July Fourth 2010: The State Versus the Individual
In America, individualism is a kind of philosophical almost theological ideal upon which our society was founded. This foundation birthed a society of free individuals who entered into a social contract wherein they surrendered some authority and power to government to gain enough security and peace to enjoy their rights while retaining their inherent freedom and inviolable personal independence.
That man was conceived of by our founders as a created being is attested to in the Declaration of Independence when it 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.” These rights the Creator endowed us with fall into two broad categories.
The primary of these is the right to think and act as we see fit in matters which concern and affect only ourselves. Then there are civil rights. These are the rights all people possess before entering into the social contract such as, to act, to own property, to manage our own affairs in areas that might affect others all of which are not surrendered by our entrance into society, since they are inherent and endowed by our Creator. These second are the rights which no one individual can assure for themselves without the cooperation of others, hence the need for a social contract and society. And although the individual is not personally capable of ensuring the enjoyment of these rights this does not give society the authority to curtail them. It’s for the protection of these rights that governments are established, or as the Founders put it, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.”
All of the above refers to and elaborates upon the rights of individuals. Each individual as created and endowed is sovereign in and of their own person and should therefore enjoy the unfettered exercise of their rights which besides those already enumerated also consist of the right to equality before the law, to participate in political activity, to engage in commerce, and to express their thoughts and beliefs.
The state is nothing more than individuals bound together by the social contract which they have all either directly or indirectly agreed to. The state is not an individual. The state is not a separate entity with inherent rights of its own. This is a destructive concept which is equivalent to making the state god and is contrary to reality. For when states begin to exert their personhood, to demand their rights this always equates to the usurpation of individual rights by corrupt leaders who say by their actions, “I am the State” in the name of a vague collective that is ultimately beneficial to them.
When contemplating the forceful nature of government within the lives of men Henry David Thoreau accepted the motto, “That government is best which governs least,” and he even expanded it to say, “That government is best which governs not at all” making him the poster child for modern anarchists. While not embracing the extremity of Thoreau’s position the reasonableness of Jefferson’s is seen in his statement, “I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences of too much liberty, than those attending too small a degree of it.” Perhaps Thoreau had too much faith in his fellow man, but sad to say his descendants have become a people with too much faith in government. For government, once it has secured the peace and security necessary for the individual to enjoy the use of their personal rights, once it has secured the border from invasion and made provision for defense is more an encumbrance than a help.
Over the years there have been many abuses of power by the representatives of the people. The rights of the individual have been curtailed and the imagined rights of the government have been expanded at their expense. However, the American ship of state has always righted itself after the aristocratic or bureaucratic storm passed. However, today the dreamweavers of collectivism are ensnaring whole generations in their cradle-to-grave web of dependency. Collectivism is not native to the human condition, and it does not spontaneously evolve from the actions or the desires of life. Everywhere it is imposed by ideologues through either the use or the threat of force. The modern manifestations of collectivism in its extreme Communism, National Socialism, and Fascism have everywhere been attended by massive dislocations of society, mass murder, war and collapse. In its milder and more immediate manifestations, socialism and corporatism leads the way to stagnation, loss of incentive and economic collapse.
In America we see the fusion of politicians, unions, interest groups and too-big-to-fail crony capitalism into a formless cross-party bloc reminiscent of the outfit which has controlled Chicago politics for generations. The principle proponents of this new conception of American society, the Progressives in the left-wings of both major political parties, have maneuvered themselves to the apex of power, and are controlling all three branches of the federal government. They have the stated goal of transforming America, and the transformation they have in mind is the collectivization of all for the benefit of the few. Washed away will be the individualism which has been our foundation and the sanctity of the rights this individualism proclaims. As an unnatural creature the collective state asserts its imagined rights at the expense of our endowed ones.
Dr. Owens teaches History, Political Science, and Religion for Southside Virginia Community College and History for the American Public University System. http://drrobertowens.com © 2010 Robert R. Owens firstname.lastname@example.org