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The Well-being Of A Society Is Enhanced When Many Of Its People Question Authority
"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.
The speaker asserts that our society will be better off if many people begin to question authority. While I contend that under certain conditions, disobedience in fact is harmful to our society, I agree with the speaker that, in most cases, our well-being will be enhanced if people are willing to question authority.
The first danger that allowing people to question authority brings about is that, in certain cases, a legal questioning could escalate to violent protest. It is worth noticing that there exist different levels of well-being. The most fundamental requirement is to allow people to live in a safe society which is regulated by law. Those violent riots, though their participants call for justice or government transparency, in fact destroy even the most basic level of well-being. Consider the riot that happened at *La Cliché Sous Bois,* a small town in the suburbs of Paris, in 2005. At first, the protest was triggered by an accident in which police shot two young local immigrants; and soon the way of questioning turned into a disregard of criminal laws on a mass scale. Protest turned to looting, arson, and even violent attacks to express their fury. Many local residents reported that they were frightened to see massive violence and tended to move out of town. This way of questioning government did not help resolve any social issues, but only left a more financially crippled economy as well as rising social tensions.
Even if the questioning of authority could be somehow conducted in a legal and peaceful way, there exists another danger that it could be manipulated by certain demagogues. There are always some politicians or social activists who know how to use political rhetoric to put unwarranted charges against their opponents. Then demagogues directly address to the public and take advantage of the power of democracy to eradicate their personal enemies. For example, from 1950, Senate McCarthy exploited public fear of communism and pressed his accusations that the government was failing to deal with Communism within its ranks. Those accusations received wide publicity, increased his approval rating, and gained him a powerful national following. However during the McCarthy era, thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government. Many of them suffered loss of employment or destruction of their careers. Some even suffered imprisonment. Even Oppenheimer, the father of the nuclear bomb, was suspected and dismissed. The only way to prevent this devastating form of questioning is to enhance education to people and help them think critically and independently.
While there are the hazards of turning into violence or being hijacked by the demagogue, I still believe that questioning the authority could enhance the well-being of a society. First, only supervision from people could really stem corruption. The moment when people ask authority to provide explanations to their operations, they in fact contribute to increasing governance transparency. In a transparent government, any official who tend to accept bribes will think twice since the risk of being exposed increases. One good example involves Hong Kong where people are allowed to consult any accounting data of certain government department’s expenditure. Those officials in office need also tell the public about their incomings as well as their wealth. Although those measures cannot make corruption extinct, they, to the greatest extent, stem bribery and help to create one of the most efficient troops of civil servants in the world.
Another benefit of questioning the authority is that it could help correct certain policies or laws. In our daily lives, people need to obey timelessly different policies or laws, yet at the same time question the correctness or relevance of those policies. Otherwise, many harmful policies cannot be overhauled and laws cannot evolve according to changing society’s values. Two examples could be used to illustrate this point. In China, now more and more people are allowed to use the Internet or the twitter to question the government. In 2012, several local governments hoped to boost local GDP and allocate lands to certain chemical factories which risk polluting drinking water or lands. When those projects got exposed, massive protests followed. Facing public pressure, local governments had to cancel the project to redress their errors. Another example involves the social movement led by Martin Luther King. Dr. King’s movement encouraged people to question the legitimacy of racial segregation existing in the country and finally led to the abolishment of all discriminatory clauses in laws.
To sum up, in general I agree with the speaker’s claim that questioning the authority could improve social well-being. However, to ensure a net benefits rather than harm, people need to think independently and keep using legal and peaceful method to question authority.