Individualism vs. Collectivism

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Martin Hash
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Individualism vs. Collectivism

Post by Martin Hash » Tue Feb 23, 2010 1:00 pm

To begin, so that we can at least start a political discussion, we must distinguish the fundamental difference between “individualism” and “collectivism,” which colors all political decisions thereafter. Once an agreement can be established on what those two terms mean and the differences between them, then fruitful debate may commence, otherwise no agreement can be reached because the two concepts are mutually exclusive.

"Individual freedom" and "liberty" are oft-used but little-comprehended topics. What are they exactly? In the political sense they mean individualism. In our U.S. Constitution-based society, "individualism" classically means that in a conflict of wants, the default assumption is that an individual's rights trump the group unless "due process of law" overrides. A society philosophy that defaults to group-outweighs-individual is known as "collectivism," usually defined as the "common good."

Even though individualism and collectivism (its political equivalent is socialism) are countervailing: individual-over-group versus group-over-individual - they can coexist. Of course, government, by definition, is collectivist, and except for anarchists, The People accept a certain amount of collectivism - the military is certainly an example. We as a society have determined what things we will allow to be collectivist, while all other things remain individualist. Since the beginning of the nation, as our society has matured, we have moved more and more issues into the collectivist category: unemployment, social security, public health & safety, etc. (Right now we're trying to move health care for the Middle Class into the socialist category.) Collectivism and individualism would otherwise be incompatible but the connecting point between them is the Law.
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