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Sender: Steven H Johnson
Subject: The high level challenge of modern society
Date: Tue, Apr 8, 2014
Msg: 100904

Hi everyone -

I have a thought process about modern society to float here.

Let's start by acknowledging that we live in cause-and-effect world. Not entirely, of course, but substantially.

And it's a world in which many activities take place at great scale, and generate consequences at great scale, sometimes for good and sometimes for ill.

There are different ways to respond.

I can assert my rights and take actions without regard for their consequences. If the consequences are damaging, my assertion of rights restricts the reach of other folks' freedom.

Or I can accept responsibility for the consequences of my behavior, and act within my responsibilities. As I do, my restraint preserves the freedoms of others.

When rights come first, when behaviors at scale cause damage at scale, freedom shrinks.

When responsibilities come first, when well-chosen behaviors at scale avoid causing harm at scale, freedom expands.

Rights exercised without responsibilities cause harm, sometimes at vast scale, and damage society's larger freedoms.

Rights exercised within a framework of responsibilities avoid harm, and preserve society's larger freedoms.

Early reformers used the claim of natural rights to discredit the powers of kings. They didn't have to worry about modern industry and threats to Nature. But we do. Shall we continue to accept the argument of natural rights as framed in a pre-industrial era? Or is it time to make some adjustments?

Rights. Freedoms. Responsibilities. Cause-and-Effect. Vast Scale. Vast Behaviors, Vast Consequences. The mix of concerns that draw our attentions today have changed considerably from the mix of concerns that stirred earlier periods of reform. Are we ready to re-balance our thinking?

Steve Johnson Annapolis ############################

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