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June 20, 2011

16

Individualism is the Opposite of a "Cult"

by RogueOperator

I suspect the author of the blog article “The Cult of the Individual” may not authorize my comment on his article, so I will repost it here just in case.

“Asking an American about individualism is like asking a fish about water.  It’s the environment that we live in, and it’s so pervasive that it’s hard to get perspective on it.  There are hundreds of thousands of people in our society like the entrepreneur above. Their entire life was a gift from others who donated to the cause, but they sincerely think of themselves as strong individuals who made their way to success because of their own determination.  They are literally blind to the fact that their life is only possible because of functional community systems–family, school, government, business networks, protective agencies, and so on.”

You are a very skilled writer, but I believe you consider individualism to be the opposite of community spirit, or cooperation, or brotherly feeling.  This is not the case.  Individualism is not exclusive of society or community action to solve common problems.

The theory that individuals can survive and indeed, thrive, based on mutual cooperation, without the need for government force, is not a baseless vision derived from the “cult of the individual.”

For example, government expenditures at every level show the paltry levels of support individuals were afforded as the country was being built.  (http://tinyurl.com/3hpm3pv.)

The link above gives the government spending per capita since 1792. The point is simple: How much do Americans rely on government and thus, tax redistribution?  So, in 1800, the U.S. government spent about $1 per capita in defense, and 30 cents in “other spending.”

How did they ever survive without the government taking care of them?

Today, if we include deficit spending, the U.S. government at all levels combined spends about $18,781.90 per person! This is an absolutely unsustainable level of spending, and is commensurate with people’s refusal to take responsibility for themselves.  Of course, all manner of rationalizations and intellectualization of avoiding responsibility can be concocted by sophists.

To sum up on this point, individualism does not exclude human beings coming together to pursue a common interest.  It is a legal principle that bestows man with rights, and prevents his abuse by his fellow man, and particularly, the State.

I find you are also conflating Jesus’ will, as Thomas Aquinas pointed out, giving man free will to live his own life, and the will of the state, typically filled with self-serving politicians and bureaucrats.

Nor did the Church need the State to promote religious ends in America. As Locke predicted, Christianity flourished in freedom.  And as Alexis de Tocqueville noted in Democracy in America, the Church fulfilled many social and charitable roles in America, now taken over by the State.  The redirection of man’s individual will and energies through the State, rather than leaving him free to spontaneously cooperate and help others, leads to atomization and apathy, not greater harmony and brotherhood. Attempting to imbue Christian ideals in the state is replacing the emphasis in Christian society on taking, rather than giving.  This furthermore leads to resentment, as man’s will becomes usurped.

Americans don’t need government to take care of them. Americans, in general, need to relearn how to take care of themselves. And that entails getting government out of the way so they can act in their full capacity as caring human beings.

And on the contrary, individualism is the opposite of a “cult.”

Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.” – Frederic Bastiat, The Law

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. arva
    Jun 20 2011

    At the risk of sounding like a loopy, paranoid, conspiracy theorist, the pattern I see in Socialism is one that always champions the things it wants to destroy. Socialism operates under the guise of bettering the life of the individual but in reality, medicine, education, reproductive rights, civil rights, gender equality, you name it, everything Socialism wants to control ultimately turns to crap. This outcome is not because people are bad, it is because forced participation breeds apathy and strips individuals of their self-respect. Take self-respect from humans and self-destruction is the predictable next phase. This is not an unintended consequence, in my view, quite the opposite. Socialism it the ultimate anit-human concept.

    Reply
    • Jun 20 2011

      Arva, that’s a very thoughtful comment. I’ll have to mull it over a bit to explore the possible connections. Best, RO

      Reply
  2. arva
    Jun 20 2011

    At the risk of sounding like a loopy, paranoid, conspiracy theorist, the pattern I see in Socialism is one that always champions the things it wants to destroy. Socialism operates under the guise of bettering the life of the individual but in reality, medicine, education, reproductive rights, civil rights, gender equality, you name it, everything Socialism wants to control ultimately turns to crap. This outcome is not because people are bad, it is because forced participation breeds apathy and strips individuals of their self-respect. Take self-respect from humans and self-destruction is the predictable next phase. This is not an unintended consequence, in my view, quite the opposite. Socialism it the ultimate anti-human concept.

    Reply
  3. Jun 20 2011

    You didn’t “repost” it here. You posted it here first before posting it as a comment to my blog, where it was automatically approved and still stands. As far as I can tell, the only thing you actually disagree with is my implicit definition of “indiividualism.” If you want to start a debate with someone, I would appreciate it if you’d find someone who is actually on the same topic you are. Surely there are thousands of blogs out there that would be happy to debate capitalism vs. socialism with you.

    Reply
  4. Jun 20 2011

    By the way, I address points made in your argument, and even quote your article. I barely mention capitalism in this post anyway. Secondly, I wrote it on your blog, and then confirmed it here, before confirming it on your post. But liberals will always find some kind of stupid mealy mouthed sophistry by which to “refute” counter-arguments that have nothing to do with the substance of the counter-arguments. Ultimately, they feel that no one is as smart as them, or is able to see through the “system” that keeps everyone else mentally inferior, and thus don’t feel the need to engage in actual argument. They feel the way they feel and that’s how they feel. Too bad objective reality doesn’t give a damn what you feel about it.

    Reply
    • Jun 20 2011

      You are delightful.

