e-book For the Greater Good of All: Perspectives on Individualism, Society, and Leadership

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In Los Angeles, for example, drivers have resisted the ideas of urban planners and the additions of carpool lanes and mass transit because of their individual preferences to hop in the car and drive. Other examples of public resistance to collectivist ideas at the federal level include opposition to Obamacare and Common Core. Even though Obamacare was enacted in , public opposition to it remains high at nearly 50 percent and lawsuits continue to be brought on account of its overreach. It is quite remarkable that this major federal initiative continues to face significant opposition six years after enactment.

Common Core was well on its way to approval across the states when people began to recognize it as a significant government encroachment on local authority over school curriculum, at which time it became increasingly unpopular and efforts were undertaken in several states to repeal it. Indeed, Common Core and various social policies applied to schools have caused an increase in home schooling, which is yet another grassroots form of individualism resisting collectivism.

Collectivism- the opposite of Individualism and America — Science Leadership Academy @ Center City

Remarkably, home schooling has grown over 60 percent during the last decade. It is wise for rugged individuals to appreciate what has been settled by the deliberate sense of the community over time, and what is still open for debate, discussion, and resistance. Some things are settled: Social Security will not be taken away, unless it runs out of money, for example. But Obamacare is not settled—it is still challenged in court and repealed in the House of Representatives though not in the Senate and unpopular in the polls.

Gun control, the role of God in the public square, and many other issues are not settled and are worthy of debate and resistance.

1. First Contrast: Welfare Consequentialism

People still flock to Mount Vernon, Monticello, the National Archives, and Philadelphia to learn about the founders and the founding. Born of a mixed-race mother in the West Indies, Hamilton came to America as an immigrant; the cast that celebrates his life and contributions is primarily black and Latino, encouraging all kinds of Americans to identify with the story. Hamilton suggests there is untapped interest in the complexities of the founding, which could be encouraged by more creative civic education.

At the same time, it may also be important to play a little defense against those forces that seem to have rugged individualism constantly in their crosshairs and under assault. At the very least, the goal should be to maintain rugged individualism as an appropriate element of American character that should be valued and kept at the table of public life. Certainly America needs to wake up to the value and importance of rugged individualism properly understood. The sheer passage of time from the founding and the pioneering frontier days allows Americans to fall asleep and forget some of their core values.

And for some, the idea of rugged individualism is so attached to the frontier heroes that it is difficult to carry it forward to a time when, arguably, the country has evolved to become less independent and more interdependent.


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To some, rugged individualism sounds like an anachronism from a much earlier time. And then we must admit that rugged individualism has had real enemies who have sought to undo it and replace it. The Progressives, in particular, have fought rugged individualism on at least two grounds. Either they have sought to attach it to the Old West and open frontiers, rendering it irrelevant when the country was settled and people began to live together in cities; or they have shrunk it down to a set of selfish economic motives of the robber barons of yesterday, or the top 1 percent today, and have sought to attack it as unworthy of America.

Americans need to be reawakened to rugged individualism as more than a John Wayne cowboy of the West or a robber baron of the East.


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  5. It is foremost a starting point of analysis for our unique society. America did not begin with the church or the state or the king as the center of things, but instead the individual. It is the individual who is the unit of analysis in America and everything else proceeds, as a series of choices, from that starting point. We may choose a government or church or a particular kind of society, but those choices are made by Americans as individuals. We must not fall asleep on that core dimension of rugged individualism. We must also be reawakened to the centrality of individual liberty, or individual rights, that are at the core of rugged individualism.

    The Declaration of Independence declares those individual rights and the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, protects them. Such rights are not anachronisms from another time, but are active and vital today. As Herbert Hoover warned when he returned to the United States from war-torn Europe, we must never give up our unique freedoms to the various totalitarianisms that were sweeping the Continent. We must be ever alert to the danger that government stands ready to limit our individual freedoms in favor of some other good—be it government takeovers of education or health care, or diminution of our freedoms of religion or speech, or allowing individual liberty to become a mere abstraction.

    We must be reawakened to these cornerstones of rugged individualism in each generation. As Jefferson said, the world belongs to the living, and each generation must work out its own understanding of things. We should neither have a blind veneration for the past Federalist No. As mentioned earlier, efforts to regulate the size of soda beverages was one such moment when people recognized that the government was going too far.

