Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

What gives any group of people the right and/or power to make a decision on behalf of someone else?

Asked by wundayatta (58349 points ) January 5th, 2012

Think of these examples and see if you have a general principle that might cover all of them.

What gives a group of people the right/power to force other people’s children to go to school?

What gives a group of people the right/power to force women to sit at the back of the bus?

What gives a group of people the right/power to forcibly prevent someone from reproducing?

If nothing gives any group these rights, then why do people so often try to force others to do things like this?

What is the difference between having the right and power to do something and having just the power to do it (but no right)?

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16 Answers

Coloma's avatar

Pack mentality. If nobody questions arbitrary “authority”, well..remember the psych experiments in the 50’s where the sheeple shocked each other on command and only one or two rare birds refused to participate?

Happens all the time on a “personal” level too. I always joke about our private road ” committee” in my area, where there is ALWAYS one self appointed tribal chief that pounds the others into submission. This asshat has now decided he wants to change the NAME of our little road because he has lived here the longest and has never liked the name.

I told him to go for it, and he can do all the fucking paperwork to change addresses for the other 3 of us that live on this road.

john65pennington's avatar

The best example I can offer is a retarded son or daughter in a family. Who should have the right to place their son or daughter in a hospital for the mentally ill? The parents, of course.

The same applies with people that have the authority to oversee people, in order to preserve safety for the general public.

Another example are the powers of the police. If a person is attempting to commit suicide, it’s the responsibility of the police to stop this action and arrest this person for a psychological evaluation. This is a situation of having the right and the power to act on behalf of another person(s) by the police. This authority, by the police, is set out by statute in every state. This is a good example, also, of “to serve and protect”.

Mariah's avatar

The right to force other people’s children to go to school: Well, what gives the parents the right to impose not going to school on their children? Parents shouldn’t have 100% autonomy over their children’s lives because some parents are bad parents. Having an education is really important for children, so it’s perfectly reasonable to make it mandatory, imo. To me, calling this a right is almost like saying parents have the right to hit their children. They can’t just do anything they want to their children.

The right to force women to the back of the bus: This isn’t a right, or it shouldn’t be.

The right to prevent anyone from reproducing: Again, not a right, but as reproducing is itself sort of forcing your will on someone else (too bad children can’t consent to being born), it makes sense to encourage potential parents to at least be reasonable about the circumstances under which they reproduce.

Power without the right is, I would say, the ability to do something even if it’s not legally or morally permissible, by sheer force or persuasion.

smilingheart1's avatar

Dictatorship.

rebbel's avatar

Apparently democracy.

Jaxk's avatar

It’s a move towards the Borg Collective. Since people can’t be trusted to do the right thing, we must decide for them. And of course those in power will decide what the right thing might be. Choose your leaders wisely because we are slowly relinquishing our right for independent thought and action.

saint's avatar

It only comes up when people are forced to pay for the consequences of other people’s deliberate choices that wind up messing up their own lives, such as having children that they can not afford to raise, or dropping out of school and living on public assistance, If the culture was more laizzez faire, and people faced their own reckoning, then nobody would give a shit. Not sure what to say about the back of the bus thing though.

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

I agree with Coloma. GA!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Generally speaking, what gives people power is an ability to hurt other physically if they don’t listen or follow rules…the government is only powerful as long as they have police and the military…in communities, men are powerful because they can hurt the women or each other…that’s all it comes down to…everything else is sociological gravy bullshit.

YARNLADY's avatar

People give up their right to make their own decisions when they choose to live a community of law. In the U. S. the laws are made by the people, for the people, but ONLY those people who are willing to participate in the process have any real say in it.

I see some complaints above about issues such as child raising that have been handled directly by intervention of activist parents, and other comments about things that have each been handled correctly and incorrectly by different circumstances.

Linda_Owl's avatar

Only laws can compel people as to how they must live. Unfortunately, a lot of religious people THINK they have the right to dictate how people should live & right now some of these religious people are in positions of power so they can affect the laws that are made. This does not make it the right thing for them to do, but they do have the power to do it.

ETpro's avatar

The Universe and laws of physics confer that right. You can mitigate the harshness of this fact to a marked degree by instituting the rule of law, and having a Constitutional democracy that limits what can be governed by laws, and gives the people (granted, majority rule) the ability to influence new law with their votes. But if you strip away all rule of law in an act of Libertarian delight, you will find that a large group of people armed to the teeth still have the “right” (read power) to make you do whatever they want, or main and even kill you if you refuse.

DaphneT's avatar

Consider this: you and one other person are left to fend for yourselves. You hate each other, you are both intelligent and both recognize that you might need the other to survive so that you survive. What do you do? Now add in a third person. What do you do? What number of people do you think it would take before the group establishes some practice as ‘law’?

Personally, I think it would only take three people to establish a law. I also think that adding another person means the group might modify the law.

At what point in group dynamics does the group get too large for everyone to reach a consensus about the laws? At this point governance by group becomes governance by representation.

Representation is only as good as the selected person’s ability to effect the will of the group represented. A person’s agreement to comply with the actions of the representative is implicit in that person’s participation in the group.

When force replaces compliance as the norm, the laws have reached the point of oppression. When laws reach the point of oppression, revolutions occur.

Blackberry's avatar

Money, and the entrenched culture of the majority regardless how stupid they are.

SavoirFaire's avatar

We do.

We give people power by not fighting back against it. We give people rights by ceding our own. This can go well, or it can go poorly. In a democracy, for instance, the people hire a government and tell it how to tell the people what to do. When it fails to do its job, the people should fire the government and hire a new one. Too often, however, we just let them keep going. Implicit consent is still consent when not explicitly retracted.

bkcunningham's avatar

What gives a group of people the right/power to force other people’s children to go to school?

What gives a group of people the right/power to force women to sit at the back of the bus?

What gives a group of people the right/power to forcibly prevent someone from reproducing?

If nothing gives any group these rights, then why do people so often try to force others to do things like this?

What is the difference between having the right and power to do something and having just the power to do it (but no right)?

Everything has a background and history on how it came about. I also think you are confusing the word right with the word ability.

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