One of my neighbor’s children was perplexed. She had to write an essay about the differences between individualism and collectivism. Her father, Jeff (not to be confused with this blog’s Jeff) and I got into a long dialog about those differences. The details of the conversation are not distinct. Nevertheless, here is a synopsis of what we discussed.
For individualists, responsibility is personal. For collectivists, the responsibility is communal and it is shared. It comes from on high. The most important thing is that the responsibility is not yours.
Sometimes the people on high need a scapegoat. Witness what happened recently in that beehive of collectivism, North Korea. A scapegoat was needed and Jang Song-Taek was chosen. That was personal.
For individualists, rights are innate. They are sacred. We are born with them and the state has no right to take them away without due process of law. For collectivists, rights are given by the state. Rights come and go as the state wills and can be suborned by the greater good of the state.
In the animal kingdom, bees and ants are the true collectivists. All of the bees are equal. They all work together for the good of the hive. But as in the human ant colonies, some ants — the queen and the drones — are more equal than other ants. The queen gets more than other ants and the drones don’t work as hard as the other ants. In human ant colonies, we have dictators who act as the queens. They are the ones who decide what the greater good is and who is to be sacrificed for that greater good.
Individualists own the fruits of their labor. Collectivists give up the fruits of their labor to the collective and in return, the nanny collective cares for the individual. Hmmm…let’s pause to ponder that a bit. Slaveholders owned the fruits of the slaves’ labor. They also took care of their slaves. Does that make the collectivist the modern day slaveholder? If the federal government owns 40% of our output and our state government 10%, are we 50% enslaved? Anyway…back to my synopsis.
Individualists practice voluntary charity. Collectivists practice involuntary charity.
noun: charity; plural noun: charities
- the voluntary giving of help, typically in the form of money, to those in need.
The word for involuntary charity is taxes. If, as they say, “charity begins at home”…then collectivist charity begins in this home:
Historical examples of individualist systems are the thirteen original states. Historical examples of collectivist systems are Hitler’s Nazi Germany, Stalin’s USSR, Mao’s China and Cambodia’s Pol Pot.
Individualists call today’s collectivists liberals, which at one time meant individualists. Nazi meant National Socialist Party. Socialism is a form of collectivism, albeit not as rigid as communism. Yet today, collectivists call individualists “Nazis.” Isn’t it strange how the English language has evolved? Or perhaps ignorance of the English language has increased. Could it also be deliberate obfuscation?
Individualists manage themselves. They do not need a lot of laws or any other instructions to function. This is why the Constitution is so short and concise. Collectivists are controlled from on high. Instructions have to be spelled out in detail. This is why laws like the Affordable Care Act are over 1000 pages long with over 7000 pages of regulations that follow. Collectivists need many laws and regulations to function.
In an individualist state, a law says just what it is meant to do. The Whiskey Tax did just what its name said it would do. It put a tax on whiskey. In the collectivist system we have Homeland Security, which was written to grow the executive branch; the Affordable Care Act, which made healthcare unaffordable; the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which infused cash into banks without getting troubled assets off their books.
In America’s slide toward collectivism, we have created the Department of Education, which does not help Education; the Department of Energy, which has not produced any energy; the Department of Treasury, which has no Treasure; the Housing and Urban Development Department, which has presided over urban decay; and the Department of Transportation, which does not transport anything.
Individualists used silver- and gold-backed paper as money. Collectivists have replaced that with just paper. In the effort to go paperless they just add zeros to a data file.
Individualists use their own money. Collectivists use other people’s money.
I would like to think that I covered all of what Jeff and I discussed, but I know I haven’t. At the end of our conversation, Jeff asked his daughter our discussion had helped or not. She said, “You make the individualist sound normal and collectivists sound like evil ant creatures from another planet. My teacher will never accept a paper like that!” Then she stomped away.
I have to agree that her teacher would probably not appreciate our comparisons.