Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Collectivism vs. Individualism

 I have mentioned a number of times one of the main drivers that pushed me left was hearing Rush Limbaugh elaborate on the 'greed is good' thesis. It thoroughly disgusted me in a way I remember to this day. I remember what I was doing when I heard it, and I remember where I was when I told my other people about it. The singular repulsion to the idea has weighed on my mind that much to this day.

I believe in a fundamentally collectivist society. Let me be clear, that by fundamentally, I mean by the real definition 'A leading or primary principle, rule, law, or article, which serves as the groundwork of a system; essential part'. I don't mean pure communism, or pure anything. It is self evident that human nature directs itself to operate both collectively and individually, but collectively is its basic nature outside of a very small proportion of the species which finds anything but total solitude to be unacceptable. We naturally group into cities, towns, communities, churches, races, tribes, socioeconomic rungs on the ladder. There are so many groups to which we align ourselves that it makes me believe that it is the inherent nature of humanity. It goes back to the Middle East or Africa from which humans arose. A single person will be taken in the night by a jaguar. A group can keep watch while others sleep, hunt for food while the night watchers sleep, and designate a few to guard the women and children, what is necessary to pass along the genes of the species.

At the same time, we have a drive to achieve, for one to be better than the other. Some wish to be leaders of men. Some become drunk with power. We want to work to make things better. We dream of more stuff, or better stuff, or a prettier mate. We acquire things of value and sell them. We acquire things of little value and work to make them of more value. There is an inherent nature of selfishness, at least some, and naturally some more than others. But ultimately, that selfishness is still relative to the collective, the group. A man cannot become blindingly wealthy without utilizing the work of other men.  Ayn Rand's philosophy was that the man at the top didn't get paid for all his genius because he had to pay those below him. The reverse is true. He cannot make anything without denying something from those below him. The optimum, I say, is a collaborative and symbiotic relationship where he pays them well for their ability to make him more money and both parties are happy to be providing their part and both think the other is fairly compensated for their work.  Or better yet, the company is owned by its employees and they work together to make a profit they all can share.  That's the heart of socialism, returning the means of production to the control of the workers.

But that's not the attitude we have in the US. Our attitude is to use the measure of the market to extract the very last dollar we can get, the last penny that a commodity is worth, the company car, the company jet, deny the fans of the movie the opportunity to see their favorite actor star in the sequel to squeeze another million out of the contract. It goes both ways, the employer, the employee, the spouse, the government, labor and management.

Funny thing. In the US, they say you are unique. Nobody is like you. You have something special to offer. In Scandinavia, they say you are the same. Lots of people have been through what you have. Lots of people have had to do what you're doing. Again, I say, both are true. But inherently, our good as a people comes from working with the group, guiding the group, shaping the group so the group as a whole can achieve what loners cannot.

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