How do we decide what to do? And has it changed in society over recent decades?
Capitalism works on the basis that if everyone does what is best for them that will lead to the best outcome for society (my paraphrase of Adam Smith). However, there are a few flaws in this! The first is that it assumes that people know what is best for them; that they can do what is best for themselves; and that this will lead to the best outcome for society.
I am not convinced that British society worked on this basis prior to Margaret Thatcher, but it feels to me that it is much more how things are working today.
Lets look at my challenges in the area of higher education. One of the contributing factors to university rankings is the view of the students. It is in individual students interests for them to get a good class of degree, if they rank their university on how good a degree it gives them it becomes in the university’s interest to give them a good grade. Does this work for the good of society?
Another example, many people think that there is no need for a welfare state; that people should look after themselves. They wish to pay taxes on that basis. But when there was a suggestion of a “dementia tax” (which wasn’t a tax, but people spending their own money on care) there was an uproar.
Where lies the balance between the good of the individual and the good of society?
It has been shown that money doesn’t make you happy beyond a certain point (perhaps), and that more equal societies are healthier and happier.