Comparing Individualism and Collectivism

Individualism and collectivism

(photo credit)

 The Ed - icon sizeContributed by “The Ed”

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.

Responsibility is overrated

(graphic credit)

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

  1. 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:

Collectivist charity begins in this home

(photo credit)

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 if 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.

Hell hath no fury like a collectivist scorned

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About Necessary and Proper

Jeff believes in the Individual's ability to excel when liberty and freedom of choice are protected. Also believes in the Community's ability to take care of the vast majority of its own issues and needs when the federal government leaves the Community's resources and sphere of control alone. State and local choice produce better results than centralized federal control.
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9 Responses to Comparing Individualism and Collectivism

  1. hiimback1 says:

    I have to say I think the comparison you gave seems pretty accurate, as I don’t think of a collectivist system as good. However the question must be raised that if far collectivism like communism is tyranny, than could extreme individualism be seen as anarchy? Or have I got something mixed up?


    • Of course anarchy has been given a bad rap. It means without rule, not without order, something similar to the internet.


    • The Ed says:

      hiimback1, Malcolm: Collectivism is one of the forms tyranny takes. Government is given rules by the constitution that constrain its actions. We have rules that constrain our actions as well. If you have ever had to write rules that stick then you know that they have to be few, simple to follow and they have to have logical reasoning. This is true for individuals and it is true for government. I don’t think it is anarchy to have rules for the rules.


  2. Ed,

    Denver conservative talk show host Mike Rosen recently posted this observation on his Facebook page (the bracketed words are mine):

    “Democrats [collectivists] think a government program is successful if there are a lot of people on it. Republicans [some of them individualists] think a government program is successful if a lot of people have gotten off of it.”

    – Jeff


  3. The Ed says:

    Jeff, So why are government programs perpetual? Many of our individualists have collectivist leanings


    • Ed,

      Government programs are perpetual because, as you know, once a program is streaming money to a constituency, that receiver has great incentive to spend some of it lobbying the government to continue that subsidy. And politicians, with their “must be re-elected” mindset are VERY susceptible to the effects of lobbying. They’re also VERY sensitive to the threat of bad publicity, which lobbyists are good at doing if they don’t get their way. Milton Friedman called this “the concentrated interest,” which always has more leverage than “the diffuse interest.”

      You said “Many of our individualists have collectivist leanings.” I suspect you meant “Many of our Republicans have collectivist leanings.” I opened the door to confusing Republicans and individualists by the way I quoted Rosen and interjected my words. I agree that many Republicans are mild statists, not true advocates of limited government. Margaret Thatcher talked about the “ratchet effect,” where government institutions of Western democracies move to the left when liberals are in power, but never seem to move to the right when conservatives are in power. The best they do is hold steady for short periods of time, until liberals take power again. The long-term effect is a constant ratcheting of societies to the left until they collapse under the weight of their own unaffordable utopianism.

      If Reagan couldn’t get rid of the newly-formed (by Carter) Departments of Education and Energy, then it’s essentially impossible to get rid of any government program.

      This is why one of Mark Levin’s eleven recommended amendments to the U.S. Constitution is to require funding of EVERY government program to automatically sunset after 3 years (if I remember correctly), unless specifically re-justified and re-authorized by fresh legislation. This would put an end to so-called “baseline budgeting,” where the default trend of government is to constantly increase in size and cost, on “auto-pilot.”. I don’t have my copy handy right now, but I do recommend Levin’s book “The Liberty Amendments.”

      – Jeff

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The Ed says:

    I have seen Congress pass law after law that I had thought could not possibly be ruled constitutional. Then I saw the Supreme Court uphold these abominations. You can start with the different departments that have become institutionalized, work your way through all of the welfare programs, Homeland Security, the TARP bill, Obamacare and on and on. All three branches do not take the Constitution seriously. I do not see how any amendment(s) can change our lawless government.


    • I will loan you the book. If your take on the situation is accurate, then we’re doomed and nothing can be done about it. So what have you got to lose in examining these ideas? The intent of these amendments is to use our hindsight regarding all the loopholes that the Progressives have blown in the Constitution, making it look like Swiss cheese, and close those loopholes using language FAR less ambiguous than that of the Founders in order to return the Constitutional framework to its original intent.


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