Essay topics: Claim: The surest indicator of a great nation is not the achievements of its rulers, artists, or scientists.
Reason: The surest indicator of a great nation is actually the welfare of all its people.
Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.
The well-being of the general population is the most important way of measuring a society’s greatness. There are many examples of nations with very powerful and rich dictators but extremely poor populations. However, the achievements of scientists, artists, (rather than militaristic dictators) and so on can be a very powerful proxy of the greatness of a society. A society that values and treasures intellectual thought in general, and intellectual curiosity, without any apparent immediate reward, becomes great. The achievements of scientists result in a greater understanding of the natural world. This understanding can then by applied to manipulate nature in ways that benefit the populace. Examples of this—the interconnectedness of profound intellectual and creative work and the well-being of the general population—can be found throughout history, both ancient and modern.
Ancient Greece, Rome, and China for instance, treasured intellectual thought, and these areas were spectacularly successful as civilizations in the ancient world. The ancient Greeks are still famous for important seminal contributions to areas such as philosophy (with the works of men such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle), mathematics, and astronomy. The spectacular work of these intellectuals, as well as other scientists throughout the Western world have allowed for life to greatly improve for the general population. For example, the development of electromagnetic theory, which is essentially the achievements of a relatively small number of scientists (such as Faraday, Ampere, and Maxwell), is the direct cause of many extremely important technological innovations that have completely transformed modern life. For example, computers and smartphones are due to these theories, which have greatly improved the quality of life for billions of people in the Western world. MRIs and other modern forms of screening have saved countless lives. As well, quantum physics (again developed by only a handful of scientists, such as Bohr, Einstein, Feynman, Dirac, and Schroedinger), is starting to see important ramifications. For example, surgeons are now able to make incisions with a laser (an application of quantum theory), rather than with a scalpel, greatly reducing risk of infection. Quantum computing has the potential to be extremely fast compared to ordinary (“classical”) computing, which will no doubt lead to many breakthroughs in medical fields, for instance—the extremely fast mode of computation may enable doctors to find drugs to cure diseases.
The general population’s welfare is, of course, fundamental in determining whether or not a nation has achieved greatness. Many civilizations, for example, the Soviet Union, have had awful famines, and very long lines for essentials such as food. These countries have extremely low quality of living. However, oftentimes, some of their leaders have achieved great military success. In the case of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin, together with its allies the United States and Britain, defeated an extremely powerful war machine in Nazi Germany. However, the people in the USSR were subject to very cruel conditions—they were starving and being sent to death camps in Siberia, for example. Thus, militaristic dictators, for instance, can have tragic ramifications for the general population, but the achievements of individuals such as scientists and artists (who, in general, hold very little power), can be a powerful proxy for the greatness of a society.
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