The following is an excellent discussion by Edward Griffin, one of the greatest defenders of freedom in our time, on the notion of freedom and socialism.
Something everyone should be aware of in our society but as you will see there is a clear reason why that is not the case.
G. Edward Griffin is a writer and documentary film producer with many successful titles to his credit. Listed in Who’s Who in America, he is well known because of his talent for researching difficult topics and presenting them in clear terms that all can understand. He has dealt with such diverse subjects as archaeology and ancient Earth history, the Federal Reserve System and international banking, terrorism, internal subversion, the history of taxation, U.S. foreign policy, the science and politics of cancer therapy, the Supreme Court, and the United Nations. His better-known works include The Creature from Jekyll Island, World without Cancer, The Discovery of Noah’s Ark, Moles in High Places, The Open Gates of Troy, No Place to Hide, The Capitalist Conspiracy, More Deadly than War, The Grand Design, The Great Prison Break, and The Fearful Master.
Thank you, Richard, and thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen. What a terrific introduction that was; but, in all honesty, I must tell you that it greatly exaggerates the importance of my work. I should know. I wrote it.
The dangerous thing about platform introductions is that they tend to create unrealistic expectations. You have just been led to anticipate that, somehow, I am going to make a complex subject easy to understand. Well, that’s quite a billing. I hope I can live up to that expectation today; but it remains to be seen if I can really do that with this topic: The War on Terrorism. How can anyone make that easy to understand? There are so many issues and so much confusion. I feel like the proverbial mosquito in a nudist camp. I know what I have to do. I just don’t know where to begin.
There is a well-known rule in public speaking that applies to complex topics. It is: First, tell them what you’re going to tell them. Then tell them. And, finally, tell them what you told them. I’m going to follow that rule today, and I will begin by making a statement that I have carefully crafted to be as shocking as possible. That’s primarily because I want you to remember it. When I tell you what I’m going to tell you, I know that, for many of you, it will sound absurd, and you’ll think I have gone completely out of my mind. Then, for the main body of my presentation, I will tell you what I told you by presenting facts to prove that everything I said is true. And, finally, at the end, I will tell you what I told you by repeating my opening statement; and, by then hopefully, it will no longer seem absurd.
What I am going to tell you is this: Although it is commonly believed that the War on Terrorism is a noble effort to defend freedom, in reality, it has little to do with terrorism and even less to do with the defense of freedom. There are other agendas at work; agendas that are far less praiseworthy; agendas that, in fact, are just the opposite of what we are told. The purpose of this presentation is to prove that, what is unfolding today is, not a war on terrorism to defend freedom, but a war on freedom that requires the defense of terrorism.
That is what I’m going to tell you today, and you are probably wondering how anyone in his right mind could think he could prove such a statement as that. So let’s get right to it; and the first thing we must do is confront the word proof. What is proof? There is no such thing as absolute proof. There is only evidence. Proof may be defined as sufficient evidence to convince the observer that a particular hypothesis is true. The same evidence that is convincing to one person may not convince another. In that event, the case is proved to the first person but not to the second one who still needs more evidence. So, when we speak of proof, we are really talking about evidence.
It’s my intent to tell you what I told you by developing the case slowly and methodically; to show motive and opportunity; to introduce eyewitnesses and the testimony of experts. In other words, I will provide evidence – upon evidence – upon evidence until the mountain is so high that even the most reluctant skeptic must conclude that the case has been proved.
Where do we find this evidence? The first place to look is in history. The past is the key to the present, and we can never fully understand where we are today unless we know what path we traveled to get here. It was Will Durant who said: “Those who know nothing about history are doomed forever to repeat it.”
Are we doomed to repeat history in the war on terrorism? If we continue to follow the circular path we are now taking, I believe that we are. But to find out if that is true, we need to go back in time. So, I invite you to join me, now, in my time machine. We are going to splash around in history for a while and look at some great events and huge mistakes to see if there are parallels, any lessons to be learned for today. I must warn you: it will seem that we are lost in time. We are going to go here and there, and then jump back further, and then forward in time, and we will be examining issues that may make you wonder “What on Earth has this to do with today?” But I can assure you, when we reach the end of our journey, you will see that everything we cover has a direct relevance to today and, in particular, to the war on terrorism.
THE HIDDEN AGENDA
Now that we are in our time machine, we turn the dial to the year 1954 and, suddenly, we find ourselves in the plush offices of the Ford Foundation in New York City. There are two men seated at a large, Mahogany desk, and they are talking. They cannot see or hear us, but we can see them very well. One of these men is Rowan Gaither, who was the President of the Ford Foundation at that time. The other is Mr. Norman Dodd, the chief investigator for what was called the Reece Committee, which was a Congressional committee to investigate tax-exempt foundations. The Ford Foundation was one of those, so he is there as part of his Congressional responsibilities.
In 1982, I met Mr. Dodd in his home state of Virginia where, at the time, I had a television crew gathering interviews for a documentary film. I previously had read his testimony and realized how important it was; so, when our crew had open time, I called him on the telephone and asked if he would be willing to make a statement before our cameras, and he said, “Of course.” I’m glad we obtained the interview when we did, because Dodd was advanced in years, and it wasn’t long afterward that he passed away. We were very fortunate to capture his story in his own words. What we are about to witness from our time machine was confirmed in minute detail twenty years later and preserved on video.
The reason for Dodd’s investigation was that the American public had become alarmed by reports that large tax-exempt foundations were promoting the ideologies of Communism and Fascism and advocating the elimination of the United States as a sovereign nation. As far back as the 1930s, William Randolph Hearst had written a series of blistering editorials in his national chain of newspapers in which he cited Carnegie Foundation publications that spouted Communist slogans identical to what was coming from the Communist Party itself. When the Carnegie Endowment published an article written by Joseph Stalin attacking Capitalism and praising Communism, Hearst called it “propaganda, pure and simple.” He continued:
Its publication by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is an act of thorough disloyalty to America – indistinguishable from the common and familiar circulation of seditious and subversive literature by secret creators. The organ which carries such stuff, even if it has the imprint of the Carnegie Endowment, is not one whit less blameworthy and censurable than the skulking enemy of society whose scene of operation is the dark alley and the hideout. 1
In another editorial, dated March 11, 1935, Hearst turned the spotlight on Nicholas Murray Butler, who was the President of Columbia University and also President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Hearst quoted a report written by Butler which was a strategy for abolishing the United States as a sovereign country. He concluded:
In his report to the Directors of the Fund which Andrew Carnegie left to promote the Europeanization of America under the mask of universal peace, Dr. Butler expounds quite frankly the astounding Anti-American propaganda that this organization is carrying on.
This movement is for what Dr. Butler calls a WORLD STATE. It is the most seditious proposition ever laid before the American public, SEDITIOUS because it gives aid and comfort to the communist, the fascist and the nazist, absolute enemies of the very rock bottom principles on which our Government is founded.
Voices of outrage also were heard in Congress. George Holden Tinkham of Massachusetts, Louis T. Mc Fadden of Pennsylvania, and Martin J. Sweeney of Ohio castigated the tax-exempt foundations as disloyal to America and seditious to the government. Tinkham called for the creation of a committee to investigate tax-supported organizations working for the “denationalization of the United States.” Congress, however, was inert on that topic, and nothing happened until after the end of World War II. In spite of strong opposition from within Congress, the Select Committee to Investigate Tax-Exempt Foundations and Comparable Organizations was formed in April 1952 and turned over to Congressman Carrol Reece of Tennessee. It was this committee that Norman Dodd served as the chief investigator, and it is in that capacity that we now see him at the New York offices of the Ford Foundation.
