It is an interesting question. Which should have precedence? Militaries function under the assumption that an individual’s life is insignificant compared to the welfare of the state. We’ve all heard the phrase, “The end justifies the means.” Do we believe it?
The feudal system arose in medieval Europe out of necessity. The farmers were vulnerable to raiding. The feudal lord who could provide protection was paid tribute in crops. As the years rolled on, these smaller communities began to become aware that they were a part of a larger cultural identity. As nations formed there was little recognition of the individual if he wasn’t aristocratic.
America was founded on democratic principles. But the only way the whole country would accept the Constitution as we know it was with a Bill of Rights that would protect individual rights. It set something of an international standard.
But I think we’ve all seen individualism gone too far. None of us have to be taught how to look out for number one. It’s instinctual. And I might add that it’s completely sickening to see someone so utterly consumed with their own priorities that they trample over everyone around them.
Now I am all for being community minded. I think it is important to be aware of other people’s needs. I don’t believe that people are a resource to be exploited by their government. On the other hand, people should be generous with their gifts and talents and not hoard them or use them for personal gain. Honestly I don’t know where the line is here. I think a large part of it has to do with free will.
Utilitarianism has an appealing aspect to it. Calculating how to do the most good like circumstances and people are parts of an equation seems to simplify things. But I don’t like applying math equations to people. We may dream big about the great benefit our actions will have, but we have to live with our actions.