The Virtue of Individualism

This morning, I responded to Peter Lawler’s critique of C. Bradly Thompson’s post over at Cato Unbound on Neoconservatism. Both of which are worth taking a look at.

Mr. Lawler’s post was as follows:

Extreme libertarianism brings out the thoughtful moderation in our Porcher friend. He defends the Straussians and the Neocons from Brad Thompson’s fantastic charge that they are NATIONALISTIC FASCISTS. That means, of course, that any public concern for virtue or the quality of citizens is FASCIST. It also means that anyone who thinks there’s much of arole for government in any way is both a SOCIALIST and a FASCIST. Brad, of course, reminds me of Glenn Beck, but without even Glenn’s nuance and appreciation for some role for religion in who we are as a people.

I will repeat what I’ve said so often: There ain’t any FASCISTS around today worth worrying about. The liberals in the president’s party aren’t FASCISTS; today’s progressives aren’t FASCISTS. Straussians aren’t FASCISTS. Tea Partiers aren’t FASCISTS. PORCHERS aren’t FASCISTS (actually, nobody saying they are unless Brad comes after Pat). HISTORY–the religion of the FASCIST–is dead in any strong sense.

For us all but in different ways, the PERSON is the bottom line, with certain qualifications. The CATO people have forgotten the qualifications, of course. The greater danger today is LIBERTARIANISM UNBOUND–or the inability to think of the PERSON as part of anything greater than himself, as a creature or citizen or parent or friend etc. So I’m with the Porchers against the excesses of creeping and sometimes creepy libertarianism.

And my response:

I find it disturbing that Mr. Lawler takes such offense to the concept of individualism. Lawler says:

“The greater danger today is LIBERTARIANISM UNBOUND–or the inability to think of the PERSON as part of anything greater than himself, as a creature or citizen or parent or friend etc.”

First of all, I find his implied conclusion greatly unconvincing. Is Lawler really implying that individualism represents a greater threat than idealistic interventionism? Is respect for the rights of the individual a greater threat than the surrendering of one’s mind in blind mysticism? Lawler doesn’t say.

Secondly, his flippant attitude towards individualism is disheartening. Individualism is the only mind-set which recognizes and respects individual rights as primaries. Else the status quo would be a collectivist society, with appeals to cohesiveness and the betterment of “society” (whatever that is).

In the world Lawler implies to seek, man should not be looked upon as an individual with certain unalienable rights, but rather as a cog in a grander machine – a tool for the use of all others. That is the morality of altruism, a morality that subdues man’s mind, man’s spirit, and man’s rights by appealing to a greater whole.

Individualism is the only system of thought which disallows one to control many in the name of society, God, or the state. It is the only way to maintain man’s natural rights.

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