We are now in the year 1954, and we hear Mr. Gaither say to Mr. Dodd, “Would you be interested in knowing what we do here at the Ford Foundation?” And Mr. Dodd says, “Yes! That’s exactly why I’m here. I would be very interested, sir.” Then, without any prodding at all, Gaither says, “Mr. Dodd, we operate in response to directives, the substance of which is that we shall use our grant making power to alter life in the United States so that it can be comfortably merged with the Soviet Union.”
Dodd almost falls off of his chair when he hears that. Then he says to Gaither, “Well, sir, you can do anything you please with your grant making powers, but don’t you think you have an obligation to make a disclosure to the American people? You enjoy tax exemption, which means you are indirectly subsidized by taxpayers, so, why don’t you tell the Congress and the American people what you just told me?” And Gaither replies, “We would never dream of doing such a thing.”
A STRATEGY TO CONTROL THE TEACHING OF HISTORY
The question that arises in Mr. Dodd’s mind is: How would it be possible for anyone to think they could alter life in the United States so it could be comfortably merged with the Soviet Union and, by implication, with other nations of the world? What an absurd thought that would be – especially in 1954. That would require the abandonment of American concepts of justice, traditions of liberty, national sovereignty, cultural identity, constitutional protections, and political independence, to name just a few. Yet, these men were deadly serious about it. They were not focused on the question of if this could be done. Their only question was how to do it? What would it take to change American attitudes? What would it take to convince them to abandon their heritage in exchange for global union?
The answer was provided by the Carnegie Endowment Fund for International Peace, the same group that had been the center of controversy in the 1930s. When Dodd visited that organization and began asking about their activities, the President said, “Mr. Dodd, you have a lot of questions. It would be very tedious and time consuming for us to answer them all, so I have a counter proposal. Why don’t you send a member of your staff to our facilities, and we will open our minute books from the very first meeting of the Carnegie Fund, and your staff can go through them and copy whatever you find there. Then you will know everything we are doing.”
Again, Mr. Dodd was totally amazed. He observed that the President was newly appointed and probably had never actually read the minutes himself. So Dodd accepted the offer and sent a member of his staff to the Carnegie Endowment facilities. Her name was Mrs. Catherine Casey who, by the way, was hostile to the activity of the Congressional Committee. Political opponents of the Committee had placed her on the staff to be a watchdog and a damper on the operation. Her attitude was: “What could possibly be wrong with tax-exempt foundations? They do so much good.” So, that was the view of Mrs. Casey when she went to the boardroom of the Carnegie Foundation. She took her Dictaphone machine with her (they used mechanically inscribed belts in those days) and recorded, word for word, many of the key passages from the minutes of this organization, starting with the very first meeting. What she found was so shocking, Mr. Dodd said she almost lost her mind. She became ineffective in her work after that and had to be given another assignment.
This is what those minutes revealed: From the very beginning, the members of the board discussed how to alter life in the United States; how to change the attitudes of Americans to give up their traditional principles and concepts of government and be more receptive to what they call the collectivist model of society. I will talk more about what the word collectivist means in a moment, but those who wrote the documents we will be quoting use that word often and they have a clear understanding of what it means.
At the Carnegie Foundation board meetings, they discussed this question in a scholarly fashion. After months of deliberation, they came to the conclusion that, out of all of the options available for altering political and social attitudes, there was only one that was historically dependable. That option was war. In times of war, they reasoned, only then would people be willing to give up things they cherish in return for the desperate need and desire for security against a deadly enemy. And so the Carnegie Endowment Fund for International Peace declared in its minutes that it must do whatever it can to bring the United States into war.
They also said there were other actions needed, and these were their exact words: “We must control education in the United States.” They realized that was a pretty big order, so they teamed up with the Rockefeller Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation to pool their financial resources to control education in America – in particular, to control the teaching of history. They assigned those areas of responsibility that involved issues relating to domestic affairs to the Rockefeller Foundation, and those issues relating to international affairs were taken on as the responsibility of the Carnegie Endowment.
Their first goal was to rewrite the history books, and they discussed at great length how to do that. They approached some of the more prominent historians of the time and presented to them the proposal that they rewrite history to favor the concept of collectivism, but they were turned down flat. Then they decided – and, again, these are their own words, “We must create our own stable of historians.”
They selected twenty candidates at the university level who were seeking doctorates in American History. Then they went to the Guggenheim Foundation and said, “Would you grant fellowships to candidates selected by us, who are of the right frame of mind, those who see the value of collectivism as we do? Would you help them to obtain their doctorates so we can then propel them into positions of prominence and leadership in the academic world?” And the answer was “Yes.”
So they gathered a list of young men who were seeking their doctorate degrees. They interviewed them, analyzed their attitudes, and chose the twenty they thought were best suited for their purpose. They sent them to London for a briefing. (In a moment I will explain why London is so significant.) At this meeting, they were told what would be expected if and when they win the doctorates they were seeking. They were told they would have to view history, write history, and teach history from the perspective that collectivism was a positive force in the world and was the wave of the future. In other words, in the guise of analyzing history, they would create history by conditioning future generations to accept collectivism as desirable and inevitable.
THE BIRTH OF PROGRESSIVE EDUCATION
The concept of using the educational system as a tool for social engineering did not originate at the Carnegie Foundation. It was articulated in the late 1700s by Johann Gottlieb Fichte, a psychologist who is considered to be the father of German nationalism. Fichte explained it this way:
Education should aim at destroying free will so that, after pupils are thus schooled, they will be incapable throughout the rest of their lives of thinking or acting otherwise than their schoolmasters would have wished…. The school psychologist of the future will have a number of classes of school children on whom they will try different methods of producing an unshakable conviction that snow is black. When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for more than one generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen.1
The temptation was great. Social engineers and tyrants salivated over the idea of perfecting and dominating mankind. The idea spread throughout the world and, four generations later, became the foundation of what has come to be known as Progressive Education.
Under the orchestrating baton of Nicholas Butler, President of Columbia University and President of the Carnegie Endowment, an organization was formed in 1884 called The American Historical Association. This then created a series of controlled groups, called Committees, each of which focused on a particular segment of the overall educational mission. After these had published their recommendations, the Carnegie Fund created another controlled group in 1929 called The Commission on the Social Studies, which attracted to its membership an impressive list of academic personalities, including the Superintendant of Schools in Washington, D.C., the Director of the American Geological Society of New York, the President of Radcliff College, the Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Minnesota, the head of the Institute for the Study of Law at John Hopkins University, and eleven professors of history at such prestigious institutions as Columbia University and the Universities of Chicago, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Other institutions that provided staff services or facilitated its work in other ways included Harvard, Stanford, Smith College, and the Universities of Iowa, North Carolina and West Virginia. The Commission was funded by a $340,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation – at a time when $5,000 was an excellent annual salary for a college professor.
The Commission on the Social Studies is remembered today for its role in launching progressive education. The self-admitted goal of progressive educators is to de-emphasize academic excellence in favor of awareness of social and political issues. That’s the first half. The second half is that those issues must be presented so as to promote three concepts: (1) National sovereignty is the cause of war and must be replaced by world government; (2) Personal property should be eliminated because it leads to selfishness, and (3) people will not assist or cooperate with each other in freedom so they must be forced to do so by the state. Since those are key features of collectivism, the unspoken lesson for students is that collectivism is good and is the wave of the future.
