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Individual or collectivist?

This is a page from the original version of Pagan Vigil. There are some formatting differences.

Originally published at

Individual or collectivist?

Is the society or culture more important than the individual?

Sunni Maravillosa wrote this, and I have been thinking about it.

I don't remember what originally triggered it, but for some time I've been questioning whether my activism and continuing advocacy for freedom is of a class with the statist do-gooders. After all, am I not attempting to push my view of what's good for others on themselves, whether they want it or not? I am, in a manner of speaking. Am I not asserting that my view is the correct one, same as they? I am -- and I will continue to do so.

Regular readers might recognize some of the arguments there, juliaki has been using them in the comments section of this blog for some time. Not to mention some IM conversations. I've answered that if their choice requires me to give up mine that isn't harming them, then it is really not freedom we are talking about.

Sunni continues.

There's a fundamental difference between what I, and other pro-freedom individuals I know, are advocating and what typical statist do-gooders want. The statists usually have a specific vision of some sort in mind -- a welfare-woven safety net, a crime-free society, a "civil" society -- and they actively steal from the willing and unwilling alike to try to create and enforce it. And, seemingly oblivious to the mounting failures of laws and regulations to bring their vision into reality, they continue to believe that force can and will make people and society "better".

I don't have any such corresponding vision. That is to say, I don't have a specific image of How Things Should Be. No one can force a person to be "better", if he doesn't want to be. As long as Homo sapiens is around, there will be lazy, reckless, thoughtless, stupid, bad, and genuinely evil individuals in the mix. That won't change -- but what can change is who bears the brunt of those individuals' choices. Under a coercive state, we all do, more or less directly. In advocating liberty, I'm advocating a lack of central planning, of inane laws and even stupider regulations that stifle individuals' opportunities to peaceably prosper. If a person is lazy, she won't eat, except to the degree she's willing to work, or by the grace of those who choose to provide for her. If a person is stupid, he'll bear the personal or financial costs of his bad decisions, unless someone chooses to help him. If a person is evil, the amount of damage he can do will be limited, as a potential target in a free society would be more likely to take countermeasures that would remove such a person from it.

I did post this reply there.

I think there is a huge difference between seeing that people are aware of their choices and making those choices for them.

Informed choices are the only way I know of to preserve individual freedom.

Unfortunately, most statists have made choices that happen to exclude any other choices...

But the more I think about it, the more I think the answer really goes deeper than that. It's the mindset of collectivism that we're really dealing with here.


Does the individual owe the society or does the society owe the individual?

Or if you want to put it even more basically.

Who owns the individual?

As you should know by now, I really don't like either/or situations. My first reaction is to start looking for a third solution, and usually that works. But sometimes it really does come down to A or NOT A.

If you believe that the society owns the individual, then you will put the society's perceived needs over the rights of the individual.

One group may want to stamp out immorality. Another group may want to stamp out unhealthy foods. Both groups are willing to resort to the coercive power of government to accomplish their goals.

All for your own good of course.

Some want to rule. Some want to be ruled. Both groups want a strong government with wide ranging authority.

All for the public good of course.

Some want their version of history taught in schools. Others want a revised history. Neither group wants you asking too many inappropriate questions.

It's the American way.

All these groups I have mentioned are threatened by one thing.

An individual who does not conform to their rules.

Politicians don't want problems that they can't stage manage. They depend on you to do as you are told, meekly and without question, unarmed before the might of the State. If there are problems, you are expected to sacrifice. And there are always problems.

Individuals are too messy, too unpredictable. Too unpatriotic.

So for an individual, the question becomes something different.

How much sovereignty over yourself do you give up to preserve peace?

Of course we know how at least one of the Founders felt about it.

Those willing to give up a little liberty for a little security deserve neither security nor liberty.
— Benjamin Franklin

Maybe a better question is where do you draw the line? Up to this border you can do what you want. but cross it and I will fight you to the end?

I know I have answered that question.

Posted: Sun - October 2, 2005 at 09:56 PM

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