for absolute certainty, that the definite will of God is that my father should die tomorrow at noon, it would still be the will of God that I should struggle against the death of my father until it has become a fact.{21}

Let a second instance be drawn from military life, where hierarchical relations are defined with particular clarity. A commanding officer is ordered to hold a certain position at all costs. His orders do not mention any circumstances under which he might retreat. We suppose that his will is entirely good. As a good soldier and a good citizen, he wants and intends the common good of the army and of the whole nation at war, viz., victory. It is in relation to the common good of the army and nation that he aims at this particular good, viz., the holding of this position. Without such subordination of purposes he would not be a true soldier and a good citizen. A mercenary or an adventurer might pledge himself to hold a place without caring who wins the war, but not a soldier. Thus the particular good -- holding the place -- is willed because of the common good, on the ground of the common good, under a determination supplied by the common good. In other words, there is, as a proper effect of military and civic virtue, volition and intention of the common good formally understood.

It is assumed, of course, that the orders are not absurd and that the holding of this position, at all costs, is precisely what the common good requires. But this material issue concerns the high command or, according to the felicitous expression recently coined, the over-all strategy board, not this particular commanding officer. All are supposed to refer all their actions to victory, but, so far as material objects of intention are concerned, the good to be intended by this officer is the holding of this position and nothing else, until another task becomes his. He is not in charge of determining what operations overall strategy demands; the high command is.

This is what becomes tragically clear when those in charge of the common good materially considered fail to fulfil their task. Anxiety fills the soul of particular persons as it becomes increasingly dubious that the objects assigned to their care are what the common good demands. Holding this position one more day will mean the annihilation of the defenders, with no advantage whatsoever; that is clear, but there is no news from the high command. Those whose job it is to care for the common good materially considered have vanished. By now the defender of a particular position has to do two things: (1) to defend this particular position or to counterattack or to withdraw his unit safely and (2) to decide what is best for the final victory of the army and nation -- defending the place to the last man? counterattacking? retreating? This duality of duties, viz., taking care of both the particular good materially considered (defending the position, counterattacking, organizing a safe withdrawal) and of the common good materially considered (deciding whether it is better to hold the position or to counterattack or to retreat) is known to induce a sentiment of helplessness that the strongest characters alone can overcome. When the private person has to emerge above his capacity and substitute for nonexistent public persons, an awe-inspiring solitude makes him realize that the structure of society has broken down.

Lest this example should suggest that the care of the common good necessarily belongs to distinct persons, consider, instead of an army, a group of pioneers in which there is no government except that of the majority. Suppose that, during an initial phase implying a great deal of scattered activity, the group gathers every second day to make decisions concerning common interests. A flood, a snowfall, or interference by a party of competitors may make it impossible for the group to convene over a long period. Then each individual will experience the unnatural situation which confronts an army unit when the high command remains silent in spite of the emergency. Private persons have to take care both of their own business and of the public business. Confusion comes to an end when the assembly convenes again and relieves private persons of cares which are not theirs. The same persons, in fact, labored in isolation yesterday and today act as one public character. But, in isolation, they are normally qualified for the pursuit of particular goods alone; in assembly they are the mind and will to which it pertains to understand and intend the common good; this difference of capacity is all that essentially matters.

An example of another type would be supplied by a school comprising, say, a teacher of English, a teacher of philosophy, a teacher of Latin, a teacher of history, and a teacher of mathematics. The good pursued by each of these men is not particular in the way in which the field plowed by its owner is particular. The teacher of Latin has for his proper purpose the maintenance and promotion of Latin culture in the community; this pertains to the common good, but, inasmuch as it is only one aspect of the common good, the purpose of the Latin teacher remains particular.

Consider now that the frame of mind of a conscientious Latin teacher may conceivably be either of two. There are Latin scholars of whom one says that, if they had their own way, they would convert every youngster into a Latin scholar, regardless of how ignorant their pupils might be in mathematics, modern languages, and even Greek. Such ardent characters supply cartoons and comedies with congenial fun, but their social significance is well known to wise people. There is something absolute about their dedication, the urge of which they are possessed is as uncompromising as a categorical imperative, they are determined to crush obstacles; they show, in fact, little consideration for obstacles arising from their own person, and their devotion generally wears them out. They are good teachers of Latin, their better pupils are fairly good. But what is it that inspires them with such fierce determination? Is it just a passion, to be likened to that of the stamp-collector or of the mountain climber? Not necessarily. The toughest and roughest determinations are those derived from a sense for the function that one has to fulfil in society. This old scholar who so faithfully, unambitiously, taught Latin so well for so many years: do not believe that he overdoes the importance of classics and ignores that of mathematics. He may be fully aware of the modesty of his job; his occupational conscience may be pervaded with humility. But one day he realized that his unglamorous job, rather thankless, poorly paid, and not too highly considered, was needed for the common good and that a society in which a few men appreciate Vergil is, all other things being equal, better than a society in which Vergil is entirely unknown; and, because there is something divine about the common good, his vocation, from that day on, was animated with a sense of fervor whose expressions were rough and tough, like everything that is concerned with the absolute. Society is well served by such individuals.

There are, on the other hand, men of skill who feel that it is their duty to keep their own concern well within the proper limits of its real importance. If they happen to be Latin teachers, they will refrain from anything that might look like fanatical zeal for Latin; they will not recommend Latin studies except as part of a balanced program comprising also modern languages, mathematics, history; if they were consistent, they would not recommend any schooling except as a part of a balanced program of human activities, comprising the proper amount of sleep, sport, social life, etc. Although such fellows, for obvious reasons, never attract much attention, we know them by daily experience. They do not cause any complaints; they are occasionally congratulated on their wise-looking serenity; they do not accomplish great things; they pass for civilized and enjoy their reputation. Social observers, stirred by the greater accomplishments of barbarians, would wonder what is wrong and would come to understand that some fundamental error causes the dynamism of the particular skill to be extinguished by improper brainwork. What happens here is the fateful accident of confusion, which, understandably, blunts every instrument, stultifies every energy, rules out thoroughness, and causes forces to compromise before the elements of necessity in them have had a chance to work. No part of the land will be thoroughly tilled unless each laborer has a distinct field to plow. And no function will be exercised with thoroughness unless my function -- say, that of teaching Latin -- is distinct from any other function and thereby particularized. But if my function is a particular one, if, in other words, the good with which I am concerned is but a particular aspect of the common good, then it is necessary that there be, above me, a person or a group of persons properly concerned, not only formally but also materially, with the whole of the common good.

