May 22, 2013 by Liberty
Many libertarians value the individual rights above all (most) collective rights. The collective is seen as a word used to control people that don’t agree with what you believe. Many supporters of politics insist upon the collective right. They seem to believe everyone would be throwing rocks into crowds of people and making bombs during their free time (perhaps while throwing a Styrofoam cup out their car window.) In the battle of collective rights vs individual rights, certain ideas can easily get caught up in either corner.
We can all sympathize with the supporters of collective rights. I don’t want a big corporation poisoning wildlife or using slave labor. Call it my, liberal bend but I understand why people want to control people from doing things that are completely out of our ethical line of reasoning.
I also sympathize with the hardcore individualists arguing for rights. No one can argue that the individual is the smallest minority. One person can’t vote an elected official into office. One person has virtually no control over collective control. I don’t want collectives claiming 51% can make slavery ethical.
The Reality of the Terms
Those sympathies that I hold are not uncommon. We all want individuals to not be taken advantage of and collectives to not be taken advantage of. That means this shouldn’t be as complicated as it always seems to be.
The main problem that comes up in discussions about the individual and the collective is the terms people use and what they mean.
A major question that needs to come up is, “What is the collective anyway?”
Despite many individualists fighting the collective, the collective is not the problem. If you asked an individualists a collective support question in different set of terms, more often than not, they’d agree with them. The problem is in, what I call, the undefined collective.
The undefined collective is a way that many collectivists describe results. The undefined collective can include society, our country, everyone, and many other terms. I’ll give a few examples to clarify what I consider the undefined collective:
“Taxes help society.”
If this doesn’t sound like an absurd statement then you need to look into the details of it more carefully. Who is society? Does society include people getting blown up my bombs paid for by taxes? Does society include people taxed disproportionally high? Of course not. Taxes help a certain set of people within society. Quite frankly, thinking that bombs help “society” is a pretty selfish belief that requires you put your own life above other people.
“Education helps our country.”
This is more of an acceptable statement but still not well enough defined to count it as true. (I’m going to ignore education as a vague term because it’s unrelated to the point.) Our country is another very vague collective. I think everyone would agree that education could help any individual. Individualists believe in that but… Does education of an individual help everyone? That depends. It certainly doesn’t help the person that would have taken advantage of them. That means, collectively speaking, it doesn’t help “our country” just the people that would have been taken advantage of.
The undefined collective is where the majority of problems come up. If you ask an individualist if they put their own family above another family, they’d usually admit that they would. The family is a defined collective. Then you ask if the individualist supports collective rights, they’ll usually laugh at you and say collective rights are stupid.
Both sides are usually misguided a bit.
The individual rights have everything to do with collective rights.
Both Are Good Things
There is nothing wrong with wanting the best for every individual. That, logically, includes any defined collectives. The defined collective is all about working together for a common goal. Historically, people have always gathered in large groups for a reason. We can do more when we’re working together.
Working collectively allows people to trade amongst each other based on the value they produce. That means more experts in fields, which ultimately means, more output. (Scientists don’t have to waste their time pulling weeds out of their field. They focus on science just like the farmers focus on farms.) This is an amazing collective arrangement for the people involved.
Scarcity is reducing by the day. The extra resources are allowing people to focus on creating new an innovative technology that just reduces the scarcity faster.
I am totally for the collective. I want every individual involved in the collective to have the maximum opportunity to live their life safely and peacefully. I may preach individual rights but I only do it because individuals are what the collective is made of.
There is no reason to be decisive about collective rights vs individual rights. They’re the exact same thing. The problem comes from excessively argumentative individualists and undefined collectivists.