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Mar 22

Hunter’s Laptop and the Common Good – AMAC

AMAC Exclusive By David P. Deavel

The Hunter Biden story appears to many as simply another political story of dirty tricks or perhaps bad journalists or big tech censorship. The story is all three but the most important aspect of it is that it hurts the common good of the country. That term needs some unpacking because a lot of people use the term pretty loosely to mean anything I likein a way similar to the way too many use the term constitutional. This article will begin an exploration of the understanding of the term from a Catholic and Christian perspective in order to think more clearly about the ills of our day and how to think about them. First, however, a quick recap of the Biden story.

Even the New York Times now is confirming that the Hunter Biden laptop storywith attendant legally and ethically troubling emails that would have been perilous to the election chances of Joe Bidenwas accurate. I was never sure exactly why the story was so unbelievable about it. As a number of people have noted, its not as if people with drug addiction problems are always careful about their own possessions, so the fact that Hunter might have left a computer somewhere and forgotten about it. But in a letter three weeks before the election, the story was labeled Russian disinformation by fifty intelligence agents who admitted they had no evidence other than gut instincts for their assertion. Other news agencies such as The Washington Post and Politico amplified this baseless assertion (the term they usually use for anything Donald Trump says that they dont like).

NPR famously tweeted the words of managing editor Terence Samuels concerning questions about why they had ignored the story that the New York Post had published, We dont want to waste our time on stories that are not really stories, and we dont want to waste the listeners and readers time on stories that are just pure distractions.When they did mention it, they passed on the intelligence officers statementsomething they then had to correct in April 2021. Meanwhile, the New York Post, who had broken the story, were locked out of their Twitter account. Other social media companies shadowbanned or limited the distribution of the story.

We all know that Joe Biden (the big guy, as he seemed to be labeled in Hunters communications) won the election. And only later was it admitted that the intelligence officials view had no merit. Only finally in 2022 that the prestigious Times went on to verify the story.

Whats wrong with all this malfeasance is that it doesnt just affect an American election result, troubling as that is. It affects the trust of the country. And that trust is one main aspect of the common good as traditionally understood.

A classic definition of the common good was given by Pope John XXIIIs description of the common good in his encyclical Mater et magistra. The common good of any political community embraces the sum total of those conditions of social living whereby men are enabled more fully and more readily to achieve their own perfection. In other words, the common good is not simply about common goods such as oil or natural resources or material wealth, though they are very important to it. The common good includes those social conditions that allow people to flourish individually and together. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that responsibility for the common good requires the prudence of all, especially those who exercise the office of authority.

This note of the need for all to exercise prudence is important since many people interpret the common good as something like Rousseaus General Will, which ultimately stays at the level of abstraction and yet involves a kind of slavery in which personal interests are canceled out and the government might be obliged to stomp out the rights of the people, who do not actually have the proper desires.

Because the Democrats or Joe Biden are the people we want in power, they think, anything that keeps them in power is for the common good. My candidates and my party must be installed because they will make the big-picture decisions that affect us. And anything that gets my party elected is for the common good.

But in a democratic republic where people do not make all their decisions on their own through referendums but instead elect people to represent themnot rule them!having journalists who are not afraid, to tell the truth, or track down the story even if it hurts the candidate or party they support is a key part of this. And that is because one of the key aspects of those conditions of social living is that people can access information and have others who will ferret it out about our candidates and elected officials in order that they can make the best choices about who actually has the countrys common good in mind.

We need journalists to find this out about officials, candidates, and indeed policies and programs, for, as another document, the Catholic Compendium of Social Doctrine, puts it, truly seeking out the good does not simply require that [the individual] live with others at various levels of social life, but that he seek unceasingly in actual practice and not merely at the level of ideas the good, that is, the meaning and truth, found in existing forms of social life.

You may be a Democrat or a Republican. You may think your party has the best ideas for how to enact the common good, but we still elect individuals to use the levers of power. So knowing whether a politician is actually corrupt is an absolute necessity for the common good. So too, knowing what particular policies and programs actually involve is key. Have past programs gone to benefit those in charge of the common good instead of the common good? That is key information for an American trying to prudently vote for persons and policies. If there is a hint of truth to some of the information in the Hunter Biden emails, that is something that the American public had and has a right to know so that citizens can do their duty.

That those who serve us in intelligence spoke without any evidence about this matter, those who serve us as journalists failed to investigate the truth of the matter until long after citizens had to make decisions about it, and that media and big tech companies whose responsibility is to provide honest reporting and access to it refused to do their duty may have been decisions made with regard to a vision of the common goodbut it was not an understanding that took into account the real conditions for that common good. Those involve empowering people to make informed decisions about which candidate and which party really is more trustworthy. Those involve building trust by providing, verifying, and certainly not censoring that information.

There is no doubt that intelligence officials, journalists, editors, and tech executives have their own views on whom to elect and what to do. They are free to have those views and support them on behalf of their notion of the common good. But they also have duties to we the peoplewho also have the right and duty to seek out the truth about what actually promotes the common good and advocate for it ourselves.

The Hunter Biden laptop story is about people who may want the common good at some level but whose actions led them to some pretty common evils that were uncommonly harmful in breaking down American trust in our government and each other.

David P. Deavel is editor ofLogos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, co-director of the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy, and a visiting professor at the University of St. Thomas (MN). He is the co-host of theDeep Down Thingspodcast.

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Hunter's Laptop and the Common Good - AMAC

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