Again, let it be remarked that the positing of a distinct governing personnel does not necessarily follow. An assembly of specialists, acting as a body, may transcend the division of labor and have for its proper object the whole of the good whose diverse aspects constitute as many proper objects for its members, when the latter are nor convened and do not act as a body. For instance, it is not impossible that the general policy of a school be adequately managed by a committee of teachers. When such a committee convenes, the teacher of Latin is no longer a person whose life is dedicated to the maintenance of Latin culture; he is, by now, a faculty member dedicated to the whole purpose of the school, understood and desired in its entirety, with all the relations of priority and subordination that the good of a society implies. Shifting from a particular function to an over-all concern is possible, but generally difficult; the mental habits of the specialists are hard to overcome. Hence the rule that the authority in charge of controlling experts should be made of nonexperts. It is understood that the latter are supposed to be expert in a pursuit known to involve special difficulties, viz., that of the good which is not, by any means, special.

The theory emerging from these and such examples and analyses can be summed up in the following propositions:

Under the assumption that the society with which we are concerned is aiming at a common good, it is stated:

1. That virtue implies love for the common good, willingness to sacrifice one's own advantage to its requirements.

2. That the common good may be intended formally without being intended materially.

3. That the virtue of the private person guarantees the intention of the common good formally considered, not the intention of the common good materially considered.

4. That society would be harmed if everyone intended the common good not only formally but also materially; that, in a material sense, particular persons and groups ought to intend particular goods.

5. That the intention of the common good, materially considered, is the business of a public reason and a public will.

6. That the intention of the common good by the public reason and will necessarily develops into a direction of society, by the public reason and will, toward the common good considered not only formally but also materially; which is the same as to say that the intention of the common good, materially considered, demands the operation of authority.

Let our exposition proceed, for a while, by way of a comment on these propositions.


The preliminary assumption specifies that the theory holds only for societies aiming at a common good. In fact, many theorists take it for granted that without a common good there is no society. Yet, according to universal and very ancient usage, the term "society" can be predicated of such a partnership as that of a handicraftsman and a moneylender. If a partnership of this sort were relative to a common good, the argumentation which derives the need for authority from the requirements of the common good would be invalidated, for the relation between handicraftsman and moneylender is purely contractual. They exchange promises, but from their promises it does not result that anyone should command and anyone obey. In the incidental case of broken pledges, authority would step in and see that contracts are lived up to; but it would be the authority of civil society, not any authority immanent in the society under consideration. True, it looks as if the moneylender and handicraftsman society was founded for the pursuit of a common good. The gentlemen speak loudly of their common interest. Suppose that in case of prosperity one of them gets 10 per cent of the invested capital and the other one 20 per cent; is it not clear that such prosperous returns constitute the purpose for which these men became associates, the common good of their association? The case is of great theoretical interest, because it supplies a perfectly pure example of pseudo-common good. One of these gentlemen proposes to get 10 per cent, and this is an entirely private good; the other proposes to get 20 per cent and this is a no less private good; as to the 30 per cent which constitutes the sum total of the coveted return, it is a sum of private goods which looks like a common good but is not. It lacks one of the defining features of the common good, viz., the intelligible aspect by which the common good calls for communion in desire and common action. In order that a good be common, it does not suffice that it should concern, in some way or other, several persons; it is necessary that it be of such nature as to cause, among those who pursue it and in so far as they pursue it, a common life of desire and action. Whenever the good interesting several persons or groups causes (or, more precisely, is of such nature as to cause) such common life, it is a genuine common good and renders authority necessary. If, on the other hand, a good interesting several does not call for a common life of desire and action, it does not call for authority either, and it admits of purely contractual relations. Rather than a common good, it is the sum of particular goods that happen to be related to one another. The moneylender is looking for his own income and the handicraftsman is looking for his own income; but their two particular goods are parts of a sum -- hence the partnership and the appearance of a common good.

It was often remarked that the expressions "the greatest good of the greatest number" and "the general interest," which prevailed throughout the golden age of individualism, designated a sum of individual goods rather than a common good. Strikingly, the same age and the same schools of thought cherished, in varying degree of radicalism, a contractual interpretation of the state or the ideal of a purely contractual society into which the state would have resolved. This is perfectly logical. Let us say, to sum up, that the ground for the constitution of a society is either the attainment of a common good or that of interdependent private goods; in the first case there is need for authority; in the second, contract suffices. Conversely, if a society needs authority (for essential reasons), it has a common good for its ground, and if a society can afford to be purely contractual, it has no other ground than the interdependence of private goods.

The difficulties involved in the first statement ("that virtue implies love for the common good . . .") concern general treatises, most properly the treatise on moral virtues. Let us merely remark that the principle of the primacy of the common good, often misunderstood or denied by the theorists of ethics, has, in fact, an extraordinarily powerful hold on the consciences of men. People of debased conduct and skeptical judgment still find it natural to die for their country or for such substitute for a country as a gang. And during the golden age of individualism the conscience of men, in spite of what the theorists had to say, often recognized the common good and served it with devotion under such improper names as "general interest" or "greatest good of the greatest number."

The second statement ("that the common good may be intended formally without being intended materially") expresses a sheer fact and needs merely to be illustrated by examples. This has been done. An army officer, wholly dedicated to victory and determined to hold a certain position according to his orders, may not be intending the common good materially considered; he may not be intending what is actually required by the common good, for new circumstances may require evacuation and withdrawal. And the son of a murderer, himself a good citizen, wants the life of his father to be preserved, even though the common good may demand capital punishment.

