Strengths of individuals lost in collectivism
Most Americans are aghast at the huge spending going on in Washington. And yet, the call is out for more “trillions” to be spent. In reality, the people have run out of “trillions”. Shockingly, we have already spent trillions of dollars of that of future generations. But then, there are those in Washington who say, “don’t worry government is the answer”. This concentration of power in the hands of government is frightening. This increase of government authority and autonomy is increasing the power of the federal government at the expense of the people. In a word, we are being collectivized. What does it mean to be collectivized? To have greater power and authority vested in one location.
The world renowned economist and philosopher Friedrich August von Hayek said “The mind cannot foresee it own advance”. And Hayek’s comment is profound. Truly, the mind and the thinking powers of the individual are to be deeply cherished, highly valued, and profoundly appreciated. In our society, it is the individual who is of prime importance, for it is each individual who is of vital significance to the totality of the community in which we live. And the society is made up of individuals, each person is distinctly unique as any good teacher will tell you. And the collection of these individuals is referred to as “the people”. The 10th Amendment of the US Constitution states “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.” And the people are the many unique individuals each with a personality, and each person with hopes, ambitions, likes and dislikes. The fabric of our society is strong indeed because of the very special nature of each individual who makes up our society. The individuality and identity of each and every person is to be highly respected and valued. Unfortunately, the individual is being swallowed up in collectivism.
Today, we hear much about collectivism as expressed by collectivist policy wonks. They call for collectivized national health care, collective government owned banks, collectively owned utilities, collective tax credits …even to those who pay no taxes…, sharing the wealth, and income redistribution.
They are promoting and approving stimulus and bailout packages totaling in the trillions of dollars, calling for more government sponsored programs but resulting in fewer private sector jobs. These public programs call for bigger collective bureaucratic growth in government with power sitting squarely at the top. It was President Gerald Ford who said wisely “A government big enough to give you everything you want is government big enough to take from you everything you have”.
Unfortunately, the identity of the individual is swallowed up in a collective bureaucracy as is the drive for individual success and accomplishment. And these are the cornerstones of the free enterprise system. Free enterprise is the freedom of individuals and businesses to operate and compete with a minimum of government interference or regulation. It enables individuals and businesses to create, produce, transform, develop, innovate and compete in the marketplace. As they are able and willing, enterprising people produce goods and services for profit, offer their labor for wages and own the resources needed to produce and sell goods and services. In this system, no one forces people to be creative, productive or enterprising. Instead, they pursue what they believe to be best for them. By producing the goods and services that society values most highly, a free enterprise system results in the greatest efficiency, or lowest costs, of any economic system. It is the system most compatible with individual freedom and political democracy. And the individual is encouraged and permitted to seek self actualization and fulfillment.
Individualism holds the individual as the primary unit of reality and the ultimate standard of value. This view does not deny that societies exist or that people benefit from living in them, but it sees society as a collection of individuals not a collective entity over and above them. We are a nation of individuals but sadly our individuality is being blunted and collectivized. Sadly, we are gradually seeing a state of socialism taking over in our society and by so doing, replacing the valued unique quality of individuality of Americans citizens.
Succinctly, it is appropriate to recall the eloquent words of Thomas Carlyle “The great law of culture is: Let each become all that he was capable of being …” Truly, Carlyle’s words were a gift to all of society!
Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is Emeritus Member of the College Council and Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus SUNY Fredonia