Saturday, November 24, 2012

Collectivism Vs. Individualism

The American People have spoken. President Obama will be president for four more years. The Senate is now more firmly controlled by the Democratic Party. The House remains in Republican hands but the election has all but crushed the Grand Old Elephant’s spirit. There is no doubt about it, America is tacking hard to the “left.”

It’s a tough pill for me to swallow. How could American’s vote for a man who has delivered four years of record spending, record debt, record unemployment, and record government intrusion into the private sector? Mr. Obama gave us bailouts, wasteful and ineffective stimulus spending, destructive currency manipulation, more stimulus spending via never-ending quantitative easing, and record levels of new debilitating regulations that are strangling the private sector and driving businesses overseas. With the “Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obama Care) now sure to take effect another 1/6thof the Nation’s private sector is about to be assimilated by the federal government. Is the country lost? Have we chosen to become Greece? Are we truly on the road to serfdom?

I’m not ready to throw the towel in just yet. I suspect that many voters don’t understand the underlying ideology that fuels the Obama Administration. I think the majority of American’s know that the country is on the wrong path. They know that bigger government is not the solution to our problems but they don’t know how to make the argument for something better. They get tangled up in policy details or the particulars of this or that issue. American’s seem to be lost in the fog of cable TV.

With that in mind I shall now do my best to articulate the Obama ideology in contrast to its opposite. Here we go.
President Obama is, and I am basing this on four years of observation, a collectivist.
Collectivism, social organization in which the individual is seen as being subordinate to a social collectivity such as a state, a nation, a race, or a social class. - Encyclopedia Britannica
The opposite of collectivism is individualism.

Individualism, political and social philosophy that emphasizes the moral worth of the individual. - Encyclopedia Britannica
These two ideologies are polar opposites. The collectivist believes the needs of the group always outweigh the needs of the individual. Collectivist believe the ends justify the means. Collectivists believe in equality of outcome (e.g. equal pay regardless of contribution). Collectivists believe in “positive rights” that impose an obligation on others to act (e.g. everyone has a right to a house. I don’t have a house therefore someone else must be forced to buy me a house). People, from the collectivist's point of view, are not to be trusted.

The individualist believes in the sovereignty of the individual. Individualists believe in equality of opportunity. Individualists believe in “negative rights,” that force no obligations onto others (e.g. life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and property rights). The end does not justify the means. Most people, from the individualist's point of view, want to do the right thing and are trust worthy.

These two ideologies are based on foundational principles that can be used to analyze virtually every political discussion or policy issue. Let’s consider something that happened this week, the Black Friday Wal-Mart walkout. Some employees of non-union Wal-Mart, with the help of union leaders and others walked off the job in several Wal-Mart stores in several states to protest “unfair wages.” Those who walked off the job were identifying with the collectivist notion that life should be made to be fair.
The collectivist worker thinks, “Someone else makes more money than I do. Therefore Wal-Mart is responsible for my unhappiness. In the name of fairness we the collective will force Wal-Mart to give me what I have not earned. We will take the money from Wal-Mart by force. It is not fair that someone else makes more money that I do. I therefore demand that someone with a gun (i.e. government starting with the National Labor Board) come down here and make Wal-Mart pay me what I want. There must be social justice! I demand equality of outcome!"

How would an individualist who worked for Wal-Mart react? He/she might say, “If Wal-Mart doesn’t pay enough to make me happy then I will go and work somewhere else or start a business of my own. Nothing is stopping me. I am responsible for my own happiness. I have the same opportunity as the next guy/gal. The world does not owe me a living. Asking the government to take money from Wal-Mart that I didn't earn, and give it to me in an effort to achieve equality of outcome would be nothing more than legalized theft. And theft, in any form, is immoral.”
Mark VanSchuyver


  1. Great post Dad! And great to see you back!

  2. Did you know that I worked for Wal-Mart when I was in undergraduate school? It was great. I earned money, increased my work ethic, learned some valuable lessons, and I built my resume. Wal-Mart was a spring board for my career. I am forever grateful to Sam Walton, may he rest in peace.