The third statement ("that the virtue of the private person guarantees [only] the intention of the common good formally considered") signifies that failure to intend the common good materially considered is not necessarily traceable to lack of moral excellence. If what victory demands is evacuation and withdrawal, it is up to the high command to issue new orders; and it is up to the courts to see that society is protected by adequate punishment of crime. Any particular difficulty raised by this statement resolves into the difficulties pertaining to statement No. 4 ("that, in a material sense, particular persons and groups ought to intend particular goods"), which is the keystone of the whole theory.

Seemingly, all would be best if each member of a community intended the common good both in formal and in material fashion. Because of the limitations of men, a continual and unfailing adherence of everyone to what is actually demanded by the common good cannot be realized. But why should it not be desirable, if it were realizable? Why should it not be posited in the construct of an ideal community? Why not promoted, in so far as it is realizable, in our imperfect societies? The statement seems to put a restriction on love for the common good, as if too much of it might harm.

It is, indeed, harmful to ignore the laws of the one and the many. These laws are independent of human deficiencies and transcend human affairs; they are metaphysical. Goodness implies unity, but the notion of unity, as divided into "unity of the individual" and "unity of the multitude," involves an order of anteriority and posteriority. The unity of a properly unified multitude is less of a unity than the unity of an individual. The degree of unity that a multitude admits of is the same thing as the kind of unity that it calls for. Although unity is an absolute perfection, there can be too much of it, inasmuch as, beyond a certain measure, the inappropriate kind forcibly displaces the proper one and destruction results. Such is the meaning of Aristotle's celebrated objections to the communism of Plato.{22}

It is very easy to see how uniformity can do violence to the nature of multitude and cause waste. The systematic extinction of qualitative diversity impairs the very kind of plenitude that it is the metaphysical function of the many to achieve; and if the purpose is to effect the highest degree of unity, a multitude, no matter how subjected to uniformity, is bound to remain second to individuality, that is, one man would be nearer to the goal than any commonwealth, even though it be made of puppets all carved and dressed after the same pattern. At this point, the statement under discussion acquires a new clarity, for we come to recognize in it a particular case of a familiar, altogether congenial, and almost uncontroverted formula. Imagine a multitude in which all intend the common good, materially as well as formally, and refrain from intending any particular good, even though in merely material fashion; this multitude has accomplished thorough uniformity. Its uniformity is the most radical of all and comprises virtually all kinds of uniformity. Behind the uniformity resulting from rationalized industry and mass production, qualitative diversity survives, so long as my heart is filled with love for persons of unique significance; but suppose that, through a skilful arrangement of society, no woman is more of a wife to me than any other woman, no old man is known to have the distinction of being my father, no man is known to be more of a brother to me than any other man, and no boy is known to be more of a son to me than any other boy; permanent grounds for the love of the particular are destroyed. A man may happen to have a special affection for a certain old man, but the common good has a monopoly on permanent grounds for love and devotion. In the order of final causality, the common alone stands; the particular no longer plays the part of a cause. Its causal power has disappeared into the causal power of the whole. But the end is the form of the will; in so far as the whole alone retains the character of an end, only one form is left for all wills.

The construct of a society in which the common good is intended materially by all results from an accident in the treatment of the subordination of causes. When the supremacy of a subordinating cause, its uniqueness, and the unutterable qualitative distance which separates it from the subordinated causes are keenly realized, the metaphysical intellect happens, not infrequently, to lose its balance. An exalted vision of the subordinating cause brings about, after the fashion of a by-product, the impairment and, as a limit, the annihilation of the subordinated causes. In not a few systems of metaphysics or theology, God alone is the genuinely efficient cause, and his sovereign power confronts a universe deprived of causality, of life, of liberty, and perhaps of reality. Contrasting with this picture of a waste land, the God of the living, who does not need to lay things waste in order to assert his power, is powerful enough to cause every thing and every act and every modality of every act in a world whose law is one of plenitude and superabundance, in a world full of reality, of autonomy, of activity, of life, and of liberty.

A society in which none intends, even materially, a particular good is like a dead world. Would such destructions serve any purpose? Far from being genuinely exalted, the common good has become a mere appearance. Common good cannot exist unless it does exist as the good of a multitude; but there is no good "of a multitude" unless particular goods are intended by particular appetites and taken care of by particular agents. The laws of distinction inside the multiple were ignored; confusion ended in destruction.

The Republic of Plato supplies a clear pattern of institutions designed to keep down to a minimum all interest in particular goods. On the other hand, Plato perceives with unique keenness the need for distinction in society. The meaning of this contrast can be explained by considering that there are two ways in which a good can be particular: (1) particular, as opposed to common, qualifies the good whose subject is but a part of society; (2) particular, as opposed to "over-all" or "whole" or "general" -- we do not have very good words to express these important concepts -- qualifies the good which is but a part or an aspect of the common good, although its subject is not a part but the whole of society. Referring to the examples described above, let it be said that the welfare of a family, as distinct from the welfare of the state, has the character of a particular good in the first sense; that the objective of an army unit (e.g., holding a strategic position), as distinct from the objective of the whole army and of the nation at war is likewise particular in the first sense; that the good pursued by an ardent teacher of Latin is particular in the second sense and -- in case the latter example is not deemed clear enough -- that the objective of the director of public health is also particular in the second sense. Public health is obviously a good whose subject or beneficiary is the whole of society; but this good is not the whole of the common good, it is only an important part or aspect of it. In order to clarify our terminology, we shall, from now on, call "private" the good which is particular in the first sense, "special" the one particular in the second sense, and use the word "particular" itself only to express the likeness, the relative unity, of the "private" and the "special." A homestead owned by a farmer is particular as private; a function exercised by a public servant is particular as special: the terms "homestead" and "function" may be conveniently used as symbols of these two principles of distinction.

In order to remove confusion from their midst, most societies use both principles. Plato opposes the former, or at least opposes several important aspects of the former, and consequently is led to emphasize strongly the latter. That everyone should mind his own business is for him an intrinsic condition of justice; but, with regard to the way of establishing a clear distinction between the business of the one and the business of the other, he tends to rely exclusively upon the division of social labor into functions, as if the division of the land into homesteads should endanger the unity of the commonwealth.

