Wednesday, 08 December 2021

Healthy balance between rights and common good

UNDER normal circumstances Henley should be buzzing at this time of year, the royal regatta having just finished and the summer festivals underway.

As in our personal lives, Henley has had to postpone or cancel significant events.

We await to see what covid restrictions will be relaxed from July 19.

Throughout the pandemic there has been a difficult balance to keep between people’s individual rights and freedoms and the need to work together for the benefit of the wider community.

Although there were some voices that said personal freedoms should not be compromised at any cost, by far the majority accepted sacrifices were necessary for the common good.

The evidence is the many people who volunteered to help those around them.

Comments on local radio seemed to suggest a majority of people felt the Government made the right decision in delaying the relaxation of restrictions due to the spread of the delta variant.

The tension between the rights of the individual and the common good is nothing new and the Catholic church outlined its position in 1891 in a document called, Rerum Novarum — Of New Things.

This was a response to the industrial revolution that had been taking place since the 18th century and the emergence of Marxist economic theories.

Should profit be the only driving force even if it meant the exploitation of workers or should the state have complete control over people’s lives and aspirations?

The Church reiterated the basic economic principles of Christianity and concluded the following:

a) Every person has the right to private property and possessions.

b) This right should be moderated by the duty to provide for the common good. We shouldn’t get rich or better ourselves by exploiting others.

c) In decision-making, state intervention is permitted but has to follow the principle of subsidiarity, namely such intervention is restricted to matters that cannot be settled by other groups (e.g., family, unions, local authorities).

d) With privileges and freedoms comes a responsibility to contribute to the common good. For some this will be caring for their family, for others it might mean getting involved in public life to work against corruption or the promotion of vested interests that work against the common good.

e) Each person has equal dignity and the same rights and we are dependant on each other in striving for the common good.

Although not perfect, our country has tended to follow these principles and in general the majority of people seem to want moderation and co-operation rather than extremism and division.

Hopefully, when the pandemic is over and Henley is buzzing again, we will remember the generosity of people and seek to keep a healthy balance between our individual rights and freedoms and the common good.

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