Friday, October 12, 2007

"If a society is to thrive, it must put its own overall success before the well-being of its individual citizens."

To promote a thriving society, is it more important to place a higher value on the success of the society as a whole over the well-being of its constituents? A long contested issue, many have debated over the merits of both the value of the society as whole over the value of individual well-being. The topic statement above claims the former. Though some might view this statement as selfish and unreasonable, I am in agreement with the sentiments of the topic statement. I shall present my arguments as follows.

In order to understand the merits of placing an importance on society's success as a whole, we need to look at the issue from a “top-down” point of view. As with any organizational hierarchy, all the decisions and policy-making needs to come from a higher level of the organization. The decision makers need to take into consideration all the factors that would promote the overall well-being of the organization; the mission statement, the kind of image the organization wants to promote, the work environment and so on. Even though the individual factor is important as well, one must place a higher value on the success of the organization as a whole for the decisions made need to benefit the majority of the constituents, not just a select few individuals. It is same with a society. Policies and decisions that are made with the success of a society as a whole in mind would work better to benefit majority of its citizens, not just a select few.

To promote a thriving society, one must step back and take a look at the bigger picture. In focusing too much on the well-being of individual citizens, one could lose focus on the overall context and overemphasize on unnecessary details. Though some might argue that this is a callous way of approaching the issue, it is too difficult to provide the best for every single citizen. Each individual citizen have different wants and needs, and to accommodate every person's needs in a society that is composed of thousands, millions, or even billions of people is just impossible.

What are the signs of a successful, thriving society? Among them are a solid infrastructure, a booming economy, a skilled and educated workforce and so on. If a society is successful in the above mentioned factors, the benefits that are reaped by the society as a whole would eventually trickle down to its citizens. A simple illustration: a solid infrastructure provides efficient transportation systems and highways, which in turn makes trade and businesses run easier. With a trade-conducive environment, foreign investors are more inclined to invest in the country which in turn creates more jobs opportunities for its citizens. With the rise in job demand, a country would gear towards creating a better education system and policies to build an educated and skilled workforce to serve that demand.

By focusing too much on the individual level, the benefits created would only promote the interest of a select group and potentially create inequality on a societal context. For example, Malaysia is a country of mixed races and origins. The country is composed of many races including Malays who are considered the original natives of the country as well as a conglomeration of other immigrant races that have settled in the country over the years. The government of Malaysia, in trying to protect the interest of the native Malays, have implemented many policies that only benefit the Malays including a racial quota system for university entrance requirements, lower interest rates for house loans among others.

In conclusion, there is a need to place an importance of the overall success of a society over the well-being of its individual citizens. By looking at the larger picture, better decisions and policies are created and the benefits created by those policies will benefit the citizens on an individual level. Also, by focusing on the overall success of a society prevents the myopic view of just concentrating on the problems of a select individuals which in turn could create inequality on a larger context.

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