Thursday, 29 July 2010

The citizen's right to choose - keystone of a fair society

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are among the inalienable rights of man enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence. Succinct as they already are, they can be further distilled down to the concept of choice.
Choice as applied to ideologies was at the heart of capitalism’s economic triumph over communism - and much of what now constitutes modern society is decided at the boundaries of choice.
I may not murder my neighbour however disagreeable nor drive through a red light and I have to pay taxes.
In a democratic society we appoint governments to decide on our behalf the limits of choice – and expect police and judiciary to enforce just laws. For example some drugs – alcohol and tobacco – are deemed legal, others not. The question of abortion is one of the clearest examples of the choice debate in action.
This is why civil liberties have to be stoutly defended because when an individual’s freedom/choice is restricted, the defence of such action must be shown that it is for the greater good.
Where constraint is unfairly applied, however trivial the issue, choice, as prized by such as the US Founding Fathers, is threatened and a keystone of civilised conduct is dislodged.
The nature v. nurture argument both make claims that choice is illusory but here it is called freewill. Meanwhile billions are spent on advertising and branding to sway consumer choice. But to suggest the action of human beings is merely the product of their genes, upbringing, or appetite is to overlook the many noble aspects of the species.
To close I’d like to consider a case where the bounds of choice are being extended - the UK Coalition government’s determination to scrap compulsory retirement at 65. It is undoubtedly good that an individual should have the right to work as long as he or she wishes to do so.
In this instance, however, the expansion of choice is erroneous. I suggest the numbers of seniors who have already laboured forty or fifty years and wish to continue - given the choice - are a small minority.
Money worries – prompted by the inadequacy of the state pension, the falling value of company pensions, inflation, and increased longevity – are the incentives to continue working beyond 65.
I would hope that employees still retired at 65 – but only after having been “bought out” by their employers. This way they can leave with a nice nest egg rather than just a ‘Farewell’ card.

1 comment:

  1. Quite the reverse unfortunately GC, says Jaffa. What with more and more companies reneging on their pension arrangements and govenments wanting us all to work indefinitely. e used to be the 'shop until you drop' society. Now the message s 'work until you wither'.

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What do you think? GC