Obligations to Individuals or Communities?



One of the chapters in our book this week was devoted to obligations and the role they play with our morality and ethical code.  The author gave numerous examples of how we encounter conflicts of obligation between work and our personal lives.  How do we deal with conflicts of obligation on a bigger scale?  Countries in Africa as well as China, to name a few, have problems with population control.  Africa’s problem stems from contraception not being widely available along with the uneducated nature of several countries on the continent.  Nevertheless, China’s problems are a little different.  China’s population continues to grow exponentially despite the economic standards in the country as well as the lifestyle of many of its citizens.  China’s current population is about 1.35 billion.  To put this in perspective, the world population is around 7 billion.  The world has a population growth problem, but China’s is in dire straits now.  What is the solution?

The Chinese government has had policies in the past, referred to as the “one child policy,” which mandated families only have one child.  This would regulate the population’s replacement rate.  What is the problem with this kind of policy?  A government, especially a “Democratic” government as the PRC claims itself to be, has obligations to the country as a whole but also to its individual citizens.  A democratic government is first and foremost by the people and for the people.  Along with these democratic ideals, come certain “inalienable” liberties and rights, as Locke described.  People have the right to live out their lives to the way they see fit as long as it does not interfere with the way others live their lives.  But, there is a serious problem with population control.  Does the Chinese government have the obligation to regulate the population and infringe on basic freedoms or to not infringe on the basic freedoms of its people and look for other solutions?  The one child policy has resulted in increased abortion rates and female infanticide.  The policy will continue to be a part of legislation until at least 2015.  The Chinese government decided that population control was more important than individual freedoms?  What if this was you?  In my opinion, individual freedoms are always more important than other obligations.  There are usually other solutions besides restricting freedoms, which seems like the “easy” thing to do.

What’s a better solution?  It is reported than 51 percent of China’s population lives in urban areas and that number continues to grow.  The natural link made would be that population growth is stagnating.  This is not the case because much of the population living in rural areas has low paying jobs which are linked to the culture of having many children.  My solution would be for China to look to ways to grow its middle class.  This is the best solution for the future.  Citizens of the middle class tend to be more educated which is linked to having fewer children.  Am I asking for a lot in terms of lifestyle change? -yes.  But I am not willing to relinquish individual freedoms, because I believe this is the highest obligation of society.



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