One of the better known members of the Commission on the Social Studies was George Counts, Professor of Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. After the Bolshevik Revolution, Counts travelled to the Soviet Union to witness Communism first hand and returned with the conviction that the Soviet model was the ideal social system. After the war, when Stalin’s brutality against his own people became widely known and when Russia resumed an aggressive stance against Western nations, Counts became a critic of the Soviet regime. His objection, however, was with Stalin’s actions and policies, not his adherence to collectivism, which Counts continued to advocate. His 1932 book, Dare the School Build a New Social Order,1 became a popularized version of what the Commission hoped to instill into the educational system. He wrote:
If property rights are to be diffused in industrial society, natural resources and all important forms of capital will have to be collectively owned. … This clearly means that, if democracy is to survive in the United States, it must abandon its individualistic affiliations in the sphere of economics. … Within these limits, as I see it, our democratic tradition must of necessity evolve and gradually assume an essentially collectivistic pattern.
The important point is that fundamental changes in the economic system are imperative. Whatever service historic capitalism may have rendered in the past, and they have been many, its days are numbered. With its dedication to the principles of selfishness, its exaltation of the profit motive, its reliance on the forces of competition, and its placing of property above human rights,2 it will either have to be displaced altogether or changed so radically in form and spirit that its identity will become completely lost.
THE REAL PURPOSE OF MODERN EDUCATION
In 1932, the Commission released its first report entitled A Charter for the Social Studies in the Schools, which proclaimed its goals. This was followed in 1934 by its Conclusions and Recommendations. Here are a few examples from that report. Please note that, while this was written in the style of academic literature, it was created to the precise specifications of those who paid the bill. It must not be overlooked that, although these men held doctorates in history, they were writers for hire. They undoubtedly believed in the desirability of collectivism – that’s the reason they were chosen in the first place. Their mission, however, was, not to write past history objectively, but to present it in such a way as to create attitudes so as to influence future history. In other words, they viewed themselves as social engineers and were propagandists for their benefactors.
The commission could not limit itself to a survey of text-books, methods of instruction and schemes of examination, but was compelled to consider the conditions and prospects of the American people as a part of world civilization now merging into a world order. … The American civilization is passing through one of the great critical ages of history, is modifying its traditional faith in economic individualism and is embarking on vast experiences in social planning and control. …
Under the moulding influence of socialized processes of living … there is a notable waning of the once widespread popular faith in economic individualism; and leaders in public affairs, supported by a growing mass of the population, are demanding the introduction into economy of ever-wider measures of planning and control. … Cumulative evidence supports the conclusion that, in the United States as in other countries, the age of individualism and laissez faire in economy and government is closing and that a new age of collectivism is emerging. …
Almost certainly it will involve a larger measure of compulsory as well as voluntary cooperation of citizens in the conduct of the complex national economy. A corresponding enlargement of the function of government and in increasing state intervention in fundamental branches of economy previously left to individual discretion. … The actually integrating economy of the present day is a forerunner of a consciously integrated society in which individual economic actions and individual property rights will be altered and abridged. …
The emerging economy will involve the placing of restraints on individual enterprise, propensities, and acquisitive egoism in agriculture, industry and labor and generally on the conception, ownership, management, and use of property. …
Organized public education … is now compelled, if it is to fulfill its social obligations, to adjust its objectives, its curriculum, its methods of instruction and its administrative procedures to the requirements of the emerging integrated order. … From this point of view, a supreme purpose of education in the United States … is the preparation of the rising generation to enter the society now coming into being.1
If you have been puzzled by the bizarre results of government controlled education since World War II, please go back and read that summary again. Many exposés have been written about progressive education, the demise of national pride, and the dumbing down of America, but none do a better job explaining it than the words of the founders themselves.
These Conclusions and Recommendations were not unanimously endorsed by the sixteen-member commission. Several of the group refused to sign because they thought the concepts were too radical. Others had no problem with the concepts but disliked the recommended curriculum. Their minority dissent, however, was of little consequence and soon forgotten.
Reactions outside academia were more dramatic. Headlines in the New York Times blasted: “Collectivist Era Seen in Survey, Transition from Individualist Age Under Way.” The New York Herald Tribune carried a similar story. An editorial in the New York Sun on May 23 was entitled “Propaganda in Education.” The following year, the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin carried a story entitled “Breeding Communism.”2
In spite of a few outbursts of public indignation, the news value of this story soon faded, and Progressive Education continued a steady, unchallenged march of conquest over public education, while being quietly funded from behind the scenes by the Carnegie Endowment Fund and other powerful tax-exempt foundations under the appearance of philanthropy.
Now let’s go to the words of Norman. Dodd, as he described these events before our cameras in 1982. He said:
This group of twenty historians eventually formed the nucleus of the American Historical Association. Then toward the end of the 1920’s the Endowment grants to the American Historical Association $400,000 [a huge amount of money in those days] for a study of history in a manner that points to what this country can look forward to in the future. That culminates in a seven-volume study, the last volume of which is a summary of the contents of the other six. And the essence of the last volume is, the future of this country belongs to collectivism, administered with characteristic American efficiency.1
Now we must turn off our time machine for a few moments and deal with this word collectivism. You are going to hear it a lot. Especially if you delve into the historical papers of the individuals and groups we are discussing, you will find them using that word over and over. Although most people have only a vague concept of what it means, the advocates of collectivism have a very clear understanding of it, so let’s deal with that now.
THE CHASM: TWO ETHICS THAT DIVIDE THE WESTERN WORLD
There are many words commonly used today to describe political attitudes. We are told that there are conservatives, liberals, libertarians, progressives, right-wingers, left-wingers, socialists, communists, Trotskyites, Maoists, Fascists, Nazis; and if that isn’t confusing enough, now we have neo conservatives, neo Nazis, and neo everything else. When we are asked what our political orientation is, we are expected to choose from one of these words. If we don’t have a strong political opinion or if we’re afraid of making a bad choice, then we play it safe and say we are moderates – adding yet one more word to the list.
Social mores and religious beliefs sometimes divide along the Left-Right political axis. In the United States, the Democrat Party is home for the Left, while the Republican Party is home for the Right. Those on the Left are more likely to embrace life styles that those on the Right would consider improper or even sinful. Those on the Right are more likely to be church-going members of an organized religion. But these are not definitive values, because there is a great deal of overlap. Republicans smoke pot. Democrats go to church. Social or religious values cannot be included in any meaningful definition of these groups.
Not one person in a thousand can clearly define the ideology that any of these words represent. They are used, primarily, as labels to impart an aura of either goodness or badness, depending on who uses the words and what emotions they trigger in their minds. Most political debates sound like they originate at the tower of Babel. Everyone is speaking a different language. The words may sound familiar, but speakers and listeners each have their own private definitions.
1 The complete transcript of Mr. Dodd’s testimony may be downloaded at no charge from the web site of Freedom Force International, www.freedom-force.org. The video from which this was taken is entitled The Hidden Agenda and may be obtained from The Reality Zone web site, www.realityzone.com.