    But the real problem was the invasion of individual liberty—after all, who should be deciding what size beverage cup people buy?

    Resisting Machiavelli

    Surely not the government. Another such missed opportunity came when the government declared millions of individual health insurance policies to be illegal because they did not contain all the protections government thought should be there. It turns out that many of those missing provisions had nothing to do with the health of the individual purchasing the policy—maternity care for young men, for example—but were one more super-sized government regulation to try to make the economics of federalized health care work. Once again, this was a liberty moment and, in addition to denouncing the misleading government promise that if you liked your health care you should keep it, critics should have gone deeper to identify the attack on individual liberty.

    These efforts could help make individual liberty less of an abstraction and more of a priority for a younger generation so accustomed to big government. Then, in the words of the Scripture, we must strengthen and protect what remains. The Founders thought that the several checks and balances and separations of power in the Constitution were important to protect individual rights, especially against the passions of the moment and the power of government. So rugged individualism, even today, relies on that very constitutional system for protection. Calls to break down the federalism structure—whether by strengthening executive power, or turning to some kind of parliamentary system, or allowing the courts to take over our social and economic decisions—are a kind of declaration of war against individual rights.

    They are packaged more seductively, of course, as evolutionary steps in the development of a complex republic or as ways of breaking down barriers to government action. But now, as then, we need our federalist structure to protect American individualism. On every issue we should continue to ask a vital set of questions: Is this something the government should do?

    If so, which branch: executive, legislative, or judicial? And which level: federal, state or local?

    Understanding Cultures & People with Hofstede Dimensions

    These are the protections our constitutional system affords to individualism and liberty. In other words, the individual should again be the starting point of analysis, not the government. As one example, governments lined up to ban hand-held phones in cars, even though there was evidence that the real problem was not the physical distraction of holding a phone, but the driver inattention caused by talking on the phone.

    Government reaction to the economic crisis, despite evidence that government policy frequently worsens the economy, is a larger example. In the case of Obamacare there were policy options that would have helped the uninsured that did not inhibit the liberty of individuals to buy their own policies. The economic argument—that the funding only worked if everyone was in it together—has certainly not played out to be accurate, with a huge uninsured population despite massive investment in a misguided program.

    In an effort to do something, government often ends up doing the wrong thing.

    Individualistic Cultures and Behavior

    We must halt this notion that government is responsible for everything and must, in every case, do something. Putting the public back into public policy would mean exploring what individuals, nonprofits, communities, businesses, and other nongovernmental entities might do, as well as government action. And even within the realm of government solutions, these schools focus primarily on national and international solutions to problems, not local approaches that may be more effective.

    In effect, schools of public policy are institutionalizing the mistaken approach of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and other Progressives that if only we had the right national experts or enlightened administrators able to run the federal system, things would be better, despite considerable evidence to the contrary.

    Improving civic education in America would also strengthen the spirit of rugged individualism. Polls consistently show that young people cannot name one of their home state US senators, nor do they understand basic elements of the Constitution. Without an understanding of the American system—or worse, with a kind of distaste for American history from misguided high school textbooks—young Americans will be hard-pressed to champion constitutional governance or protect individual rights.

    Are you Muslim or are you not? Do you follow the asserted correct reading of the Koran, or not? All non-believers are to be either converted or threatened with death in a multiple of cruel and brutal forms — thrown off a rooftop, beheaded on social media, burned alive in a cage, or shot in acts of mass execution with the victims thrown into rivers until the water runs red. The individual has no right to live, act, or believe other than what the voices who claim to speak for God declare to be the path to righteousness in this life and after.

    This is why all forms of collectivism — philosophical, religious, political, or economic — reject and condemn all philosophies of political and economic individualism. Political individualism insists that nations and states do not have an existence independent from or superior to the individuals who may be members of a particular nation-state. Economic individualism emphasizes that production, work, and creative and innovative entrepreneurial discovery are the results of individual effort and imagination.


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    7. Individual human beings do these things and they do not happen separate from these individual actions and activities. Economic individualism explains that order and coordination of the actions of multitudes of tens of millions of people do not required government central command or regulatory dictation or direction. The philosophy of individualism is the foundation of a free society; it is the basis of a community of men that does not require or demand the sacrifice or enslavement of some for the one-sided benefits of others.

      Individualism is the premise of a morality for mankind that recognizes and respects the liberty and dignity of every human being. It is the ethical philosophy of freedom.

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