If statement No. 4 is considered established, statements Nos. 5 ("that the intention of the common good, materially considered, is the business of a public reason and of a public will") and 6 ("that the intention of the common good, materially considered, demands the operation of authority") hardly call for elaboration. It is obvious that the common good has to be intended not only formally but also materially; if it is established that it should not be intended materially by particular persons, it follows that a nonparticular reason and will ought to be constituted; otherwise the common good, materially considered, would not be intended at all. But what relation will obtain between those in charge of the common good and those whose duty it is to intend, in a material sense, particular goods? Clearly, the very principle of the primacy of the common good demands that the intentions of the latter be subordinated to the intentions of the former. The primacy of the common good demands that those in charge of particular goods should obey those in charge of the common good. It is, in the last analysis, as simple as that. And let it be remarked, once more, that these propositions do not imply any definite stand concerning the creation of a distinct governing personnel. Those in charge of the common good and those in charge of particular goods may be distinct groups of persons -- this is what happens in most cases; but the private persons who make up the multitude may all convene in a town meeting or Landgemeinschaft; they no longer are private persons, they are the public reason and will, endowed with the power to direct private persons toward the common good.


Throughout this inquiry into the intention of the common good, we have been referring both to the particularity of the homestead and to that of the function. Each kind of particularity suffices to make authority necessary. If the particularity of the homestead, i.e., particularity by way of privateness, were done away with -- as in a thoroughly Communist society -- the particularity of the function, i.e., particularity by way of specialty, would still, all by itself, render authority indispensable. Actually, experience does not suggest that the importance of authority declines when functional diversity stands as the only way to remove confusion from society. Authority is overwhelming in the Republic of Plato, and it is, to say the least, very strong in all communities which tend to do without the homestead as a factor of distinction. Considering, on the other hand, that diverse functions are, or may be, all relative to the common good, we come to understand that, with regard to the intention of the common good, authority is necessary on two grounds: (1) in order that there be intention of the common good materially considered and (2) in order that the common good materially considered be intended in its totality and according to all the relations of priority and posteriority, pre-eminence and subordination, that its integrality requires. Consider, for instance, the various great administrations which constitute the permanent structure of government in modern states: interior, treasury, foreign affairs, army, navy, agriculture, education. The men who make them up are adequately called "functionaries"; their tasks are directly related to the common good, none of them is supposed to labor for any private good, except in so far as he gets a recompense for services that are essentially public. If a cabinet is needed, on top of these administrations, it is not precisely in order that private agents should be directed toward the public welfare; the agents are already public, they are, by occupation, servants of society, and, in so far as they behave ethically, none of their activities during working hours is related to private purposes. In line with the hypothesis needed in this search for the essential, let us assume, comic though it may sound, that these functionaries are all perfectly competent and thoroughly disinterested. Under such an assumption it is not precisely in order that they be watched, stirred to action, kept from doing harm, encouraged, and punished that a cabinet is needed. Yet, although public administrations are, by essence, relative to the common good, as distinct from the private good, and even though we suppose the administrators to be free from private concern, the sheer fact that each administration has a special task to fulfil makes it necessary that there be, on top of all departments, a nondepartmental agent, a nonspecialized agent, or, if this expression is clearer, an agent specialized in having the point of view of the entire common good prevailing over any special angle.

Thus the proposition that authority is necessary to the intention of the common good has a double meaning. It means, first, that authority is necessary in order for private persons to be directed toward the common good; it means, second, that authority is necessary in order for functional processes, each of which regards some aspect of the common good, to be directed toward the whole of the common good.

Of the three functions of authority that we have surveyed, the first is substitutional, the second is essential, and the third deserves to be termed "most essential," since it concerns the most fundamental act of social life. In a society composed exclusively of clever, virtuous, and fully mature persons, authority would have no paternal duty to exercise; it would have to effect unity of action whenever the means to the common good is not uniquely determined; it would, above all and first of all, have to procure the intention of the common good. Considered in its essential functions, authority is neither a necessary evil nor a lesser good nor a lesser evil nor the consequence of any evil or deficiency -- it is, like nature and society, unqualifiedly good.{23}

It is now possible to gather up the elements of an answer to the question of the state of affairs that lies at the origin of civil government. According to Tom Paine and not a few others, "Society is produced by our wants and government by our wickedness." Our central purpose has been to determine whether government is produced by our wickedness (more generally, by our deficiencies) or by our wants (more generally, by the tendencies of our nature). It has been established that authority, considered in its essential functions, is as natural as the association of men for a common good. Thus civil government is as natural as civil society if, and only if, a common good is the object of civil association. The only way to escape the conclusion that civil government is produced "by our wants" -- in other words, by the nature of things -- would be to show that civil society has no common good for its object. The question boils down to this: Is it possible to conceive civil society after the fashion of a mere partnership, involving no common existence, no common life, no common love, and no common action?{24}

As recalled above, there has been, in some phase or phases of the adventurous history of liberal individualism, a tendency to substitute a sum of particular goods for the common good of civil society. No doubt, such a tendency could appear only in an environment saturated with the theory that government is evil, but in such environment it was bound to appear, even though, most of the time, in uncertain or disguised form; for, if government is evil by essence, the problem of evil is not solved until government is entirely eliminated. But it is not easy to ignore the connection between government and common good and the logic which demands that society be without a common good if it is to be without a government.

Let us assume, for the sake of greater precision, that what is in question is not civil society as such but its being a society relative to a common good, and let us further define civil society as the society within which all the tendencies of man, so far as temporal life is concerned, can normally find satisfaction. In order to determine the nature of the good that such a society proposes to procure, viz., whether it is a common good or a sum of particular goods, let us disengage, from typical examples, the distinguishing features of a society relative to a common good. Then we shall see whether these features are recognizable in civil society as defined above.

As typical examples of societies relative to a common good let the football team, the team of workers, and the army be singled out. Let the contrasting example of the handicraftsman and moneylender association be borne in mind. And, in order to simplify our vocabulary, let us call "community" the society which is relative to a common good; "mere partnership" the society which is not.