It has been my experience that, once the definitions are commonly understood, most of the disagreements come to an end. To the amazement of those who thought they were bitter ideological opponents, they often find they are actually in basic agreement. So, to deal with this word, collectivism, our first order of business is to throw out the garbage. If we are to make sense of the political agendas that dominate our planet today, we must not allow our thinking to be contaminated by the emotional load of the old vocabulary
It may surprise you to learn that most of the great political debates of our time – at least in the Western world – can be divided into just two viewpoints. All of the rest is fluff. Typically, they focus on whether or not a particular action should be taken; but the real conflict is not about the merits of the action; it is about the principles, the ethical code that justifies or forbids that action. It is a contest between the ethics of collectivism on the one hand and individualism on the other. Those are words that have meaning, and they describe a philosophical chasm that divides the entire Western world.1
The one thing that is common to both collectivists and individualists is that the vast majority of them are well intentioned. They want the best life possible for their families, for their countrymen, and for mankind. They want prosperity and justice for their fellow man. Where they disagree is how to bring those things about.
I have studied collectivist literature for over fifty years; and, after a while, I realized there were certain recurring themes, what I consider to be the five pillars of collectivism. If they are turned upside down, they also are the five pillars of individualism. In other words, there are five major concepts of social and political relationships; and, within each of them, collectivists and individualists have opposite viewpoints.
1. THE ORIGIN AND NATURE OF HUMAN RIGHTS
The first of these has to do with the nature of human rights and the origin of state power. Collectivists and individualists both agree that human rights are important, but they differ over how important compared to other values and especially over the origin of those rights.
Rights are not tangible entities that can be viewed or measured. They are abstract concepts held in the human mind. They are whatever men agree they are at a given time and place. Their nature has changed with the evolution of civilization. Today, they vary widely from culture to culture. One culture may accept that rights are granted by rulers who derive authority from God. Another culture may claim that rights are granted by God directly to the people. In other cultures, rights are perceived as a claim to the material possessions of others. People living in tribal or military dictatorships don’t spend much time even thinking about rights because they have no expectation of ever having them. Some primitive cultures don’t even have a word for rights.
Because of the great diversity in the concept of human rights, they cannot be defined to everyone’s satisfaction. However, that does not mean they cannot be defined to our
1 In the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, there is a third ethic called theocracy, a form of government that combines church and state and compels citizens to accept a particular religious doctrine. That was common throughout early European Christendom and it appeared even in some of the colonies of the United States. It survives in today’s world in the form of Islam and it has millions of advocates. Any comprehensive view of political ideology must include theocracy, but time does not permit such scope in this presentation. We do not have to insist that those in other cultures agree with us; but, if we wish to live in a culture to our liking, one in which we have the optimum amount of personal freedom, then we must be serious about a preferred definition of human rights. If we have no concept of what rights should be, then it is likely we will live under a definition not to our liking.
The first thing to understand as we work toward a useful definition of rights is that their source determines their nature. This will be covered in greater detail further along, but the concept needs to be stated here. If we can agree on the source of rights, then we will have little difficulty agreeing on their nature. If a security guard is hired by a gated community to protect the property of its residents, the nature of the guard’s activity must be limited to activities that the residents themselves are entitled to perform. The guard may patrol the community and, if necessary, physically deter burglaries and crimes of aggressive violence because the residents have a right to do those things. But the guard is not authorized to compel residents to send their children to bed by 10 PM or donate to the Red Cross or save for their retirement or refrain from gambling or use only certain types of cancer treatments. Why not? Because the residents are the source of the authority; the nature of the authority cannot include any act that is denied to the source; and residents have no right to compel their neighbors in these matters. Most of the world’s laws today are in violation of this fundamental principle.
RIGHTS ARE WON ON THE BATTLEFIELD
In societies that have been sheltered for many generations from war and revolution, it is easy to forget that rights are secured by military power. They may be handed to the next generation as a gift, but they always are obtained on the battlefield. The Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution is a classic example. The men who drafted that document were able to do so only because they represented the thirteen states that defeated the armies of Great Britain. Had they lost the War of Independence, they would have had no opportunity to write a Bill of Rights or anything else except letters of farewell before their execution.
Unfortunately, Mao Zedong was right when he said that political power grows from the barrel of a gun. He could just as well have said rights. A man may declare that he has a right to do such and such derived from law or from a constitution or even from God; but, in the presence of an enemy or a criminal or a tyrant with a gun to his head, he has no power to exercise his proclaimed right. Rights are always based on power. If we lose our ability or willingness to physically defend our rights, we will lose them.
Now we come to the chasm between collectivists and individualists. If rights are won on the battlefield, we may assume they belong to the winners, but who are they? Do states win wars or do people? If states win wars and people merely serve them, then states hold the rights and are entitled to grant or deny them to the people. On the other hand, if people win wars and states merely serve them in this matter, then the people hold rights and are entitled to grant or deny them to states. If our task is to define rights as we think they should be in a free society, we must choose between these two concepts. Individualists choose the concept that rights come from the people and states are the servants. Collectivists choose the concept that rights come from states and people are the servants. Individualists are nervous about that assumption because, if the state has the power to grant rights, it also has the power to take them away, and that concept is incompatible with personal liberty.
The view of individualism was expressed clearly in the United States Declaration of Independence, which says:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men….
Nothing could be clearer than that. The dictionary tells us that inalienable (spelled differently in colonial times) means “not to be transferred to another.” The assumption is that rights are the innate possession of the people. The purpose of the state is, not to grant rights, but to secure them and protect them.
By contrast, all collectivist political systems embrace the opposite view that rights are granted by the state. That includes Nazis, Fascists, and Communists. It is also a tenet of the United Nations. Article Four of the UN Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights says:
The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize that, in the enjoyment of those rights provided by the State … the State may subject such rights only to such limitations as are determined by law.
I repeat: If we accept that the state has the power to grant rights, then we must also agree it has the power to take them away. Notice the wording of the UN Covenant. After proclaiming that rights are provided by the state, it then says that those rights may be subject to limitations “as are determined by law.” In other words, the collectivists at the UN presume to grant us our rights and, when they are ready to take them away, all they have to do is pass a law authorizing it.
Compare that with the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution. It says Congress shall make no law restricting the rights of freedom of speech, or religion, peaceful assembly, the right to bear arms, and so forth – not except as determined by law, but no law. The Constitution embodies the ethic of individualism. The UN embodies the ethic of collectivism, and what a difference that makes.
THE ORIGIN OF STATE POWER
Closely related to the origin of human rights is the origin of state power. It is the flip side of the same coin. As stated previously, individualists believe that a just state derives its power from the people. That means the state cannot have any legitimate powers unless they are given to it by its citizens. Another way of putting it is that governments may do only those things that their citizens also have a right to do. If individuals don’t have the right to perform a certain act, then they can’t grant that power to their elected representatives. They can’t delegate what they don’t have. It makes no difference how many of them there may be. If none of them have a specified power to delegate, then a million of them don’t have it either.
To use an extreme example, let us assume that a ship has been sunk in a storm, and three exhausted men are struggling for survival in the sea. Suddenly, they come upon a life-buoy ring. The ring is designed only to keep one person afloat; but, with careful cooperation between them, it can keep two of them afloat. However, when the third man grasps the ring, it becomes useless, and all three, once again, are at the mercy of the sea. They try taking turns: one treading while two hold on to the ring; but after a few hours, none of them have strength to continue. The grim truth gradually becomes clear. Unless one of them is cut loose from the group, all three will drown. What, then, should these men do?
Most people would say that two of the men would be justified in overpowering the third and casting him off. The right of self-survival is paramount. Taking the life of another, terrible as such an act would be, is morally justified if it is necessary to save your own life. That certainly is true for individual action, but what about collective action? Where do two men get the right to gang up on one man?
