Among the dying embers of absolute monarchism arose two new political ideologies, both, in their own ways, a response to the autocracy that had been the dominant form of government since the dawn of human civilization. Philosophically, at least, both rejected the idea of privileged political classes that is the hallmark of absolute monarchism and, more or less, sought to level the moral and political playing field between the “common man” and his government.
It is how each ideology addresses the problem of moral and political station of the “common man” that defines them. The first ideology, Individualism, was born from the western classical Liberal tradition of Adam Smith and John Locke. Individualism took the sovereign rights long denied the “common man” by tyrannical monarchs and granted them to the everyone. Rights to their lives, to freedom of action and expression, as well as to property and acquisition of wealth, once reserved entirely to a tiny political class, were granted to everyone.
The second ideology, Collectivism, was born of societies still largely under the thumb of diffuse but deeply entrenched political and religious controls. Beginning with thinkers like Charles Fourier and culminating with Karl Marx, Collectivism saw the sovereign rights possessed by the tyrannical monarchs as the main moral defect of monarchism. In their utopian theory, sovereignty itself is eliminated. The individual’s value is inherent not in himself but derives from the community of which he is a part. Thus ownership is greed. Freedom is hubris. Life is expendable.
These differences between Individualism and Collectivism have been at the heart of the Culture War (as well as numerous actual wars) around the world since the late 19th Century. In America, a country founded unambiguously upon Individualism, it has been tension between these two ideologies that has driven political debate since Theodore Roosevelt through Franklin Roosevelt and beyond. The Culture War in America is ultimately still the same old philosophical battle.
That war, however, is largely over, and Collectivism, not Individualism, has won.
“…Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
That Collectivism has won the Culture War will shock many who believe themselves “right of center“, but the fact of the matter should be obvious. Many of these “right of center” people support government regulating every employment contract, no matter how minor, throughout the United States. They believe government has a role in protecting domestic industries from a global market place. Worst of all, they defend the morally reprehensible systematic confiscation of private property from every worker.
In a country once founded upon Locke’s “Life. Liberty. Property.“, we’ve become a nation shockingly comfortable with policy that is rooted in “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” These people can’t comprehend of a nation without the government injecting itself into the commercial and private contracts of the people, because, wait for it, “what about the needs of society“? On a fundamental but unconscious level, their only question is how much of our “unalienable rights” is really alienable.
Do we, as a nation, believe that two parties have an unalienable right to decide for themselves what a fair and proper contract is without the involvement of “collective society“? Clearly not. Do we, as a nation, believe that it is morally wrong to impose upon our countrymen the cost of a government that outstrips its revenues every year enough to stop imposing upon our countrymen? Unequivocally not. Do we, as a nation, “prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery” enough to forgo intrusive government regulation and taxation to support agencies that are bankrupting us? Demonstrably, this is no longer the case.
“There are two distinct classes of men – those who pay taxes and those who receive and live upon taxes.”
So Collectivism has won, and positions espoused by voices such as this one you are reading now are accused of being “fringe” and “extremist“, even as we quote directly from the writings of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, Thomas Paine, John Locke, Benjamin Franklin, and all of the other Founding Fathers. Is it that vocal voices of Individualism really are “fringe” or is it that Collectivism has crept, inch by inch, into the national psyche and finally burrowed deep enough to become the accepted norm in America?
Call me an anarchist, because I believe taxation is theft? Call me an extremist, because I believe the government is always a potential enemy of the people? Call me a radical, because I believe that I am endowed by my Creator with unalienable rights and demand that my “countrymen” stop alienating them? Call me unrealistic because I retain the Spirit of Resistance necessary to fight for the Individualism of America’s founding? So be it. I’m in good company.
“Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil;
in its worst state, an intolerable one.”
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