1. That the football team, the team of workers, and the army are communities is evidenced, first of all and most strikingly, by the fact that some transitive actions are traceable not to any particular individual but to the team or to the army. Such operations do not necessarily involve the actual participation of all; an act exercised by some remains the act of the whole if those who are actually engaged in action act as the organ of the whole. This is plainly what happens in the case of an attacking army: the attack is traceable to the army as to the cause of which it is the action; yet members of the army, possibly many, are waiting, watching, resting, healing their wounds, not attacking. In mere partnership each action is traceable to some partner, e.g., all the work is traceable to the handicraftsman and all the financing to the moneylender, none is traceable to the partnership itself.

2. The transitive actions of a community are prepared and intrinsically conditioned by immanent actions of knowledge and desire in which members commune. The members of a football team or of an orchestra always know very well why they are gathered together and always desire very ardently the attainment of the common objective. Members of a working group do not always understand very clearly what they are doing together and do not always desire ardently the effect of their common action. Members of an army are often unaware of the cause for which they are fighting. Such failures constitute a telling counterproof, for, in so far as there is lack of knowledge or love with regard to the object of common action, the community is poorly integrated, incompletely constituted, and its efficiency is uncertain. Let it be noticed, further, that communion in immanent actions does not consist in the sheer fact that several know the same object and wish it to be brought about. Prisoners toiling in isolation would contribute to the production of a certain effect, would all know what this effect is, and would all desire its coming into existence without there being any communion among them. Communion implies, in addition to immanent acts relative to the same object, my knowing that the others know and desire the same object and want it to be effected by the action of our community. Communions in immanent actions make up the most profound part of social reality; theirs is a world of peace where ennui is impossible and where death itself can be sweet -- there alone the individual is freed from solitude and anxiety. Mere partnership, on the other hand, does not do anything to put an end to the solitude of the partners. They may be better off as a result of their contract, but their contract will not relieve their lonesomeness. There is not, between them, any communion in an immanent action. It may be that in our time mere partnership plays too great a role in the life of men at work; according to certain criticisms, this would be a major cause of the anxiety prevalent in our societies.

3. Communications, as such, are merely interindividual processes. They obviously play an essential part in mere partnership. But in communities they assume a new character, inasmuch as they are calculated to produce communions and to entertain them. In the teams and in the army as well there is a constant exchange of signs, not all of which are words, whose purpose it is to cause in souls certain cognitions and certain emotions and awareness that the objects of these cognitions and emotions of mine are also objects for the cognitions and emotions of my companions, superiors, and subordinates. Presiding over these communion-causing communications is one of the major tasks of a leader and a very precise test of his ability. A good leader sends the appropriate messages -- words, gestures, examples, silences -- at the proper time, this may be the easiest part of the job. It is more difficult to obtain a steady flow of appropriate messages from his subordinates, and the most difficult and finest accomplishment would be to assure the regular operation of communion-causing communications among equals, at all levels of the hierarchy.

To sum up: collective causality, communion in immanent actions, and communion-causing communications are the criteria of the community as distinct from the mere partnership.

But who can fail to recognize these criteria in anything that deserves in any degree the name of civil society? Directing attention to a few obvious facts should suffice to bring our inquiry to a firm conclusion. Under the first heading, i.e., effects traceable to the civil multitude as to its proper cause, let us mention the following: security against enemies, both foreign and domestic; binding commitments with foreign societies; over-all status of expansion, both within existing boundaries and toward new boundaries; over-all status of ownership, of education, of temporal life in its relation to the spiritual. Under the second heading (communion), refer to any aspect of the feelings known as patriotism, loyalty, or allegiance to one's country, especially as expressed in ceremonies whose purpose it is to give the individual comfort and the community more abundant life, by bringing civil communions to a high pitch of intensity, e.g., military parades, inaugurations, national funerals, the daily raising of the flag in the schoolyards of the United States. Third heading: these ceremonies themselves are perfect examples of communion-causing communications proper to the civil society and of such a nature as to demonstrate its being a community. To show how easily countless other examples could be found, let us merely mention the teaching of civics at school and such risky procedures as government-inspired propaganda.

Two further remarks are needed: (1) Among the above-described features, some would make no sense in a society free from evil (e.g., effecting security against the enemies of peace); but most would make sense and would assume a more intense significance in a society made of ideally perfect people (e.g., over-all status of temporal life in its relation to the spiritual, civic friendship, ceremonies). It is not because of evil in men but in spite of all evil and deficiencies that civil societies have the character of communities. (2) The expression "civil society" ought to be understood here in a broad sense, as admitting of a great variety of forms and dimensions; it covers the city-state of ancient Greece and sharply defined and highly centralized nation-states, such as modern France or modern Italy; it covers federal organizations which are essentially ambiguous, since, in certain respects, the civil society of which one is a member is a larger unit (federal union), while, in other respects, it is a smaller unit contained in the larger (canton, state). The defining feature of the civil society, viz., sufficiency with regard to temporal needs, suggests that no particular city, state, empire, or federation has ever possessed the character of civil society in absolute and unqualified fashion. In order to be complete and entirely actual, a civil society would have to be such that it should never be necessary to go abroad or to call for help from abroad, in order that a temporal need be satisfied. No civil organization has ever satisfied such requirements; but in a great number of cases all basic temporal needs found satisfaction habitually, if not always, within the borders of an organization which, accordingly, deserved to be called "civil" in a rather full, though not unqualified, sense. In our time, dependence upon things, persons, and social structures lying outside one's own state or federal nation has become such a common and important occurrence that it may be wondered whether any society smaller than the world has the character of a civil society, except in a strongly qualified sense. Such a situation raises the problem of the world-state but does not demonstrate its possibility, and much less its ability to solve issues that cannot wait more than a few years.

We propose to terminate this inquiry with remarks on the causes of the common belief that civil government is an evil, though a necessary one, or, at any rate, the consequence of a deficient state of affairs.

1. In the exercise of civil authority, abuse is frequent and frequently grave. Frequent abuse is not necessarily a sign of intrinsic evil, but there is always a temptation to apply indiscriminately the principle connecting frequency and nature and to attribute an ethically evil nature to that which occasions abuse in many cases. If the frequency of abuse should render the very essence of government suspicious, it would be only logical to consider suspicious, also, science and art and technique and business and play and love. In truth, the ratio of failures is extremely high in all domains of activity which require virtue as an intrinsic condition of success. In civil government difficulties are more serious than elsewhere, and failures often entail dreadful consequences. Over and above lucidity, it may take some fortitude to realize the excellent goodness, the reverence-inspiring sublimity, of this institution, civil government, in spite of the overwhelming weight of its failures and abuses.

