Tag Archives: individualism

Collectivism and the OWS Movement

The architecture of liberty is comprised of the same simple concepts illustrated by the Declaration of Independence — that man has a right to his own life, that individuals are sovereign entities entitled to the pursuit of their own happiness so long as such pursuits heed to the sovereignty of others. This individualism defines the standard for which society is to be evaluated. This is why the saying goes “justice is blind” in that the rule of law applies equally to all men, regardless of race, creed, religion, or stature; why we are free to buy or not buy goods based on our own needs and desires (i.e. free market capitalism); why we value such ideas as privacy, free speech, and uncoerced association. All of these stem from one singular concept: the sovereignty of the individual.

But the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement seems to have done away with individualism in their rhetoric. Instead, they plead for the alleviation of society’s needs, the woes of the 99%, the voice of the community. To the occupiers, it seems, America is a homogeneous organic body working in harmony towards a goal of loosely defined progress. Society is thus much like a symphony with individuals working together towards a single composition. When this holistic thinking becomes the standard of evaluation, it doesn’t seem so outrageous to sacrifice some parts to save the whole. After all, wouldn’t any sane person opt to surgically remove a cancerous tumor in order to keep living if given the choice?

We see this today with the words echoed in metropolis centers across America by the OWS — that the top earners in this country have unfairly acquired too much wealth; that corporations are sitting on trillions of dollars worth of capital they should be spending; that more social services like free Health Care are readily practical if only taxes were high enough, and so they should be — all in the name of society’s progress.

In the wake of Progressivism lies the shattered rights of individuals. The rich man suffers from the premise that he is not entitled to his wealth, society is. Businesses suffer from the premise that the jobs they provide aren’t theirs to adjust in times of economic turmoil, they are entitlements to society. Every taxpayer suffers from the premise that if they sacrifice their own happiness and an ever-growing portion of their paycheck to the state, its for the (morally) greater happiness of society.

Progressivism views individuals as a collective and treats it as such. As a result, liberty’s true definition gets muddled, sacrifice becomes a moral virtue, and individual rights become easy to brush aside. America was founded on the ideal of individualism because man’s right to his own life was an axiom based in nature, not a dated and malleable concept. Until the OWS movement embraces that axiom, their message will always be hard to swallow by individuals who value liberty.

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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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