Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Rise of Collectivism and the Fall of the Constitution

In urging House Speaker John Boehner to "stand up to the extremists" in his party to end the government shutdown, New Jersey Councilman Kevin Scollans said this in a recent letter to the NJ Star-Ledger:

The good of the nation is more important than any individual, regardless of what high office a person holds or political gains his party achieves. This protracted shutdown and potential default of U.S. debt can only harm Americans. The inability of Congress to act on important matters reaffirms the view that Washington is broken and that compromise — the fundamental reason our Constitution exists — is an impossible dream in 2013.

Scollans concludes his letter with a quote from Republican President Rutherford Hayes's 1877 inaugural address, “He serves his party best who serves his country best.”

I left these comments:

"The good of the nation is more important than any individual . . ."

A more evil, un-American statement could not be uttered. Collectivism is the ideology that holds the group, rather than the individual, as the focus of moral concern. The group could mean the proletariat,  the race, the public, society, the tribe, the nation. Whatever the manifestation of the group, the political rulers—the state—acts in its stead, since the group is made up of individuals and only individuals exist and can act. Collectivism is the same ideology that gave rise to the Stalins, Hitlers, Maos, and Pol Pots—and the horrors their political systems perpetrated.

Collectivism is becoming entrenched in America at the expense of individualism, the American ideology that undergirds liberty. Is it any wonder that our politicians feel ever more emboldened to force ObamaCare and minimum wage laws and eminent domain and the whole panoply of regulatory welfare state infractions of individual rights down our throats? What can't the nation do to its individual citizens if "the nation is more important than any individual?" Redistribute his wealth? Regulate his life and business? Force him into slave labor or a concentration camp, gulag, or Killing Field? Why not, if the nation deems it to be to its good?

"The inability of Congress to act on important matters reaffirms the view that Washington is broken and that compromise — the fundamental reason our Constitution exists — is an impossible dream in 2013."

The misunderstanding (or evasion) of the meaning of the constitution is related to the rise of collectivist ideology in America. "Compromise" is not a fundamental reason for the constitution. Compromise is not even the unalloyed good it is taken as today. Whether a compromise is good or bad or justified depends on what one is compromising on. The fundamental purpose of the constitution is to limit the power of the government to its proper purpose of protecting individual rights, precisely so that "the nation"—i.e., the government—doesn't compromise away those rights.

At the root of this nation's expanding problems—including the conflict over ObamaCare that triggered the shutdown—is the rise of collectivist ideology and the resultant obliteration of the meaning of the constitution. The fundamental struggle in America is collectivism vs. individualism. As long as some people believe they can trample the rights of others in the name of "the nation," Washington will become ever more "broken." No compromise is possible without recognition of the sanctity, dignity, and primacy of the individual, because no compromise is possible between those whose rights to life, liberty, property, and pursuit of values are violated and those who profiteer on the sacrifice of others' rights. No compromise is possible between individualism and collectivism. One side or the other must cave in.

I don't mean to imply that the Republicans are consistent champions of individualism and the constitution (individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government). Most are not, which is why their current political strategy will probably fail. And I don't mean to imply that Councilman Scollans wants totalitarianism. But his sentiments, if ever fully accepted, will be the death knell for America.

Scollans quotes President Hayes's 1877 Inaugural Address. But let's not forget the full context of his message. Focusing on the need to bring full realization of individual liberty to the former slaves, Hayes said that "The permanent pacification of the country [depends] upon such principles and by such measures as will secure the complete protection of all its citizens in the free enjoyment of all their constitutional rights. . . ." He put individual rights above country. The same can be said regarding today's political polarization. To all of our elected officials in any level of government—and to all Americans—I would add to President Hayes's quote in the letter: ". . . and he serves his country best who serves the cause of the constitution and individual rights best."

Related Reading:

Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice—Craig Biddle

Collectivism vs. Individualism in Letters

Individualism vs. Collectivism, Profit vs. Non-Profit, in the Education Debate

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