2. Among the purposes that civil government actually serves, the most obvious and consequently the best known is the repression of evildoers. The power of unconditional coercion is often treated as the defining feature of the state. If it were, evil alone would cause the state to be necessary. But, in fact, coercion is only one instrument of civil government; a great deal of civil direction is accomplished through another instrument, viz., persuasion, which would be the only instrument of government in a society of ideally perfect people.

Aristotle defined the state in terms of completeness and self-sufficiency, not in terms of coercion. It may therefore seem strange that Thomas Aquinas, an Aristotelian, should refer to the power of unconditional coercion in the very first phase of his attempt to explain the necessity of the state. But beginning with the most obvious feature of the thing to be investigated is common and sound Aristotelian method. It is, furthermore, perfectly understood that the most obvious is not always the most profound. In an incipient investigation the methodological problem is to determine what feature is going to supply the safest approach and lead the mind most certainly to the core of the subject. Now, among the things that the state does and that the family cannot do and that the state alone can do, there is one the necessity of which is apparent to everybody: it is the training of youngsters, "dissolute and prone to vice," who do not listen to paternal advice but need "to be restrained from evil by force and fear." Thus we come to posit the need of an organization capable of using force for the discipline of tough characters and for the peace of all. The next question will be: Granted that an organization endowed with the power of unconditional coercion is necessary, what is the essence of the organization which is going to exercise such a power? This question is answered in terms of completeness and self-sufficiency, not in terms of coercive power; then it is easy to show that the state would retain its essence if circumstances were so favorable as to rule out all coercive procedures and threats.

3. Besides the identification of civil government with coercion, two common accidents contribute to the belief that government would be unnecessary in a society made of perfect people. The first consists in a failure to distinguish between the substitutional and the essential functions of authority; if all the functions of government are thought to be of the substitutional type, government is logically deemed to belong to the period of immaturity of societies. The second consists in construing the ends of civil government after the pattern of the dominion of servitude, in which the end of government lies in the private advantage of masters. Whether the dominion of servitude can ever be a lawful institution remains to be seen; but that civil government should be aimed at the private good of the governing persons, and yet remain civil, is out of the question. The relation to the common good pertains to civil government in such essential fashion that governing for a private good means the perversion of polity into tyranny.

Notice that in both cases confusion arises from a failure to realize that civil government is defined by a relation to a certain kind of common good. It is by accident that the state has to exercise tasks which, because they are relative to some private good, would be exercised by private agents if the private agents concerned were not deficient. There is, in this connection, a striking dissimilarity between the father and the state. Duties of substitutional authority are altogether accidental in the case of the state and entirely normal in the case of the father. By accident, the state is guardian of orphans and tutor of the illiterate. But it is not by accident that a father is in charge of immature persons over a number of years.

4. Finally, let us again call attention to the illusion that the good will of each, if it were complete and enlightened, would suffice to guarantee the intention of the common good. This illusion is stubborn because it is hard to master the operation of the principles which, at the bottom of the question, seem to conflict but actually condition and supplement each other. The common good demands that particular persons should do full justice to the goodness of the particular good; but, if such is the case, an over-all direction toward the common good is necessary. Thus the most essential function of authority springs, in the last analysis, from the autonomic goodness of the particular good. The autonomy of the homestead and that of the function matter highly for the common good, but, without over-all government, these autonomies would mean the disintegration of society. Thus autonomy renders authority necessary and authority renders autonomy possible -- this is what we find at the core of the most essential function of government

{18a} Let it be recalled that volition is concerned with the end considered absolutely and intention with the end considered as term of a means or set of means.

{19} Thomas Aquinas Sum. theol. i-ii. 19. 10, trans. A. C. Pegis: "But a man's will is not right in willing a particular good, unless he refers it to the common good as an end, since even the natural appetite of each part is ordained to the common good of the whole."

{20} Ibid. 19. 10. The title of the article, as translated by A. C. Pegis, reads: Whether it is necessary for the human will, in order to be good, to be conformed to the divine will as regards the thing willed? It is fitting to quote in its entirety the body of this article, in which few seem to have recognized the most precise exposition ever made of the principles commanding the theory of government:

"As is evident from what has been said above, the will tends to its object according as it is proposed by the reason. Now a thing may be considered in various ways by the reason, so as to appear good from one point of view, and not good from another point of view. Therefore, if a man's will wills a thing to be according as it appears to be good, his will is good; and the will of another man, who wills that thing not to be, according as it appears evil, is also good. Thus a judge has a good will in willing a thief to be put to death, because this is just; while the will of another (e.g., the thief's wife or son) who wishes him not to be put to death, inasmuch as killing is a natural evil, is also good.

"Now since the will follows the apprehension of the reason or intellect, the more universal the nature of the apprehended good, the more universal the good to which the will sends. This is evident in the example given above, because the judge has care of the common good, which is justice, and therefore he wishes the thief's death, which has the nature of good in relation to the common welfare; whereas the thief's wife has to consider the private good of the family, and from this point of view she wishes her husband, the thief, not to be put to death. Now the good of the whole universe is that which is apprehended by God, Who is the Maker and Governor of all things. Hence, whatever He wills, He wills it under the nature of the common good; and this is His own goodness which is the good of the whole universe. On the other hand, the apprehension of a creature, according to its nature, is of some particular good, proportioned to that nature. Now a thing may happen to be good under a particular aspect, and yet not good under a universal aspect, or vice versa, as stated above. And therefore it happens that a certain will is good from willing something considered under a particular aspect, which yet God does not will under a universal aspect, and vice versa. And hence, too, it is that various wills of various men can be good in respect of opposite things, inasmuch as, under various aspects, they wish a particular thing to be or not to be.