      Reply
      • Jun 20 2011

        Apparently, when you make a substantive point, that will be the first time. The world does not operate on the “it works the way I want it to work” principle. Condemning people for being “selfish” is just a trite, lazy dodge that just happens to empower organizations and governments at the expense of individuals. Just a coincidence, I take it. And when those organizations and governments begin abusing the trust of their citizens, like our government does on a daily basis, that’s just a coincidence too, no?

  5. Jun 21 2011

    I will say this as clearly as I can: you want to have a debate with someone that isn’t related to what I’m talking about on my blog. I would be happy to engage with someone who will discuss in good faith what I had to say, but that’s not what you are doing. If anything, the more you write, the further away you get from my post. I know that you are trying to bait someone into fighting with you, and I’m sure someone else would love to do it, but I can’t even tell that we really have overlapping interests. If you can’t find someone to do it, you might get some pleasure out of continuing to construct straw men and knock them down, as you’ll been doing in these comments. At any rate, you’ve distracted me enough. Honestly, there are thousands of liberal political blogs out there. Why are you trolling a Christian blog instead of one of those? Best of luck in your future blog baiting, if that’s what brings you joy.

    Reply
  6. Jun 21 2011

    Kirk, quit dodging the issues. I quoted your post, rebutted it, and addressed another point in your post. I am interested in the truth, above all else. That may be enigmatic to you, but I don’t think this is a game. What the left is advocating is madness, and I will do my best to take apart their arguments and expose their fallacies.

    The left’s typical reactions to being intellectually challenged:
    1. Question the authority of the person challenging him. (A variation of the fallacy of appeal to authority.)
    2. Ridicule the person. (A type of ad hominem attack.)
    3. Attack the sincerity or emotional capacity of the questioner. (This is what you are doing. This can also take the form of argumentum ad misericordium.)
    4. Evade and redirect. (Which you are also doing.)
    5. Get violent, or get thugs to silence the questioner. (The left uses unions, leftist mobs, and the state to intimidate people.)

    If you are right, just show how you are right. You can pretend that you don’t understand my post or claim that it is irrelevant all you want. But my post is not directed primarily at you, because a leftist couldn’t be intellectually honest if his life depended on it. No, your post is for a broader audience, who can see how intellectually weak and pathetic the modern left is. That is why I posted my comment on my blog – so you can’t (easily) censor it.

    P.S. I regularly back up my blog.

    Reply
  7. M082844
    Jun 24 2011

    This is fun and sad. Fun to see a principle work in action. Sad to see that the principle applies to some men. (The princilple I’m referring to is RO’s 5 most common points of evasion for liberals).

    Reply
  8. Mar 3 2012

    How did they ever survive without the government taking care of them?

    To a large extent, they didn’t. Look up relevant statistics for infant mortality (yay healthcare!), death in childbirth (ditto), death by food contamination (yay Foods Standards Authority, or your local equivalent!), death by disease epidemics (yay vaccines!), and suchlike.

    Look up also statistics for social mobility and entrenched wealth. To what extent was it possible for a “self-made man” to rise up to a position of privilege and prominence? (Don’t even bother looking up the statistics for poorer women: it’s too depressing.)

    TRiG.

    Reply
    • Mar 3 2012

      That was due to improvements in modern medicine, which the government had NOTHING to do with (except for protecting property rights and the sanctity of contracts). The improvements in medicine in the West are nearly all due to the profit motive and the ability of geniuses to work in freedom. Run along, now.

      Reply
      • Mar 7 2012

        Nah. Most improvements in healthcare (especially those which fought epidemics) are by government mandate. See all the various building codes and urban planning laws which helped the fight against cholera.* That wasn’t the profit motive. Similarly, vaccination and food safety are driven by government regulation.

        Drugs and medical devices do indeed come from private industry, though again this is an area of strong government oversight, and necessarily so. Ordinary individuals do not have the competency to study medical trial data. Drugs and medical devices cannot be put on the market without approval from the relevant regulatory body in your jurisdiction. And this is a good thing.

        Healthcare includes education, diet, nutrition, urban planning, safe buildings, and many other things which the market is ill-equipped to provide.

        TRiG.

        * What? You thought healthcare was just about medecine? It’s a lot more than that.

      • Mar 7 2012

        You’re delusional. But hey, if you want to pimp for the state that’s your right. For now.

  9. Kris
    Sep 6 2012

    Hey Rogue, you need a course in basic economics – troll. There are so many crazy assumptions in this post – i hope you are yourself aware of this. Like, assuming the state disappeared, everyone would start acting out of some substantive homogenous morality? You think individualism would survive in, close to, anarchistic society? Nothing, looking back, indicates that it would happen. Grand social paradigmes need the backing of strong and stable institutions.

    Of course if you believe in the liberal utopia there is no point arguing at all – as with religion – belief on a completely subjective basis makes opinions arbitrary. If you can believe in one thing and justify it internally – anything goes. What explains everything explains nothing.

    Also your historical comparisons are ridiculously simplified to an extent that they provide no evidence for anything at all. You are just reciting some historic data.

    Go back to the pits of infowars.com where you came from – foul defiler of knowledge and reason.

    Reply
    • Sep 6 2012

      You misrepresent my argument and I am not going to justify your low reading comprehension skills with a response. Project whatever you like on to my post. I’m a writer, not a psychiatrist.

      Reply

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