The collectivist answers that two men have a greater right to life because they outnumber the third one. It’s a question of mathematics: The greatest good for the greatest number. That makes the group more important than the individual and it justifies two men forcing one man away from the ring. There is a certain logic to this argument but, if we further simplify the example, we will see that, although the action may be correct, it is justified by the wrong reasoning.
Let us assume, now, that there are only two survivors – so we eliminate the concept of the group – and let us also assume that the ring will support only one swimmer, not two. Under these conditions, it would be similar to facing an enemy in battle. You must kill or be killed. Only one can survive. We are dealing now with the competing right of self-survival for each individual, and there is no mythological group to confuse the issue. Under this extreme condition, it is clear that each person would have the right to do whatever he can to preserve his own life, even if it leads to the death of another. Some may argue that it would be better to sacrifice one’s life for a stranger, but few would argue that not to do so would be wrong. So, when the conditions are simplified to their barest essentials, we see that the right to deny life to others comes from the individual’s right to protect his own life. It does not need the so-called group to ordain it.
In the original case of three survivors, the justification for denying life to one of them does not come from a majority vote but from their individual and separate right of self-survival. In other words, either of them, acting alone, would be justified in this action. They are not empowered by the group. When we hire police to protect our community, we are merely asking them to do what we, ourselves, have a right to do. Using physical force to protect our lives, liberty, and property is a legitimate function of government, because that power is derived from the people as individuals. It does not arise from the group.1
Here’s one more example – a lot less extreme but far more typical of what actually goes on every day in legislative bodies. If government officials decide one day that no one should work on Sunday, and even assuming the community generally supports their decision, where would they get the authority to use the police power of the state to enforce such a decree? Individual citizens don’t have the right to compel their neighbors not to work, so they can’t delegate that right to the state. Where, then, would the state get the authority? The answer is that it would come from itself; it would be self-generated. It would be similar to the divine right of ancient monarchies in which it was assumed that governments represent the power and the will of God. In more modern times, most governments don’t even pretend to have God as their authority, they just rely on swat teams and armies, and anyone who objects is eliminated.
1 The related question of a right to use deadly force to protect the lives of others is reviewed in Part Four in connection with the White House order to shoot down hijacked airliners if they pose a threat to ground populations.
When states claim to derive their authority from any source other than the people, it always leads to the destruction of liberty. Preventing men from working on Sunday would not seem to be a great threat to freedom, but once the principle is established, it opens the door for more edicts, and more, and more until freedom is gone. If we accept that the state or any group has the right to do things that individuals alone do not have the right to do, then we have unwittingly endorsed the concept that rights are not intrinsic to the individual and that they, in fact, do originate with the state. Once we accept that, we are on the road to tyranny.
Collectivists are not concerned over such picky issues. They believe that states do, in fact, have powers that are greater than those of their citizens, and the source of those powers, they say, is, not the individuals within society, but society itself, the group to which individuals belong.
2. GROUP SUPREMACY
This is the second concept that divides collectivism from individualism. Collectivism is based on the belief that the group is more important than the individual. According to this view, the group is an entity of its own and it has rights of its own. Furthermore, those rights are more important than individual rights. Therefore, it is acceptable to sacrifice individuals if necessary for “the greater good of the greater number.” How many times have we heard that? Who can object to the loss of liberty if it is justified as necessary for the greater good of society? The ultimate group, of course, is the state. Therefore, the state is more important than individual citizens, and it is acceptable to sacrifice individuals, if necessary, for the benefit of the state. This concept is at the heart of all modern totalitarian systems built on the model of collectivism.
Individualists on the other hand say, “Wait a minute. Group? What is group? That’s just a word. You can’t touch a group. You can’t see a group. All you can touch and see are individuals. The word group is an abstraction and doesn’t exist as a tangible reality. It’s like the abstraction called forest. Forest doesn’t exist. Only trees exist. Forest is the concept of many trees. Likewise, the word group merely describes the abstract concept of many individuals. Only individuals are real and, therefore, there is no such thing as group rights. Only individuals have rights.1
1 Corporations fall into this same category. Lately there is widespread anger at corporations because of political favoritism and injustices associated with unprincipled profit-seeking. It is popular to echo the chant against corporations as though they exist as real entities, but they don’t. Corporations are merely groups of investors (stockholders) and their managers who have obtained authorization from the state to carry on business as though they were individuals. However, corporations don’t exist outside the human mind; only the people who run them exist. Therefore, corporations don’t have rights or favors, cannot make money, and cannot pay taxes or penalties. Only people can do those things. “Tax those big, bad corporations, not the workers,” is the cry. Yet. if we double corporate taxes, they are quickly passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices for the goods or services they provide. State taxes on gasoline are an example. Those are not paid by oil companies or service stations. We pay them when we fill the tank. Corporations don’t pay taxes no matter how high they are. Corporate taxes are just another way to extract money from the common man. Currently, if the president or board of directors of a drug company agree to falsify research records to conceal the fact that their vaccine is highly toxic and, as a result, thousands of children are crippled or killed by it, the courts may award large settlements to the parents; and the pundits say, “Good! Those corporations should pay big for that.” But the money is not paid by the executives who committed the crime. It is paid by the stockholders who have no part in it – and by customers who pay indirectly through the purchase of the corporation’s products or services. If corporate executives and directors were personally held responsible for the consequences of their decisions instead of being protected by the legal shield of the corporation, which is created by the state, most if not all of the objectionable acts of corporations would come to a halt. If those who falsify research records were tried for murder instead of being given a bonus for improving drug sales, corporate ethics would improve drastically. This applies to officials in government, as well. If police officers and government officials were held personally responsible for their actions instead being immune from prosecution; if they had to pay court-awarded damages to their victims instead of passing the cost on to taxpayers, the quality of public service also would greatly improve. Corporations and government agencies cannot be held accountable for their actions because they do not exist except as legal concepts, but the people who direct them are real. They can be held accountable and should be.
Just because there are many individuals in one group and only a few in another does not give a higher priority to the individuals in the larger group – even if you call it the state. A majority of voters do not have more rights than the minority. Rights are not derived from the power of numbers. They do not come from the group. They are intrinsic with each human being.
When someone argues that individuals must be sacrificed for the greater good of society, what they really are saying is that some individuals will be sacrificed for the greater good of other individuals. The morality of collectivism is based on numbers. Anything may be done so long as the number of people benefiting supposedly is greater than the number of people being sacrificed. I say supposedly because, in the real world, those who decide who is to be sacrificed don’t count fairly. Dictators always claim they represent the greater good of the greater number but, in reality, they and their support organizations usually comprise less than one percent of the population. The theory is that someone has to speak for the masses and represent their best interest, because they are too dumb to figure it out for themselves. So collectivist leaders, wise and virtuous as they are, make the decisions for them. In this way, it is possible to explain any atrocity or injustice as a necessary measure for the greater good of society.
In subsequent chapters, we will examine how American leaders have used this rationale to justify U.S. entry into World War I, World War II, and The War on Terrorism. However, these examples are so large in scope and involve so many peripheral issues, they tend to obscure the underlying mindset. To better illustrate the point, here is a more finite example. In the 1960’s, an FDA agent who had testified in court against a Kansas City businessman admitted under cross-examination that he had lied under oath twenty-eight times. When asked if he regretted what he had done, he replied: “No, I don’t have any regrets. I wouldn’t hesitate to tell a lie if it would help the American consumer.”1
Ah, yes. The greater good for the greater number. Modern totalitarians always present themselves as humanitarians.
