ISSUE-149

The well-being of a society is enhanced when many of its people question authority.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the statement and explain your reasoning for the position you take. In developing and supporting your position, you should consider ways in which the statement might or might not hold true and explain how these considerations shape your position.


Some people argue that because the power of the governments and authorities come from the people, when many people begin questioning the authorities the well-being of a society will be improved. While this claim may be true in theory, in practice questioning authority more often than not brings chaos to the society, which actually diminishes people’s well-being. Therefore, I cannot agree with the afore-mentioned statement.


To start with, it is undeniably true that people are entitled to challenge and question authority and when they do so, governments will be forced to improve their transparency and the well-being of a society can be enhanced. In modern societies, the legitimacy of almost all governments come from the acknowledgement of their people. In other words, the ultimate power of authorities comes from the people, who shall possess the power to challenge a government. When they indeed begin to question the authorities, the outcome is that the government will be forced to defend its action by exposing more information to the public. Such information enhances the transparency of governance and thereby can in theory improve the well-being of the society. We can look at the Transparency Index of the world governments today, in which countries with high Index are often associated with high level of civil engagement and questioning of authorities, such as Denmark and Norway. At the same time, these countries are also characterized by high level of citizen happiness and social well-being, supporting the view that when people question authority the society’s well-being will be enhanced from a theoretical perspective.


However, in practice, when many people start to question the authority, social well-being tends to deteriorate instead of improving. In the argument above, it is assumed that people’s concerns with the government are spontaneous and that each individual is a responsible and rational citizen. Sadly, in today’s world either of the two assumptions can be validated. In reality, the public opinion can easily be manipulated by external forces, evidenced by the Russian meddling in the 2016 US Election. Therefore, when people question authority, their motivation may not be to hold the government accountable; rather, their challenge may be used as a tool to attack the government. Moreover, when many people question the authorities, one inevitable consequence is the halting of the government functioning because in this case any decision made by the government will likely be met with resistance. Take Hong Kong today for example, when the distrust of the government has reached a critical level so that major policy decisions have been met with suspicion and protests, many of which are unjustified. As a result, there is little political progress in Hong Kong and some pressing issues remain unresolved due to the inability of the government to implement policies. In light of these two considerations, when many people start to question the authorities, the well-being of the society actually decreases.


To sum up, while it sounds like a great idea to question the authorities in hopes of enhancing the social well-being, in reality challenging the governments will lead to the decline in such well-being. The main reason is that people’s opinion can be readily manipulated and often opposition to the government will result in inaction, which apparently can’t contribute to the improvement of the well-being of the society.

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