Only individuals can build communities.

June 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Thoughts in reply to a Samuel Goldman piece in The American Conservative, “Misunderstanding Communitarian Conservatism“:

Mr. Goldman writes:
For communitarian conservatives, liberty means civil freedom tempered by social interdependence and moral restraint.

That is also a good definition of libertarianism or individualism.

As individualists know, we don’t oppose community. Individualism and communitarianism are not opposites but complements; it’s just that each has its proper sphere.

We must recognize that people do tend to one side or the other. Partly that’s politics; partly it’s a matter of inborn temperaments, which may in part drive the political division. Masculine vs. feminine differences, for instance, have been expertly exploited. For all the feminist rhetoric about women being strong and independent, feminists are the loudest voices clamoring for dependency. When you have dismantled marriage and the family — the building blocks of real community — you have to depend on the state. There is nothing else left.

Across the sexes, too, people differ. We tend to be either introverts or extroverts. At its best, the American ideal was really to be about creating a minimum floor of liberty so that the introvert really could be left alone if he wished (much as we’ve been brainwashed that wanting to be left alone is evil and un-American). Allowing people their right to be left alone does not in any sense stop the social butterfly from flitting freely, or the brothers’ keeper dispensing the milk of human kindness hither and yon through all the channels of voluntary civil society. It just means they are unable to force everyone to be just like them via the sword of government.

But let’s note well: to say that people have the right to be left alone is not to say that many people actually want to be left alone all the time. That is the cartoon caricature that the collectivists have drawn up (and some on the right have actually bought into).

Sen. Mike Lee said it well:

Ours has never been a vision of isolated, atomized loners. It is a vision of husbands and wives; parents and children; neighbors and neighborhoods; volunteers and congregations; bosses and employees; businesses and customers; clubs, teams, groups, associations… and friends.
The essence of human freedom, of civilization itself, is cooperation. This is something conservatives should celebrate. It’s what conservatism is all about. ….

Every one should
read or hear that speech.

Ironically, the atomism of which left-leaners are apt to bemoan grew up not in an age of individualism, but of Big Government and Big Business partnership, presided over by the collectivist Big Media — in particular, the tempermentally extroverted medium of television. These forces were all along promising us that “We” were using the apparatus of the state to do Great Things – building Great Public Works, creating a Great Society, fighting Great Wars (against poverty, cancer, drugs, terror, ad infinitum), going to space — all to realize and display our Greatness, under the direction of the “Best and Brightest.” Meanwhile, as the state and its corporate client class waxed Great, real community withered. Of course organic community withers when its functions are usurped by “professionals” — especially those who are professionally interested in seeing the problems remain, or get worse.

Our argument is that many social problems are actually local problems: Yes, though they have been State-ized and nationalized and complicated in all manner of ways, all in the name of “solving” them.

There is a limited place for collective action of a government or quasi-governmental sort at appropriate levels – local on up to national, then international. For that, I would refer to Henry George and like minds: if society needs services that in their nature are monopolies, then it is less dangerous to run such monopolies collectively than to award them to private individuals. Hardly any one wants privately owned toll roads, for example.

However, it is easy to separate such common infrastructure and resources from things in their nature individual: education, health care, housing food, etc. Not many of the vicarious extroverts who speak of the “social” or the “commons,” however, seek to distinguish the one class of good from the other.

”public schools in some states, such as Massachusetts, are excellent”:

I submit we have no idea what an “excellent” school even is, because we are so far from the cutting edge that we don’t even know a cutting edge exists. Comparing state school systems amongst themselves is something like watching a turtle race and getting excited that one turtle is out-crawling the other.

“Washington is not the focal point of American democracy”:

Hear, hear. Am I the only one who’s sick of the media just pounding Washington into my face all day, every day?

However, make no mistake: State collectivization of individual decisions may be a smaller-scale evil than federal collectivization — and an evil that one can move away from — but it is still an evil.

An insurance mandate is, to me, an unacceptable limit to freedom. Plus, insurance is a bad way to pay for routine care anyway; it’s designed for rare, unexpected events.

Further, I do not believe illness is “ineradicable”; in America, most illness (especially when one counts by dollars expended) is avoidable — even mainstream organizations like the heart and cancer associations admit that. If you listen to the experts on the cutting edge, like the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine or Life Extension Foundation, just about everything is reversible, on up to many aspects of the toxicity/degeneration syndrome we mistakenly call “aging.” But is the current system set up to solve such problems? Far from it: the current system is in a business partnership with sickness; that’s what powerful industry protectionism and government regulation demand. The system cannot cure illness since that is its golden goose.

Re: local government:
I work in the office of a township. Probably not 1/1000 citizens of my State realize that the township is the only government level with a Constitutional mandate to provide assistance to the poor. There is a work requirement for assistance; despite the work program being conducted inefficiently, this is much more efficient than having no work requirement.

The food pantry program receive much assistance from groceries, restaurants, charities and individuals. An eyewear store provides free exams and glasses to qualified individuals. Etc . These are all voluntary relationships. We need more of this and less of the impersonal bureaucratic types of “assistance” and their long train of negative unintended(?) consequences.

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