Because individualists do not accept group supremacy, collectivists often portray them as being selfish and insensitive to the needs of others. That theme is common in schools today. If a child is not willing to go along with the group, he is criticized as being socially disruptive and not a good “team player” or a good citizen. Those nice folks at the tax-exempt foundations had a lot to do with that. But individualism is not based on ego. It is based on principle. If you accept the premise that individuals may be sacrificed for the group, you have made a huge mistake on two counts. First, individuals are the essence of the group, which means the group is being sacrificed anyway, piece by piece. Secondly, the underlying principle is deadly. Today, the individual being sacrificed may be unknown to you or even someone you dislike. Tomorrow, it could be you. It takes but a moment’s reflection to realize that the greater good for the greater number is not achieved by sacrificing individuals but by protecting individuals. In reality, the greater good for the greater number is best served by individualism, not collectivism.
REPUBLICS VS DEMOCRACIES
We are dealing here with one of the reasons people make a distinction between republics and democracies. In recent years, it is commonly believed that a democracy is the ideal state structure. Supposedly, that is what was created by the American Constitution, and the justification for invading other countries and overthrowing their tyrannical governments is, we are told, to spread democracy throughout the world. But, if you read the documents and the speech transcripts of the men who wrote the Constitution, you find that they spoke very poorly of democracy – and if you look at the reality of life in those lands where democracy has been delivered, you find little difference between the old and new regimes, except that the new ones often are worse.
In colonial America, Samuel Adams, a prominent leader of the movement for independence, expressed the common view of his colleagues when he said: “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
This understanding of the dark side of democracy was not unique to the American colonists. European historians and political writers of the period had come to the same conclusion. In England, Lord Acton wrote: “The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the party that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.” In Scotland, a history professor at the University of Edinburgh, Alexander Tyler, wrote:
A democracy is always temporary in nature – it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always vote for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy – usually followed by a dictatorship.
Those who drafted the American Constitution believed that a democracy was one of the worst possible forms of government; and so they created what they called a republic. Unfortunately, that word no longer has the classic meaning it did in 1787. Today it is used indiscriminately for everything from military dictatorships, such as The Republic of Angola, to collectivist dictatorships such as the Republic of China. But, when the American Republic was created, the word had a precise meaning and it was understood by everyone.
This is why the word democracy does not appear in the Constitution; and, when Americans pledge allegiance to the flag, it’s to the republic for which it stands, not the democracy. When Colonel Davy Crockett joined the Texas Revolution prior to the famous Battle of the Alamo, he refused to sign the oath of allegiance to the future government of Texas until the wording was changed to the future republican government of Texas.
1 The reason this is important is that the difference between a democracy and a republic is the difference between collectivism and individualism.
In a pure democracy, the majority rules; end of discussion. You might say, “What’s wrong with that?” Well, there could be plenty wrong with that. What about a lynch mob? There is only one person with a dissenting vote, and he is at the end of the rope. That’s democracy in action.
“Wait a minute,” you say. “The majority should rule. Yes, but not to the extent of denying the rights of the minority,” and, of course, you would be correct. As Lord Acton observed:
It is bad to be oppressed by a minority, but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority. … The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities.
To provide security for minorities precisely the role of a republic. A republic is a state based on the principle of limited majority rule so that the minority – even a minority of one – will be protected from the whims and passions of the majority.
Republics are characterized by written constitutions that spell out the rules to make that possible. That was the function of the American Bill of Rights, which is nothing more than a list of things the state may not do. It says that Congress, even though it represents the majority, shall pass no law denying the minority their rights to free exercise of religion, freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, the right to bear arms, and other “unalienable” rights.
These limitations on majority rule are the essence of a republic, and they also are at the core of the ideology called individualism. And so here is another major difference between these two concepts: Collectivism on the one hand, supporting any action so long as it can be said to be for the greater good of the greater number; and individualism on the other hand, defending the rights of the minority against the passions and greed of the majority.
DEMOCRACY COMES TO IN AMERICA
The seed of individualism was firmly planted in American soil, but it was poorly cultivated and soon was crowded out by the weeds of collectivism. When the Founding Fathers passed away, so did the Spirit of 76 that was unique to their generation. The new generations, no longer threatened by tyranny from abroad and having no perception of the possibility of tyranny from within, became more interested in material comfort and pleasure than in the ideology of freedom. The French Revolution had captured their imagination, and they were attracted to the slogans of Equality, Fraternity, and Democracy. The right to vote became the center of their political philosophy, and they adopted the belief that, so long as the majority approves of a measure, it is good and proper. That nebulous thing called society became more important than people. The group had become more important than the individual.
Barely three generations after ratification of the Constitution, a young Frenchman, named Alexis de Tocqueville, toured the United States to prepare an official report to his government on the American prison system. His real interest, however, was the social and political environment in the New World. He found much to admire in America but he also observed what he thought were the seeds of its destruction. What he discovered was collectivism, which even then, was far advanced. Upon his return to France the following year, he began work on a four-volume analysis of the strengths and weaknesses he found. His perceptivity was remarkable, and his book, entitled Democracy in America, has remained as one of the world’s classic works in political science. As we read his words, which are so perfectly descriptive of our modern time, it is hard to believe that they were written in 1831:
The Americans hold that in every state the supreme power ought to emanate from the people; but when once that power is constituted, they can conceive, as it were, no limits to it, and they are ready to admit that it has the right to do whatever it pleases. … The idea of rights inherent in certain individuals is rapidly disappearing from the minds of men; the idea of the omnipotence and sole authority of society at large rises to fill its place.
The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind.
Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing.
After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions: they want to be led, and they wish to remain free. As they cannot destroy either the one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once. They devise a sole, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people. They combine the principle of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite: they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians. Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings, because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large who hold the end of his chain. By this system the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master and then relapse into it again.
3. COERCION VS FREEDOM
The third concept that divides collectivism from individualism has to do with responsibilities and freedom of choice. We have spoken about the origin of rights, but there is a similar issue involving the origin of responsibilities. Rights and responsibilities go together. If you value the right to live your own life without others telling you what to do, then you must assume the responsibility to be independent, to provide for yourself without expecting others to take care of you. Rights and responsibilities are merely different sides of the same coin.
If only individuals have rights, then it follows that only individuals have responsibilities. If groups have rights, then groups also have responsibilities; and, therein, lies one of the greatest ideological challenges of our modern age.
Individualists are champions of individual rights. Therefore, they accept the principle of individual responsibility rather than group responsibility. They believe that everyone has a personal and direct obligation to provide, first for himself and his family, and then for others who may be in need. That does not mean they don’t believe in helping each other. Just because I am an individualist does not mean I have to move my piano alone. It just means that I believe that moving it is my responsibility, not someone else’s, and it’s up to me to organize the voluntary assistance of others.
The collectivist, on the other hand, declares that individuals are not personally responsible for charity, for raising their own children, providing for aging parents, or even providing for themselves. These are group obligations of the state. The individualist expects to do it himself; the collectivist wants the government to do it for him: to provide employment and health care, a minimum wage, food, education, and a decent place to live. Collectivists are enamored by government. They worship government. They have a fixation on government as the ultimate group mechanism to solve all problems.
Individualists do not share that faith. They see government as the creator of more problems than it solves. They believe that freedom of choice will lead to the best solution of social and economic problems. Millions of ideas and efforts, each subject to trial and error and competition – in which the best solution becomes obvious by comparing its results to all others – that process will produce results that are far superior to what can be achieved by a group of politicians or a committee of so-called wise men.
