What Makes A Good Citizen?

Most people want to be a good citizen of the place where they live: their city, state, country, or world. But what, exactly, does that mean?

A good citizen must contribute, in a positive way, to the community in which they live. That positive contribution might take the form of supporting the other community members, by building something others can use, or perhaps providing a necessary service.

But is that enough? There may be instances where an individual does a job that is necessary for others in the community to thrive. But at the same time, he or she might undermine some segments of that society, through racism, or some other bias.

Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What are our responsibilities to others?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘Are we too busy?’

One can easily imagine how self-interest might come into conflict with community service. Ideally, the benefit of the individual and the group would be aligned. However, that won’t always be the case. In fact, the two may inevitably be in conflict, as an individual may have to sacrifice certain opportunities for personal growth for a larger societal good.

What are the attributes that you think make for a good member of a society? Community service? Voting in elections? Checking on your neighbors? Living in the same place for a long time? Owning a small business? Paying taxes? What other examples can you think of?

What make a good citizen? Do you think you are a good citizen?

Related questions: What are our responsibilities to others? What makes a community? Did you vote? Individual or society?


3 thoughts on “What Makes A Good Citizen?”

  1. The level and number of actions one can take to show you are and identify as a citizen, as pointed out below, span a continuum of discipline or sacrifice.

    First, I believe a good citizen does something out of love and dedication to the polity they are identifying. The question certainly lists some good actions: Community service, voting in elections, checking on your neighbors. I would add here remembering and honoring those who’ve sacrificed — sometimes with their lives — to protect their country or the world (i.e., military service) or to make “a more perfect union” (e.g., those who’ve, at the time, fought for unrecognized civil rights).

    Still, I feel the question skirts some of the more immediate — and (to some) controversial — actions. The fight for civil rights continues. Black Lives Matter. Voter protections are under attack. Undocumented agricultural workers are being taken advantage of and are working in unsafe conditions to feed Americans cheap food. Mass homelessness persists. Millions of people live in (and likely will do so for years, if not decades) cramped refugee camps. On top of that, there are world conditions that require immediate changes (e.g., combating climate change, protecting our diminishing seed diversity (and thus, and endangered food supply), fighting authoritarianism which is making a most unfortunate revival).

    Citizens work to make their polity or the world a better place. There are so many issues and places we need them to be working in and on right now.

  2. I think being a good citizen takes a certain civic pride, but also the responsibility for recognizing mistakes and actively working to improve things for yourself and others.

    Education is key, both education about where you live, so you can be informed about the world around you, but also education in general so that you can be a well rounded person and thus more likely to contribute.

    I like to think that I am a good citizen, although I could probably improve in some regards. In particular, I get a little too caught up in my personal life and don’t pay enough attention to my neighbors and community.

  3. Give to your community and the world as much (or more) than you take away from it.
    Do not be a burden to others, except times when it is absolutely necessary.
    Don’t ask others to do for you anything which you could do for yourself.
    Be aware of the needs of others and always willing to lend a hand.
    Keep yourself as fit and healthy as possible.

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