I take something, anything that is yours; is that good for you? There might be something that I can forcibly take from you and you would not care. More than likely though, if I were to take your wealth, you would not consider it “good”.
After I take your wealth, I tell you that it is for the good of “the public”. You can either agree or disagree. If you agree, then you probably do not consider it a problem that I took your wealth. If you disagree, then you would consider it a bad thing that I took your wealth. Therefore, it may or may not be good. As a member of the public, for whom I took your wealth, it is possible that the loss of wealth is “bad”.
How can I say it is for the public good, if indeed it may not be? In fact it can not. The oft used argument “It’s for the public good” is a misnomer. The forcible taking of another’s wealth may in fact be good or bad, depending on the perspective of the one who losses their wealth, but it can not be “good” all the time, in all situations to all people.
Then how does society do the least amount of damage by taking individuals wealth, while doing the most “public good”? What is the most “public good”?
Genesis 9:5 “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. (6). Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for the in image of God made he man.”
God gives life to each one of us. Included in “life” are physical and non-physical attributes that yield “stuff”. The fullness of this idea may be better understood as “property” as it expounded upon in Deuteronomy and Leviticus. Consider: your body is your property. So is your mind, conscious, soul and their respective products; thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, sin, guilt. We own these things. Additional, we own the physical products that these non-physical properties produce. What I write is mine. The wealth I generate from the exchange of my labor (labor is property) is also my property. Relating back to the original statement in Genesis, property that is violently taking shall meet with violence itself as it is judicially meted out by mankind.
What can we conclude from God’s directive to man? First, shedding another man’s blood shall result in the shedding the perpetrator’s blood, by man. The collective, mankind, is to take the life of those who shed another man’s blood. In subsequent books, the Lord would expand upon this principle. Elaborating on the circumstances surrounding the takin go life and explaining that there are various forms of violence being done to another person’s property each requiring a different from of retribution. The highest expression of human government then is the judicial taking of life, followed in lesser degree retribution for the taking of lesser forms of property.
Mankind is to organize itself under a civil authority (king, elected official, board etc.) with the singular purpose: Secure property.
The “most public good” then is the securing the property of individuals. The “least damage to the public good” is the appropriation for funding of the means to secure property.