Individuals Vs. System

Public policies are designed to draw a betterment of people’s lives in society, emphasing the role of States in this postneoliberal era. Today I got to think about who has a responsibility on improving lives? Should it be the person who exercise his or her own life? Or should it be the State who regulates the social norms for people to perform their adaptive behaviours?

There surely is hope counting the story of the policy for the elimination of use for plastic bags in mayor supermarkets, implemented in Buenos Aires at the first day of 2017. People have been informed that plastic bags take more than a century to be discomposed and are the one of the environmental contamination causes for marine​ ecosystem. But still people had used plastic bags because of their convenience. A policy finally was implemented and it seems like that people are adapting the change; a policy has driven the behavioural change from the mass.

Maybe it’s too early to conclude with this one example but I happened to note that even though people are informed, it’s hard to extract their behavioural changes voluntarily. A strong and decisive implementation is needed. Of course, we should promote policies based on evidence not on opinion, and when we have evidence, it becomes the responsibility of the State to strongly push the behavioural changes from people.

It sounds a bit against democracy, jeopardising the freedom of normal people. For example, if we have a concrete evidence that petroleum industry and meat industry are the main cause of global warming, should the state strongly encourage people to be vegetarians and to invest in renewable energy? As we can capture in the cartoon box above, those behavioural changes come from individual responsibility rather than from social one. Being vegetarian is a personal decision not a social one. Turning off the light when not in use as well is a personal decision not a social one.

But it is okay to blame these causes to be in an individual level?

I was looking up the evaluation report for a policy to support recently born children in Chile, to support those who don’t have access to be cared properly. When I looked up the problema analysis that has made in that report stated that the causes are the families who don’t have socioeconomic access to provide proper equipment for the recently born. It was because the families who don’t have proper information of what and how to provide their recently born children. The same cause we can describe that the State doesn’t guarantee the educational sessions for the recently turned-parents. The State doesn’t guarantee the minimum wellbeing for those who are set back socially and economically, failing to narrow the inequality gap. It’s to present micro solutions for a macro problem. It’s a mere perspective change toward a same perceived problem.

When this individual responsibility gathers to become a collective level, then a State grabs this reflection to its political discourse to earn votes and to consider the policy implementation, as it happened in Nordic countries where people’s interest of renewable energy turned into concrete national moto for economic and social development. In this sense, it’s the families’ fault in that they haven’t reached to gather their voices to collective level so that the State could reflect their political demands. Individuals should be educated. That’s the very definition of education ever made: to start questioning the society itself where the very society gives the education to start questioning. It this sense, education is a self-destructive tools for society and from that destruction comes a better allocation of public goods, maybe. Perhaps for the very same reason, since it is a self-destructive then, many heads and chiefs don’t want to offer education to start questioning. Who sees?

So it is true what she said in the cartoon, the important thing is that you feel good about yourself, doing what you think is correct, when it is based on evidence not just on opinion. An individual cannot be blamed to take a whole responsibility, but he or she should be the starter to demonstrate public needs, collecting more evidences and voices. So I would say, the responsibility of social problem (in macro level) carry States, but remaining in any part of such problem should be in the shoulders of each individuals, since they can decide to remain in any part of the solution, not of the problem. Macro solution goes to States and micro solution goes to individuals, just as to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s (Mark, 12:17).

Such so, it is considered with importance that every individual does what he or she feels good doing, for betterment of their own self, then States guarantee their betterment not to be limited by any existing social norms.

I still don’t quite assure whose responsibility should lay on the theme about public goods. Would studying public policies teach me how to collaborate both individual and systematic aspect of changes?


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