Monday, April 30, 2007

The Happy Chains of Individualism

After the 2006 elections, I posted a list of what I want from my government and its leaders, summarizing with:

I want leaders who encourage individualism in self reliance, self control, self defense, and self expression.

America is a nation founded on the principles of limited government. It was a new and radical plan, successful thus far only because it has relied on one fundamental truth: a free people who know that they are responsible for their own well-being and who have an ownership stake in their country will work harder and fight harder than a people who are mere subjects to the will of the State or a King. They will be free to exercise their creativity, and creativity harnessed to unity is unstoppable.

An implicit foundation for the above is individualism, and its four bases as stated above - self reliance, self control, self defense, and self expression - must be the province of each citizen if the nation is to endure. Yet only the last, self expression, seems to have popular currency. Nationhood itself is under attack, as those loyal to transnational groups see internationalism as the way out of strife among nations.

There are some today who, like Marx a century and a half ago, see the world in terms of a struggle among groups. Individuals, to the collectivists, are only valued as parts of the groups to which they belong. Their reliance is on the group, their control is an exercise in group leadership, their defense a shared struggle against the other groups, and their self expression is valued only to the extent that it promotes group values. Collectivists give lip service to the value of each individual, soon belied by the systematic eradication of any action or thought which strays from those approved by the group.

The self reliant culture of the young expanding America has become a culture of adolescent porcine uncertainty over whether to suckle from the teat or to gorge at the trough of government.

In some not-too-distant future, if we allow the flame of individualism to be extinguished by the pall of collectivism, we will know why: people became less willing to rely on themselves alone to achieve their dreams.

For it is insufficient to demand the right to free expression while at once demanding that someone else supply for us our needs and protect us from all misfortune. The Nanny is the Tyrant's wicked stepmother: we cede to the government the power to protect us from bad luck, and then from poor decisions, and then from all risk, until finally we must ask government for permission to do things which it ought not dare take control.

Virtue as an ideal, and the many virtues that were formerly upheld as prerequisites for respectability, has been replaced by the ideal of Fame. We see the famous and infamous as icons of success, the example we would be wise to follow. Glamor, not wisdom, is seen as the benchmark of a life well lived.

Ignoring virtue leads to a lack of self control. Unable then to control ourselves, we either find it frightening to undertake our own defense or we wickedly enjoy the condition that others cannot defend themselves. In either case, the government steps in to separate the wolves from the sheep, and finds itself with ever more wolves, and ever more sheep.

At the bottom of every social ill is a failure of individuals to rely on their own ability, to control themselves, to defend themselves and those for whom they care, and to insist that their government step aside. Undo the individualist foundation and the nation will fall, because a collectivist people, loyal to their groups, will have neither a stake in the nation nor the will to defend it.

If an ideology comes along that violates any of the four principles, it shows itself to be incompatible with all of them, and Americans should stand against it.

But if individuals are free to care for themselves, to succeed or fail, to defend themselves and to speak the words they choose, they will take on the bonds of loyalty, which are the strongest bonds of all.

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