I’m attracted to individualism because I am a collectivist at heart.
*Edit – Read Susan’s response article here
By: Susan Cassidy
I went into teaching because I wanted to make a difference. Most of us do. I certainly did not go into it for the money or the pension. Hell, at the beginning of my career, at the ripe old age of 20, I didn’t even know exactly what a pension was, nor had I ever heard of the State Teachers’ Retirement Association. As for those that say we go into it for our summers off? Well, they just sound stupid. I was an idealist that wanted to change the world by teaching music to some of the world’s children.
But the way I wanted to make the world, the collective, a better place is to concern myself with individuals, and their individual successes and failures. One of my goals as a teacher has always been to foster students’ independence; to teach them enough about music theory that they can go into any music store, pick out a piece of music they like, and learn it on their own; to train their ears to the level that they can listen to their favorite song on the radio and figure out for themselves how to play it; and, of course, to teach them enough about life that they can go out and live a self-sufficient and productive one, hopefully as a patron of the arts. For teachers, this is pretty standard. Regardless of what you are told by certain members of the talk-show media, I do not know a single teacher that wants to create little minions for the state. Nor have I ever met an educator whose ultimate goal was to put more of the populace on food stamps.
Fast-forward 20 years to find me wholly interested in politics, and not politics just for the sake of debate, as fun as that can be. But politics for the sake of making the world a better place. See, I think as a society we’ve failed, or at the very least, we’re getting a D. We’ve had altruistic goals, but what of our results? Have we nurtured self-sufficient individualists? Or have we created like-minded dependents? My attraction to libertarianism does not come from a desire to be left alone as much as it comes from a belief that collectivism does in fact, hurt the collective.
Collectivists mean well. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. House the homeless. Those are honorable goals, and goals that can be met in a libertarian society, just not met by our government. Recently I saw a picture of a woman holding a hand-written letter heralding her gratitude for Obamacare. Great, I’m glad she was healed. Ironically, the same day I also saw this article about primary care physicians going bankrupt.
So, because of Obamacare, this individual was able to get a service that she could not afford on her own. Her hand written letter says nothing of her having the freedom to get the service and pay out of pocket, at possibly an outrageous cost, but get the life-saving service none-the-less. Nor does it mention the fact that she could have asked for a self-pay discount and then worked out a payment schedule that she could handle. No, because of the culture we have grown up in, it is her RIGHT to receive this service and it is clearly someone else’s responsibility to pay for it. Perhaps it is the medical professionals’ responsibility to provide her with their years of training, study, and nights away from family, for free. Of course, she also neglects to consider the effect that PRIOR government intervention had on the prices of that service to begin with. Medical licensing/medical training limited by government (again for arguably good reasons, but it DOES contribute to the current cost of health care) and tax incentives for businesses to offer third party medical insurance. Anytime a person perceives that something is free or nearly free, they use more of it. Do I take my children to the doctor more often than I need to now because of my relatively low copay? Probably. Years of government meddling and reactionary legislation for the “greater good” and now Miss “I am Obamacare” can’t afford to be responsible for her own health AND, according to the yahoo article, doctors are going broke. That’s nice that she received free healthcare since “Obama passed health-care reform” (her words, not mine). Forget that her ability to do so might make it harder for the rest of the collective to receive health care after doctors go bankrupt.
Of course, I wonder if the writer of the article about doctors will do a follow-up piece on how MORE government intervention would make things better. Such is the way of collectivism… state a problem, and instead of allowing the private sector the freedom to solve the problem, or even the individual herself to address the problem, introduce large-scale one-size fits all centralized solutions. Nevermind if a whole new set of problems is created. Vote for me, and all will be well.
And that is just what may piss me off the most about statists, the apparent inability to see past the immediate problem to the potential consequences of their proposed solutions. Of course, reducing the size of government will also cause problems. One could argue that just changing the status quo is a form of government meddling. I don’t pretend that trying to go backwards down the path we’ve been on is going to be pain free, I just see it is the best possible solution for…wait for it…society as a whole. There’s that collectivist streak in me again. The born-again limited-government Republicans that act like things will be all rosy once they are in office are lying. This is why some stumble over newly learned limited government mantras as the words come out of their mouths. They would prefer to say that they can fix everything for you too, just like their brethren on the other side of the aisle. But the Democrats promising you free college, free food, and free high-quality health care are lying too. Give me a politician that promises me nothing, only that he will get out of my way and give us a chance to solve some of our problems for ourselves will get my vote. Oh hold up, wait a minute! That’s probably why I like Ron Paul. He isn’t even promising to pre-emptively blow up Iran for me.
Collectivism also weakens the individuals within a society. A liberal friend of mine often accuses Libertarians of being social Darwinists. Let the weak fail to strengthen the herd. What he fails to realize is that societal evolution, or subtle changes in social norms, happens whether we want it to or not. Obviously, many of the changes in social norms have been for the better. In one generation, America has gone from a segregated country to electing a black president. But we’ve also gone from the “greatest generation” to a generation of young adults who believe that they are entitled to things that their grandparents worked tirelessly for. And this sense of entitlement spans the gamut of race, culture, and socio-economic status. Goldman-Sachs’ management felt just as entitled to tax-payer money as Miss “I am Obamacare” does. And some of us feel entitled to the limited government we were promised, but clearly, even that must be worked for.
Early in my teaching career, I had a parent-teacher conference with a young black student and her mom. The child had been having some behavior issues in my class, and I brought her mother in to discuss it. The mom looked at her child and said, “young lady, too many people have died so that YOU can receive an education. How dare you take that for granted?” The candor may have been shocking for me, but the expectations were in some ways refreshing. As parents, we don’t want our children to suffer. We don’t want them to face challenges they will naturally face in life without being prepared to face them. Yet, there are many parents that try to remove any and all challenges from the path of their child, and are shocked to find him dependent upon them, living on their couch, still covered by their health insurance at 25. We’ve done the same thing to society. We’ve set about trying to remove all negative consequences from individuals’ actions, and are shocked to find the country in a worse place for our efforts. Why do so many people feel like health care is not something they should have to pay for, but $200 for the newest Michael Jordan’s? No problem. Why do so many children feel that they MUST go to college, someone else MUST pay for it, and that someone owes them a job once they get out, no matter what their grades were, or whether they have any skill or knowledge to offer an employer. Perhaps we should take a cue from that parent I encountered early on, stop babying ourselves, remember that people have died so that we may live in sovereignty, and stand up and take responsibility for our own lives. Perhaps it’s time we listen to the words of the individualists, the Libertarians, even if they sound harsh against the backdrop of an ever-“progressing” collectivist culture. Because it just may be that the best way to “be our brother’s keeper” is to let him, be.
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