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Fresh Take: Individualism v Collectivism

An obviously intelligent friend of mine wrote this, and it was so perfectly on point I just had to share it. Please enjoy:

George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, why is everybody missing that it’s individualism vs collectivism all over again? People generally fall into two camps. You are probably an individualist if you value people’s right to self-defense, if you believe that success comes to those that work hard, if you think America is great because it has provided the most freedom for people to choose their own destiny, and admire strength and success. You are probably a collectivist if you think people’s destiny is largely the result of societal forces over which they have no control, if you think America has major problems and should be more like Europe, and do not believe people should be allowed to take matters into their own hands, viewing strength, independence, and success with suspicion. The George decision probably has no direct impact on your life, but many other decisions based on these basic worldviews have a huge impact; not only in when you can have guns and use them but also in the rest of life.

An individualist believes each person should have the right to make his own decisions and deal with the results, while a collectivist believes decisions should be made by the community and enforced upon all. Individualists despise programs like government-run health care and social zimmTrayvonsecurity, while collectivists adore them. Individualists would be quick to point out that you cannot depend on government for protection, that every break-in, rape, and murder happens while the police are nowhere to be found or waiting for them to arrive, and does not want to hand more power to the government, which is ultimately untrustworthy and ripe for abuse as power corrupts. Therefore, the having the freedom to own guns and having the rights of self-defense are important. Collectivists meanwhile recoil in horror and are quick to point out murders and suicides where people misused the power of guns as a reason to tightly regulate and restrict them.

If you are an individualist, you might view your less successful peers as those who did not study hard in school or work hard in business, did drugs, or otherwise are generally reaping the results of their own bad decisions, while you admire those who have risen to the top of the game, whether that is in business, rank, or sports by their own smarts and hard work. If you are a collectivist, you probably view the poor as those who have been exploited, while the rich, strong, and successful probably inherited their silver spoon or got there through corruption, abuse, and steroids. And so a collectivist wants the government to tax the rich at a far higher rate to take back their ill-gotten gains and give it to the poor, while an individualist believes the entrepreneurs, doctors, and lawyers should reap the results of their long hard-working journey to get where they are, and anyone who wants their wealth should ask them for it but is not entitled to it.

I do not think it is a surprise that individualists dominate in very sparsely populated areas while collectivists tend to dominate in densely populated big cities. If you are the stereotypical farmer in the middle of nowhere, you get exactly what you have cleared, planted, taken care of and harvested. If you want to get from point A to point B you get there exactly as fast as you drive yourself. While if you are in a big city, you cannot get from point A to point B without wading through traffic or public transportation, stuck with everybody else in a slow moving mass of people you have no power to control. You cannot make or obtain just about anything by yourself.

Well, I tried to be fair, and I’m mostly apathetic about the Zimmerman verdict since I wasn’t there and don’t know what happened, but you can probably guess which side I’m on in the larger debate. I don’t think you are entitled to anything that someone else worked hard for. A collectivist mentality treats average people like helpless children, powerless victims, or bumbling idiots that can’t be trusted to run their own lives, and it inevitably subsidizes laziness, rewards failure, and leads to greater crime, corruption, economic failures, and worse injustices. Freedom flat out works better; an average person has always been demonstrably better off in freer countries. If you fail, you probably want to believe that it was society or everybody else’s fault and have success handed to you, but it will be better for you and everybody else if you stop blaming everybody else, man up, get back in the game, and make something of yourself.

-written by Matthew Weeks


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