Thursday, May 04, 2006

 

Autonomy

Some thoughts....

Should the autonomous individual be counted as a cost of benefit to society? In many conservative and libertarian circles, the self-directed actions of an individual are necessarily counted as a benefit and many times a large one at that. Alternatively, autonomy of the individual is also counted as a cost to society at large to many of the liberal persuasion. This tends tp be echoed by the central planners, public health, and transportation (urban sprawl) officials, who see individual "choice" as a cost in their equation.

In all reality, since no man is an island, the autonomy of an individual has to be placed in the setting of a society where there are costs and benefits externalized through action and transaction.

Regardless of whether the we live in a deterministic world or a world with freedom of choice, the main essence of the argument for autonomy seemingly comes down to the inability by another individual to act as they "should". Often times, you can see this when individuals take risks, drive instead of ride, choose to not recycle, or just about anything else.

I know that this doesn't really answer my question, but I think it puts into perspective the issue of "social costs".

Does anyone want to take a stab at this one....

Comments:
I think you already answered your question: it's impossible to say.

How could we ever even arrive at a scale on which to measure this? What metric could we possibly use?

If society has a goal, then one can measure progress against that goal. If society has no goal, how against what standard can anything be measured? Is utility at all meaningful in that situation?

Unless we simply aggregate all individual goals to some sort of societal goals (an impossible undertaking), there's really no way to measure this.
 
Jenna,

I still have trouble getting my idea around that argument though. What does it mean for society to not have a goal? And if you don't have a metric of some kind (whehter its "goal" oriented or not), how does one decide the type of society ones want to live in?
 
Aside from something unanimously agreed upon, society can have no goal.

For example, if I'm part of society and I hate technology, you can't say it's society's goal to be innovative and cutting-edge with respect to technology. Maybe it's everyone's goal but mine, but it's not "society's goal."

You need unanimity.
 
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