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DISCUSSION QUESTION CHOICE #2: Individual Rights vs General Welfare.

DISCUSSION QUESTION CHOICE #2: Individual Rights vs General Welfare. Under what circumstances do you believe the rights of the individual should be prioritized over the general welfare of society? Under what circumstances should the general welfare of society be prioritized over the rights of the individual? Explain your position with reference to both Utilitarianism and Rights Theory, as well as your own experiences and ethical judgments. Make sure to address possible objections to your reasoning.

This is a highly debatable and very controversial issue, especially in today’s society where there are so many moving pieces and hot topics regarding individual and general welfare. I believe that circumstances where the rights of an individual should be prioritized over the general welfare of society are those when there is no harm imposed to others. Perhaps the rights of the individual do not necessarily bring good or progress society in a normal fashion, however, it brings the person pleasure and that could potentially further society as a whole in the future. Circumstances where the general welfare of society should be prioritized over the rights of the individual are those when it prevents mass harm or threatening measures to the society as a whole.

“The utilitarian standard is ‘‘not the agent’s own greatest happiness, but the greatest amount of happiness altogether.’ (Mill) Therefore in most cases, individual rights of the minority opinion holder would always be infringed upon. Whereas under the Rights Theory, individual rights seem to be more prioritized under the set rules of a society put in place by the members.

As a society now, we agree that the government may step in when someone violates the set of laws in place “when a person fails to live up to his potentiality, he becomes a drag on the rest, or he fails to make the contribution he owes.” (Mill) One may argue they do not have to pay taxes or can take whatever they want from another, but those are infringing on another individual’s rights and are in place for the overall welfare of society.

In regard to consequentialists, the right actions are justified only when referenced to a predefined understanding of good which for those practicing democracy is enacted by society through their elected officials. (Roberts & Sutch) Without this, then any circumstance in which the general welfare is prioritized over the individual welfare would be objective.

I think we can all relate to how drastic a shutdown country during the pandemic was, however, it was understood because at the time we had no information other than COVID-19 was a deadly disease and therefore it was in the best interest to infringe on individual rights for the general welfare of the society.

Works Cited

Roberts, Peri, and Peter Sutch. An Introduction to Political Thought : A Conceptual Toolkit. Edinburgh University Press, 2012.

Mill, John Stuart, et al. On Liberty. Yale University Press, 2003.

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