By contrast, collectivists do not trust freedom. They are afraid of freedom. They are convinced that freedom may be all right in small matters such as what color socks you want to wear, but when it come to the important issues such as the money supply, banking practices, investments, insurance programs, health care, education, and so on, freedom will not work. These things, they say, simply must be controlled by the government. Otherwise there would be chaos.
There are two reasons for the popularity of that concept. One is that most of us have been educated in government schools, and that’s what we were taught. The other reason is that government is the one group that can legally force everyone to participate. It has the power of taxation, backed by jails and force of arms to compel everyone to fall in line, and that is a very appealing concept to the intellectual who pictures himself as a social engineer.
Collectivists say, “We must force people to do what we think they should do, because they are too dumb to do it on their own. We, on the other hand, have been to school. We’ve read books. We are informed. We are smarter than those people out there. If we leave it to them, they are going to make terrible mistakes. So, it is up to us, the enlightened ones. We shall decide on behalf of society and we shall enforce our decisions by law so no one has any choice. That we should rule in this fashion is our obligation to mankind.”
By contrast, individualists say, “We also think we are right and that the masses seldom do what we think they should do, but we don’t believe in forcing anyone to comply with our will because, if we grant that principle, then others, representing larger groups than our own, could compel us to act as they decree, and that would be the end of our freedom.”
The affinity between intellectual egotism and coercion was dramatically demonstrated by Canadian law professor, Alan Young, who wrote an editorial in the March 28, 2004 edition of the Toronto Star. His topic was “hate crimes,” and his solution was a classic example of the collectivist mindset. He wrote:
The defining feature of the hate criminal is stupidity. It is a crime born of intellectual deficiency…. Criminal justice actually can do very little to combat stupidity…. The hate criminal probably needs rigorous deprogramming….
Just as some cancers require invasive surgery, the hate crime needs intrusive measures… The usual out-of-site, out-of-mind approach to modern punishment just won’t work in this case. For crimes of supreme stupidity we need Clockwork Orange justice – strapping the hate criminal into a chair for an interminable period, and keeping his eyes wide-open with metal clamps so he cannot escape from an onslaught of cinematic imagery carefully designed to break his neurotic attachment to self-induced intellectual impairment.
In the context of hate crime, I do have some regrets that we have a constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.1
One of the quickest ways to spot a collectivist is to see how he reacts to public problems. No matter what bothers him in his daily routine – whether it’s littering the highway, smoking in public, dressing indecently, bigotry, sending out junk mail – you name it, his immediate response is “There ought to be a law!” And, of course, the professionals in government who make a living from coercion are more than happy to cooperate. The consequence is that government just keeps growing and growing. It’s a one-way street. Every year there are more and more laws and less and less freedom. Each law by itself seems relatively benign, justified by some convenience or for the greater good of the greater number, but the process continues forever until government is total and freedom is dead. Bit-by-bit, the people, themselves, become the solicitor of their own .
THE ROBIN HOOD SYNDROME
A good example of this collectivist mindset is the use of government to perform acts of charity. Most people believe that we all have a responsibility to help others in need if we can, but what about those who disagree, those who couldn’t care less about the needs of others? Should they be allowed to be selfish while we are so generous? The collectivist sees people like that as justification for the use of coercion, because the cause is worthy. He sees himself as a modern Robin Hood, stealing from the rich but giving to the poor. Of course, not all of it gets to the poor. After all, Robin and his men have to eat and drink and be merry, and that doesn’t come cheap. It takes a giant bureaucracy to administer a public charity, and the Robbing Hoods in government have become accustomed to a huge share of the loot, while the peasants – well, they’re grateful for whatever they get. They don’t care how much is consumed along the way. It was all stolen from someone else anyway.
The so-called charity of collectivism is a perversion of the Biblical story of the Good Samaritan who stopped along the highway to help a stranger who had been robbed and beaten. He even takes the victim to an inn and pays for his stay there until he recovers. Everyone approves of such acts of compassion and charity, but what would we think if the Samaritan had pointed his sword at the next traveler and threatened to kill him if he didn’t also help? If that had happened, I doubt if the story would have made it into the Bible; because, at that point, the Samaritan would be no different than the original robber – who also might have had a virtuous motive. For all we know, he could have claimed that he was merely providing for his family and feeding his children. Most crimes are rationalized in this fashion, but they are crimes nevertheless. When coercion enters, charity leaves.1
Individualists refuse to play this game. We expect everyone to be charitable, but we also believe that a person should be free not to be charitable if he doesn’t want to. If he prefers to give to a different charity than the one we urge on him, if he prefers to give a smaller amount that what we think he should, or if he prefers not to give at all, we believe that we have no right to force him to our will. We may try to persuade him to do so; we may appeal to his conscience; and especially we may show the way by our own good example; but we reject any attempt to gang up on him, either by physically restraining him while we remove the money from his pockets or by using the ballot box to pass laws that will take his money through taxation. In either case, the principle is the same. It’s called stealing.
Collectivists would have you believe that individualism is merely another word for selfishness, because individualists oppose welfare and other forms of coercive re-distribution of wealth, but just the opposite is true. Individualists advocate true charity, which is the voluntary giving of their own money, while collectivists advocate the coercive giving of other people’s money; which, of course, is why it is so popular.
One more example: The collectivist will say, “I think everyone should wear seatbelts. People can be hurt if they don’t wear seatbelts. So, let’s pass a law and require everyone to wear them. If they don’t, we’ll put those dummies in jail.” The individualist says, “I think everyone should wear seatbelts. People can be hurt in accidents if they don’t wear them, but I don’t believe in forcing anyone to do so. I believe in convincing them with logic and persuasion and good example, if I can, but I also believe in freedom of choice.”
One of the most popular slogans of Marxism is: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” That’s the cornerstone of theoretical socialism, and it is a very appealing concept. A person hearing that slogan for the first time might say: “What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that the essence of charity and compassion toward those in need? What could possibly be wrong with giving according to your ability to others according to their need?” And the answer is, nothing is wrong with it – as far as it goes, but it is an incomplete concept. The unanswered question is how is this to be accomplished? Shall it be in freedom or through coercion?
1 Let’s be clear on this. If we or our families really were starving, most of us would steal if that were the only way to obtain food. It would be motivated by our intrinsic right to life, but let’s not call it virtuous charity. It would be raw survival.
I mentioned earlier that collectivists and individualists usually agree on objectives but disagree over means, and this is a classic example. The collectivist says take it by force of law. The individualist says give it through free will. The collectivist says not enough people will respond unless they are forced. The individualist says enough people will respond to achieve the task. Besides, the preservation of freedom is also important. The collectivist advocates legalized plunder in the name of a worthy cause, believing that the end justifies the means. The individualist advocates free will and true charity, believing that a worthy objective does not justify committing theft and surrendering freedom.
There is a story of a Bolshevik revolutionary who was standing on a soapbox speaking to a small crowd in Times Square. After describing the glories of socialism and communism, he said: “Come the revolution, everyone will eat peaches and cream.” A little old man at the back of the crown yelled out: “I don’t like peaches and cream.” The Bolshevik thought about that for a moment and then replied: “Come the revolution, comrade, you will like peaches and cream.”
This, then, is the fourth difference between collectivism and individualism, and it is perhaps the most fundamental of them all: collectivists believe in coercion; individualists believe in freedom.
