Holding the Line

Arguing with collectivist ideologues is one of the most persistently difficult things conservatives must do, and, no, sorry, it isn’t because collectivism is a sound ideology. As demonstrated by the too often shrieking behavior of its proponents, it can scarcely be described as “coherent” or “systematic“, so there is often a question of whether it even qualifies as an “ideology“, at all. Generally speaking, collectivists seem to believe everything will turn out alright, because they care so very much about something, sans evidence. This is the very definition of magical thinking.

This is born out time after time, as hipster collectivist theories come into vogue with every generation, preying on the same big hearts and feeble minds with each pass. Now, this isn’t to say that only one political faction is susceptible to such obviously irrational beliefs, because it’s sadly human nature, and collectivism encompasses everything from Marx (anarchist communism) to Hitler (nationalist socialism). Humans are generally unlikely to react rationally to data that contradicts their deeply held beliefs, thus are much more likely to be allow “reasonable madness“, not “maddening reason“, to spread throughout society.

Like conspiracy theories, even obvious logical inconsistencies inherent in the reasonable madness of collectivist theories are sustained by the barest threads of the listener’s desperate credulity, often on no more basis than the listener cannot bear the maddening reason that a problem simply exists because there is no direct solution. Like a patient who receives a terminal prognosis, they cling to any hope of its cure, so when such a hope presents itself, no matter how ridiculous, the collectivist emotionally clings to it, wholly absent of reason.

Even the most reasoned conservative argument is forever condemned to battle in the muddy trenches of this kind of human lunacy, where it can best hope to measure victories in inches, not because our beliefs are wrong, but because conservatism is an ideology based on how things are, not how people naturally wish them to be.

“None of us is as dumb as all of us.”

A popular argument often used by popular conservatives pundits and lay conservative public has been demonstrating the problem with socialism (the ownership or control of industry by the state or by the community, as opposed to unfettered private ownership, for the collective benefit of society, as opposed to the private profit motive) by presenting historical examples of governments subscribing to socialist policy and failing to benefit the collective (usually resulting in mass murder and systemic poverty). The problem with the arguments are not with the facts, necessarily, but that the devoted collectivist will refuse to see the relationship between the conclusion and its supporting premises or is incapable of doing so.

For example, when presented with the objectively uncontroversial assertion that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics collapsed, that the People’s Republic of China has an extremely poor human rights record, that the Republic of Cuba economy has been in socio-economic decline since Castro’s revolution, and that the collective well being of the people of Venezuela is in free fall, collectivists will respond with any of three arguments, sometimes even arguing all three at once:

  1. They reject the presented examples as irrelevant, on the basis that the states were not legitimate examples of their ideas.
  2. They reject the presented examples as irrelevant, on the basis that the states were corrupted by internal bad actors who failed to properly implement their ideas.
  3. They reject the presented examples as irrelevant, on the basis that the states were corrupted by external bad actors who opposed their ideas.

In every case, the collectivist will find some reason or fiat that exonerates their ideas, and assigns the guilt to some other factor or party. This happens no matter how much historical evidence is presented, because collectivism isn’t a coherent or systematic belief system, so much as a reasonable madness.

As mentioned before, collectivism encompasses a myriad of political beliefs as different as the people that hold them. There are, however, two common core assumptions that all of collectivist ideologies share. First, the individual is not entitled to political autonomy, especially where it conflicts with collectivist political goals. Second, the collective need supersedes individual right. For the collectivist, there is no right to property, no right to contract, and certainly no right of disassociation. They must necessarily believe that the collective right to interfere in the private affairs of the individual is absolute…

“I guess a man is the only kind of varmint sets his own trap, baits it, and then steps in it.”
-John Steinbeck

There is an argument that is the Gordian knot in which the collectivist’s irrationality becomes hopelessly ensnared, because, in a very real sense, collectivists believe that the ends (whatever rarefied utopian vision to which they happen to subscribe) justifies the means (whatever methods they believe the state should be empowered to use). As much as the collectivist may claim superior moral empathy, there is a point at which their illusion of “being nice” ends, and that ends when they are forced to answer: “How far will you go to force people to comply?

Will they rob people of their freedom? Will they send people away? Will they kill people? To achieve what they seek to achieve, what lines will the collectivist cross to get where they want to go? If they would cross those lines, how different are they really from the Stalin’s, the Mao’s, and the Castro’s of the world? At the very end of every collectivist’s argument they will abandon all pretense of reason and plummet society into madness and violence. This is the real argument against collectivism.

Harming people is wrong. Collectivism demonstrably harms people, and collectivists will always resort to harming people. Ergo, collectivism is absolutely wrong.


Liberty is For The Win!

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