"But a man's will is not right in willing a particular good, unless he refer it to the common good as an end, since even the natural appetite of each part is ordained to the common good of the whole. Now it is the end that supplies the formal reason, as it were, of willing whatever is directed to the end. Consequently, in order that a man will some particular good with a right will, he must will that particular good materially, and the divine and universal good, formally. Therefore the human will is bound to be conformed to the divine will, as to that which is willed formally, for it is bound to will the divine and universal good; but not as to that which is willed materially, for the reason given above.

"At the same time in both these respects the human will is conformed to the divine will in a certain degree. For, inasmuch as it is conformed to the divine will in the common nature of the thing willed, it is conformed thereto in the point of the last end. But inasmuch as it is not conformed to the divine will in the thing willed materially, it is conformed to that will considered as the efficient cause; for the proper inclination consequent upon nature, or upon the particular apprehension of some particular thing, comes to a thing from God as its efficient cause. Hence it is customary to say that, in this respect, a man's will is conformed to the divine will, because it wills what God wills him to will.

"There is yet another kind of conformity in respect of the formal cause, consisting in man's willing something from charity, as God wills it. And this conformity is also reduced to the formal conformity, that is based on the relation to the last end, which is the proper object of charity."

These views are explained by John of St. Thomas with great thoroughness in Cursus theologicus i-ii, disp. 11, a. 4 (Vivès, VI, 41-55).

{21} John of St. Thomas op. cit. p. 48b.

{22} Aristotle refers to Rep. iv. 423E; v. 457C and 462-64. Here is the latter passage (trans. Jowett):

"Shall we try to find a common basis by asking of ourselves what ought to be the chief aim of the legislator in making laws and in the organization of a State, -- what is the greatest good, and what is the greatest evil, and then consider whether our previous description has the stamp of the good or of the evil?

"By all means.

"Can there be any greater evil than discord and distraction and plurality where unity ought to reign? or any greater good than the bond of unity?

"There cannot.

"And there is unity where there is community of pleasures and pains -- where all the citizens are glad or grieved on the same occasions of joy and sorrow?

"No doubt.

"Yes; and where there is no common but only private feeling a State is disorganized -- when you have one half of the world triumphing and the other plunged in grief at the same events happening to the city or the citizens?


"Such differences commonly originate in a disagreement about the use of the terms 'mine' and 'not mine,' 'his' and 'not his.'

"Exactly so.

"And is not that the best-ordered State in which the greatest number of persons apply the terms 'mine' and 'not mine' in the same way to the same thing?

"Quite true.

"Or that again which most nearly approaches to the condition of the individual -- as in the body, when but a finger of one of us is hurt, the whole frame, drawn towards the soul as a center and forming one kingdom under the ruling power therein, feels the hurt and sympathizes all together with the part affected, and we say that the man has a pain in his finger; and the same expression is used about any other part of the body, which has a sensation of pain at suffering and of pleasure at the alleviation of suffering.

"Very true, he replied; and I agree with you that in the best-ordered State there is the nearest approach to this common feeling which you describe.

"Then when any one of the citizens experiences any good or evil, the whole State will make his case their own, and will either rejoice or sorrow with him?

"Yes, he said, that is what will happen in a well-ordered State. . . .

"But would any of our guardians think or speak of any other guardian as a stranger?

"Certainly he would not; for every one whom they meet will be regarded by them either as a brother or a sister, or father or mother, or son or daughter, or as the child or parent of those who are thus connected with him. . . ."

Here is the main part of Aristotle's discussion (Pol. 2. 2. 1261a10, trans. Jowett): "There are many difficulties in the community of women. And the principle on which Socrates rests the necessity of such an institution evidently is not established by his arguments. Further, as a means to the end which he ascribes to the state, the scheme, taken literally, is impracticable, and how we are to interpret it is nowhere precisely stated. I am speaking of the premiss from which the argument of Socrates proceeds, 'that the greater the unity of the State the better.' Is it not obvious that a state may at length attain such a degree of unity as to be no longer a state? since the nature of a state is to be a plurality, and in tending to greater unity, from being a state, it becomes a family, and from being a family, an individual; for the family may be said to be more one than the state, and the individual than the family. So that we ought not to attain this greatest unity even if we could, for it would be the destruction of the state."

{23} The essential functions of authority, as distinct from the functions made necessary by deficiencies, are referred to in the following texts:

In Sum. theol. i. 96. 4. Thomas Aquinas states the question Whether in the state of innocence man would have heen master over man? Following a distinction made by Aristotle (Pol. 3. 6. 1278b33), he answers that the dominion of servitude, in which a man is governed for the private welfare of another man, would have been unknown in the state of innocence, but even that happy state would have known government for the sake of the governed and for the sake of the common good. "Mastership has a twofold meaning. First, it is opposed to slavery, in which sense a master means one to whom another is subject as a slave. In another sense, mastership is referred in a general way to any kind of subject; and in this sense even he who has the office of governing and directing free men can be called a master. In the state of innocence man could have been a master of men, not in the former, but in the latter sense. This distinction is founded on the reason that a slave differs from a free man in that the latter has the disposal of himself [liber est causa sui], as is stated in the beginning of the Metaphysics, whereas a slave is ordered to another. And so, that man is master of another as his slave when he assigns the one, whose master he is, to his own -- namely, the master's use. And since every man's proper good is desirable to himself, and consequently it is a grievous matter to anyone to yield to another what ought to be one's own, therefore such dominion implies of necessity a pain inflicted on the subject; and consequently in the state of innocence such a mastership would not have existed between man and man.