4. EQUALITY VS. INEQUALITY UNDER LAW
The fourth concept that divides collectivism from individualism has to do with the way people are treated under the law. Individualists believe that no two people are exactly alike, and each one is superior or inferior to others in many ways but, under law, they should all be treated equally. Collectivists believe that the law should treat people unequally in order to bring about desirable changes in society. They view the world as tragically imperfect. They see poverty and suffering and injustice and they conclude that something must be done to alter the forces that have produced these effects. They think of themselves as social engineers who have the wisdom to restructure society to a more humane and logical order. To do this, they must intervene in the affairs of men at all levels and redirect their activities according to a master plan. That means they must redistribute wealth and use the police power of the state to enforce prescribed behavior.
The consequence of this mindset can be seen everywhere in society today. Almost every country in the world has a tax system designed to treat people unequally depending on their income, their marital status, the number of children they have, their age, and the type of investments they may have. The purpose of this arrangement is to redistribute wealth, which means to favor some classes over others. In some cases, there are bizarre loopholes written into the tax laws just to favor one corporation or one politically influential group. Other laws provide tax-exemption and subsidies to favored groups or corporations. Inequality is the whole purpose of these laws.
In the realm of social relationships, there are laws to establish racial quotas, gender quotas, affirmative-action initiatives, and to prohibit expressions of opinion that may be objectionable to some group or to the master planners. In all of these measures, there is an unequal application of the law based on what group or class you happen to be in or on what opinion you hold. We are told that all of this is necessary to accomplish a desirable change in society. Yet, after more than a hundred years of social engineering, there is not one place on the globe where collectivists can point with pride and show where their master plan has actually worked as they predicted. There have been many books written about the collectivist utopia, but they never materialized in the real world. Wherever collectivism has been applied, the results have been more poverty than before, more suffering than before, and certainly more injustice than before.
There is a better way. Individualism is based on the premise that all citizens should be equal under law, regardless of their national origin, race, religion, gender, education, economic status, life style, or political opinion. No class should be given preferential treatment, regardless of the merit or popularity of its cause. To favor one class over another is not equality under law.
5. PROPER ROLE OF THE STATE
When all of these factors are considered together, we come to the fifth ideological division between collectivism and individualism. Collectivists believe that the proper role of the state should be positive, that the state should take the initiative in all aspects of the affairs of men, that it should be aggressive, lead, and provide. It should be the great organizer of society.
Individualists believe that the proper function of the state is negative and defensive. It is to protect, not to provide; for if the state is granted the power to provide for some, it must also be able to take from others, and once that power is granted, there are those who will seek it for their advantage. It always leads to legalized plunder and loss of freedom. If the state is powerful enough to give us everything we want, it is also powerful enough to take from us everything we have. Therefore, the proper function of the state is to protect the lives, liberty, and property of its citizens; nothing more.1
1 There is a third category of human action that is neither proper nor improper, neither defensive nor aggressive; activity that may be undertaken by the state for convenience – such as building roads and maintaining recreational parks – provided they are funded, not from general taxes, but by those who use them. Otherwise, some would benefit at the expense of others, and that would be coercive re-distribution of wealth. These activities would be permissible because they have a negligible impact on freedom. I am convinced they would be more efficiently run and offer better public service if owned and operated by private industry, but there is no merit in being argumentative on that question when much more burning issues are at stake. After freedom is secure, we will have the luxury to debate these finer points. Another example of an optional activity is the allocation of broadcast frequencies to radio and TV stations. Although this does not protect lives, liberty, or property, it is a matter of convenience to orderly communications. There is no threat to personal freedom so long as the authority to grant licenses is administered impartially and does not favor one class of citizens or one point of view over another. Another example of an optional government activity would be a law in Hawaii to prevent the importation of snakes. Most Hawaiians want such a law for their convenience. This is not a proper function of government because it does not protect the lives, liberty, or property of its citizens, but it is not improper either so long as it is administered so that the cost is borne equally by all. It could be argued that this is a proper function of government, because snakes could threaten domestic animals that are the property of its citizens, but that would be stretching the point. It is this kind of stretching of reason that demagogues use when they want to consolidate power. Almost any government action could be rationalized as an indirect protection of life, liberty, or property. The defense against word games of this kind is to stand firm against funding in any way that causes a shift of wealth from one group to another. That strips away the political advantage that motivates most of the collectivist schemes in the first place. Without the possibility of legalized plunder, most of the brain games will cease. Finally, when issues become murky, and it really is impossible to clearly see if an action is acceptable for government, there is always a rule of thumb that can be relied on to show the proper way: That government is best which governs least.
THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM
We hear a lot today about right-wingers versus left-wingers, but what do those terms really mean? For example, we are told that communists and socialists are at the extreme left, and the Nazis and Fascists are on the extreme right. Here we have the image of two powerful ideological adversaries pitted against each other, and the impression is that, somehow, they are opposites. But, what is the difference? They are not opposites at all. They are the same. The insignias may be different, but when you analyze communism and Nazism, they both embody the principles of socialism. Communists make no bones about socialism being their ideal, and the Nazi movement in Germany was actually called the National Socialist Party. Communists believe in international socialism, whereas Nazis advocate national socialism. Communists promote class hatred and class conflict to motivate the loyalty and blind obedience of their followers, whereas the Nazis use race conflict and race hatred to accomplish the same objective. Other than that, there is no difference between communism and Nazism. They are both the epitome of collectivism, and yet we are told they are, supposedly, at opposite ends of the spectrum!
In the United States and most European countries there is a mirage of two political parties supposedly opposing each other, one on the Right and the other on the Left. Yet, when we get past the party slogans and rhetoric, we find that the leaders of both parties support all the principles of collectivism that we have outlined. Indeed, they represent a right wing and a left wing, but they are two wings of the same ugly bird called collectivism. A true choice for freedom will not be found with either of them.
There’s only one thing that makes sense in constructing a political spectrum and that is to put zero government at one end of the line and 100% at the other. Now we have something we can comprehend. Those who believe in zero government are the anarchists, and those who believe in total government are the totalitarians. With that definition, we find that communism and Nazism are together at the same end. They are both totalitarian. Why? Because they are both based on the model of collectivism. Communism, Nazism, Fascism and socialism all gravitate toward bigger and bigger government, because that is the logical extension of their common ideology. Under collectivism, all problems are the responsibility of the state and must be solved by the state. The more problems there are, the more powerful the state must become. Once you get on that slippery slope, there is no place to stop until you reach all the way to the end of the scale, which is total government. Regardless of what name you give it, regardless of how you re-label it to make it seem new or different, collectivism is totalitarianism.
Actually, the straight-line concept of a political spectrum is somewhat misleading. It is really a circle. You can take that straight line with 100% government at one end and zero at the other, bend it around, and touch the ends at the top. Now it’s a circle because, under anarchy, where there is no government, you have absolute rule by those with the biggest fists and the most powerful weapons. So, you jump from zero government to totalitarianism in a flash. They meet at the top. We are really dealing with a circle, and the only logical place for us to be is somewhere in the middle of the extremes. We need social and political organization, of course, but it must be built on individualism, an ideology with an affinity to that part of the spectrum with the least amount of government possible instead of collectivism with an affinity to the other end of the spectrum with the most amount of government possible. That government is best which governs least.
Now, we are ready to re-activate our time machine. The last images still linger before us. We still see the directors of the great tax-exempt foundations applying their vast financial resources to alter the attitudes of the American people so they will accept the merger of their nation with totalitarian regimes; and we still hear their words proclaiming that “the future of this country belongs to collectivism, administered with characteristic American efficiency.” It’s amazing, isn’t it, how much is contained in that one little word: collectivism.