What's Wrong with the Collective?
The "Simplification" of America
(c) 2013 by Tom King
The President's Inaugural Speech last January, dropped all sorts of hints to his base as to the tenor of his belief as to America's direction for the future. He talked about "fair shares" and how all Americans should act "collectively", and in doing so set off a firestorm of indignation on the political right.
So why do some many people bristle up at the idea of collectivism, when Americans are constantly acting collectively? We have, throughout our history, worked together, millions sacrificing greatly for the good of the country. During WWII, for instance, we worked shoulder to shoulder, enduring privation, sacrifice and even death to defeat an international aggressor for the good of, not only our nation, but also the nations of the free world. So what's wrong with acting as a collective for the social and economic good of all people.
Because collectivism, enforced by law, doesn't work. That's why.
What made America work for all these years is far more complicated than Marx allowed for in his Manifesto. America is not a "one for all" collective. We are not even an "all for one" commune. What we are, however, is a nation of free men and women living under voluntary submission to the strictures of moral law. We are a collection (not a collective) of individuals. And that has made us great. Voluntary collective action is a powerful thing. Collective action by legislative fiat on the other hand has failed time and time again and created some of the most murderous episodes in Earth's history.
We've got to stop thinking of people in terms of collectives. When we treat people as groups, whether by race, creed, color, culture, nationality or political party, we dehumanize them. It's easier, oddly enough, to murder an ethnic "group" than it is to murder an individual. My problem with the socialist ideal is that it sublimates the needs of the individual to the needs of the collective (the state). America had it right in championing the needs of the individual over the needs of the government in its founding. It's fundamental that every man has the right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The collective only has the right to do what the individuals who make up the nation allow it to do.
While it's true our forefathers did not fully set every man of us free in the beginning, they did recognize that such a liberation, under the system they had created, would be inevitable. In order to create a nation, they set aside the issue of slavery and our treatment of native Americans for a time. But the forefathers left in the Constitution, the seeds of liberation for all people and fully expected it would bear fruit inside a couple of generations. Even the racist enemies of that idea acknowledged it was there. Read "The Cornerstone Speech" by Alexander H. Stephens" VP of the Confederacy. Even he acknowledged that it was the Founders' intent to free the slaves (an intent with which he disagreed vehemently).
The elevation of the rights of the one over the many explains why we Americans do stupid things. We risk the lives of 20 rescuers to recover a single hostage. Dozens of firemen rush into a collapsing building to rescue a handful. Dozens of men at risk to their own lives and at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars dig a hole to rescue one small child who fell into a well - or, more recently, a dog!
It is a Christian thing that many of those who renounce faith in favor of collectivism would not understand. We believe God would still have emptied heaven had it been but to save a single soul. And we believe a single soul should risk his life for the good of all. Christ said, "Greater love hath no man than that he lay down his life for his brother." He said a lot of good things like, "Treat others the way you want to be treated." and "Love your neighbor as you love yourself." and "Judge not that ye be judged, for by the standard by which you judge others, so shall ye be judged."
If you wish to have a society where all men are created equal, where every man is free, you could not build on a better foundation than that.
It's not "One for all". It's not "All for one." It's "One for all AND all for one!"
It's not "Might is right" but "Might FOR right!"
This is a truly unique idea in history. Virtually every previous philosophy that has come along on this tired Earth champions either the collectivist (submit everything to higher authority) or the me first/claw your way to the top idea.
The American Ideal is complicated. You cannot simplify it with socialist/Marxist ideas of collective action in which all submit their wills to the good of the state. You cannot toss it aside for some sort of dog eat dog anarchy.
Instead we must somehow find a way to balance the twin notions of "All for one and one for all." As Captain Kirk once put it. "Sometimes the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one and sometimes the needs of the few or the one outweigh the needs of the many."
To be able to act that idea out in society, men must be free to act. You cannot hem everyone in with more and more restrictions on individual liberty and then act surprised when you create a nation of soulless automatons. Nor should you be surprised if you cast aside the rule of moral and natural law, when you create a nation of wild animals.
And when you try to do both, to create a populace with little personal liberty and at the same time cast aside moral law, you create a pack of hyenas which must be fed with the blood of enemies and, failing that, upon the blood of their own pack.
What do they teach in history classes these days?