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Balancing Society

I believe in individual rights, however, this can often lead to the tyranny of one. The privilege of the individual may conflict with that of the community in which s/he lives, and in this case, a balance must be struck. A balance between the community and the individual is the oldest problem of governance; ought the community yield to the individual – to the harm of the many – or should the individual yield to the community (one for all; fraternity)?

More important to the question of the balance between the individual’s and community’s right, what is the consequence of coercion. Typically this question is approached purely from the position of the individual’s fear of coercion by the community, but as the last century proved, coercion by the individual to society can be just as consequential. Neither of these approaches are effective in their extreme, as you will see below, a balance must be struck. But within what framework should this balancing occur?

Illustrative examples of the balance that must be sought can be found in the example of education benefits. Mandatory childhood education is illustrative because it shows the balancing framework that should be applied to each sector of our lives. If an individual is afforded purely individual rights to make exclusively self-servient decisions, without regard for his future or that of the community at large, there will be tremendous misallocation of human capital. Conversely, if the community at large is able to dictate the future and direction of each individual (either en masse or separately), there may too be misallocation of human resources, but more importantly, the ambition of the individual will be trapped.

What of course is necessary in the field of education is a balance of the two. By requiring a minimum level of education, society is making a choice that the harms of such a policy (e.g. lack of individual direction, negative economic output, etc.) are balanced by the multiplying effect of education on the community (e.g. increased earning capacity, improved analytic skills of complex problems, long-term thinking, etc.). This harnessing of human capital is limited by standards of education, which once achieved release the participant, while granting society the benefit of his education. Based on this balancing principle it is clear that it can be applied to a variety of other situations including:

  • healthcare,
  • retirement,
  • police & fire protection,
  • general (transportation, water, power, etc.) infrastructure,
  • etc.

Of course, application of balance must take special heed of the needs of minorities. Without care, policies to benefit the majority may affect insular minorities disproportionately. This care is taken (at least in respect to Eritrea) because of the democratic position of the organization – a principle which centers on equality in access (not necessarily outcome). How do the democratic principles here lead to care for minorities? The nature of our approach to democratic access for society is based on the principle that each individual member of society is equal to any other. Because of errs of history however, we are left with a quilted society, one bearing the markers of history on class and nationality. To remedy this, our organization has set out to establish that there is “equitable distribution of wealth, services and opportunities, and special attention to be paid to the most disadvantaged sections of society.” ((PFDJ National Charter, 1994)) It is clear that our attention to the minorities and “disadvantaged” sections of society will require a special duty of care.

They say that politics is the art of the possible, but I would argue it is only an art in so far as much as we apply imperfect metrics to balance the interests of society and the individual. Utilizing the metrics that we have available however, we can make a difference in our future – together.

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