"But a man is the master of a free subject by directing him either towards his proper welfare, or to the common good. Such a mastership would have existed in the state of innocence between man and man, for two reasons. First, because man is naturally a social being, and so in the state of innocence he would have led a social life. Now a social life cannot exist among a number of people unless under the governance of one to look after the common good; for many, as such, seek many things, whereas one attends only to one. Hence the Philosopher says, in the beginning of the Politics [1. 2. 1254a28], that wherever many things are directed to one, we shall always find one at the head directing them. Secondly, if one man surpassed another in knowledge and justice, this would not have been fitting unless these gifts conduced to the benefit of others." Children are left out of the picture. (They certainly need paternal guidance even in the state of innocence.) Considering a community of adults free from evil, Aquinas shows that government is needed (a) for the direction of the community toward its common good -- this covers the two functions which we described as essential; (b) in order that men who are free from evil, in other words, already good, should benefit by the excellence of the best among them. This refers to a function of authority not included in our analysis, a function which is neither substitutional, since the governed is supposed to be free from evil and even from deficiency, nor essential, since the common good is taken care of by another function; let it be called the "perfective" function of authority. Assuming that a community is made of people fully capable of self-government in the pursuit of their personal good; assuming that their direction toward the common good and the unity of their common action are assured by proper authority, it is still expedient that those who are less gifted -- less intelligent, less experienced, less strong-willed, less virtuous -- be guided by those who possess a more excellent degree of reason, will power, and virtue. This guidance is not absolutely indispensable as is that exercised over the child; it is not so cogently needed as is the power which directs society toward its common good and unifies its common action. It is not indispensable to the esse of the personal good or to that of the common good, but it is necessary to their bene esse. In fact, the psychology of those who are intelligently submitted to intelligent leadership shows that the good leader is appreciated not only for his ability to direct common action but also for inspirations by which everyone is inclined toward nobler ways of life. When the members of a community love their leader and are proud of him, their predominant feeling is that under him everyone becomes better -- occupationally, socially, morally, humanly. In the relation of man to woman, Aquinas sees, over and above the need for direction toward the common good of the family and independently of all deficiencies, a case of perfective authority; see Sum. theol. 1. 92. 1 ad 2um, on the condition of woman in the state of innocence (Pegis translation, slightly modified): "Subjection is twofold. One is servile, by virtue of which a superior makes use of a subject for his own benefit; and this kind of subjection began after sin. There is another kind of subjection, which is called economic or civil, whereby the superior makes use of his subjects for their own benefit and good; and this kind of subjection existed even before sin. For the good of order would have been wanting in the human multitude if some were not governed by other wiser than themselves. So by such a kind of subjection woman is naturally subject to man, because in man the discernment of reason predominates. Nor is inequality among men excluded by the state of innocence, as we shall prove." Thus the analysis of the functions of authority set forth in this chapter does not claim to be complete; a complete list would comprise (1) the substitutional function exercised by authority in the order of theoretical truth (magisterium, "teaching authority"); (2) the substitutional function exercised by authority in the guidance of immature and deficient persons or societies toward their proper good (paternal authority); (3) the substitutional function exercised by authority in the unification of action for the common good when the means to the common good is uniquely determined (so that there should be unanimity); (4) the essential function exercised by authority in the unification of action for the common good when the means to the common good is not uniquely determined (so that there is no ground for unanimity); (5) the most essential function exercised by authority in the volition of the common good, and of the whole of the common good materially considered; (6) the perfective function exercised by authority for the improvement of people who are already good. (In my essay Nature and Functions of Authority, the most essential function of authority is not distinguished from No. 4. I wish to express my regrets for this major failure.)

In the opening chapter of the treatise On the Governance of Rulers, Aquinas leaves aside all substitutional and perfective functions of authority and delivers a straight exposition of its essential functions, without, however, distinguishing, as we did, between the problem of unity in the pursuit of the common good and the problem of the volition of the common good materially considered. On the Governance of Rulers, trans. Gerald B. Phelan (London and New York: Sheed & Ward, 1938), pp. 33 if.: "But the light of reason is placed by nature in every man, to guide him in his acts towards his end. Were man intended to live alone, as many animals do, he would require no other guide to his end. Then would each man be a king unto himself, under God, the highest King, inasmuch as he would direct himself in his acts by the light of reason given him from on high.

"However, it is natural for man to be a social and political animal, to live in a group, even more so than all other animals, as the very needs of his nature indicate. . . .

"If, therefore, it is natural for man to live in the society of many, it is necessary that there exist among men some means by which the group may be governed. For where there are many men together, and each one is looking after his own interest, the group would be broken up and scattered unless there were also someone to take care of what appertains to the common weal. . . . With this in mind Solomon says (Prov. XI, 14): 'Where there is no governor, the people shall fall' " (p. 35).

"Indeed it is reasonable that this happen, for what is proper and what is common are not identical. Things differ by what is proper to each: they are united by what they have in common. For diversity of effects is due to diversity of causes. Consequently, there must exist something which impels towards the common good of the many, over and above that which impels towards the private good of each individual."

This very argumentation is used by Leo XIII in Immortale Dei (1885): "Man's natural instinct moves him to live in civil society, for he cannot, if dwelling apart, provide himself with the necessary requirements of life, nor procure the means of developing his mental and moral faculties. Hence it is divinely ordained that he should lead his life -- be it family, social or civil -- with his fellow-men, amongst whom alone his several wants can be adequately supplied. But as no society can hold together unless some one be over all, directing all to strive earnestly for the common good; every civilized community must have a ruling authority, and this authority, no less than society itself, has its source in nature, and has, consequently, God for its author. For God alone is the true and supreme Lord of the world."

Let us quote, lastly, a page where A. de Tocqueville shows rather clearly (in spite of his inadequate terminology) how the essence of authority can still be honored where there is systematic determination to ignore paternal authority, perfective authority, and natural inequality (Democracy in America, Part I, chap. v; trans. Henry Reeve [New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1900], I, 63-64): "In the nations by which the sovereignty of the people is recognized every individual possesses an equal share of power, and participates alike in the government of the State. Every individual is, therefore, supposed to be as well informed, as virtuous, and as strong as any of his fellow-citizens. He obeys the government, nor because he is inferior to the authorities which conduct it, or that he is less capable than his neighbor of governing himself, but because he acknowledges the utility of an association with his fellow-men and because he knows that no such association can exist without a regulating force. If he be a subject in all that concerns the mutual relations of citizens, he is free and responsible to God alone for all that concerns himself."

{24} That not every society is a community is hinted at by Aristotle in relation to animal societies (History of Animals 1. 1. 488a7-10): "Sociable animals are those which all together accomplish a work that is one and common to all: this is nor always the case with animals living in herds. Such sociable animals are man, the bee, the wasp, the ant, the crane.

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