Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Collectivism and Majoritarianism

Chapter ? - Collectivism and Majoritarianism

What exactly is society, and what are the “rights of society”? To begin with, it must be established that the fundamental flaw in social theory is to treat “society” as if it were an actual existing entity in its own right. Society has been often treated either as a superior entity with overriding “rights” of its own, or a demon to be conjured up and blamed on all of the problems of the world. But treating society, the whole, as an individual that chooses, acts and thinks on its own produces an absurdity which functions to blur reality. It must be realized that only individuals exist, make choices, take actions and think thoughts. Society is not a living entity of its own, but rather it is simply a term for a group of interacting individuals. It is merely the sum of its parts, but it is not one sentient entity. Society cannot engage in choices, actions and thoughts of its own as if it were an individual. If twelve people act together to attack five others, then this is most certainly a case of a group of individuals acting in concert to against another group. If the twelve attackers were to refer to themselves as “society” acting on its own volition, this surely would be an absurd claim. But let the amount of people in question increase, especially to the level of an entire nation, and such ideas function as a dangerous obfuscation indeed.

In essence, society is everyone but yourself. It cannot be blamed or given responsibility for the actions of its individual counterparts. If Joe steals from Jack, the sensible view would be that Joe is responsible for his actions. But many may say that “society” is somehow responsible for Joe’s actions. But this notion is quite ridiculous. It would mean that everyone but Joe himself is responsible for the crime. The fictitious use of “society” functions to obscure the reality of such a situation. If society is responsible for crime, and the criminal himself is thus not responsible for it, then everyone else in society, who did not commit the crime, including the victim, would be held as responsible. This notion is absolutely absurd and is a classic case of using society as a demon to be blamed for the actions of individuals. Thus, we see the absurdity that collective thinking leads us to, where the existence and importance of the individual is obscured. This becomes even more ridiculous when we blow it up to the level of nations. As the historian Parker T. Moon pointed out:

“When one uses the simple monosyllable "France" one thinks of France as a unit, an entity. When . . . we say "France sent her troops to conquer Tunis"—we impute not only unit but personality to the country. The very words conceal the facts and make international relations a glamorous drama in which personalized nations are the actors, and all too easily we forget the flesh-and-blood men and women who are the true actors . . . if we had no such word as "France". . . then we should more accurately describe the Tunis expedition in some such way as this: "A few of these thirty-eight million persons sent thirty thousand others to conquer Tunis." This way of putting the fact immediately suggests a question, or rather a series of questions. Who were the "few"? Why did they send the thirty thousand to Tunis? And why did these obey? Empire-building is done not by "nations," but by men. The problem before us is to discover the men, the active, interested minorities in each nation, who are directly interested in imperialism and then to analyze the reasons why the majorities pay the expense and fight the war necessitated by imperialist expansion.”

In order to determine what society should, shouldn’t, does or doesn’t have, we must adequately establish the basis for rights in the first place. The fundamental pillar of all rights is the right to self-ownership, possession and control over one’s own body. It is inherent by mans’ nature that they own their own person; each individual naturally owns their own body by the inherent fact that they control it. To deny this is to deny the basis for all rights; if one doesn’t own their own body, then it would follow that they do not own any possessions that they use their body to obtain. If one doesn’t own their own body, then there is no such thing as “free speech” or free expression of any sort. By logical deduction,.consider the consequences of denying that each individual has a right in their own person: either (1) a particular group of people have the right to own another group or everyone else or (2) everyone has the right to own an equal quoatal share of everyone else. Some may contend that there is an extra option, that noone owns their own person or property. But if this were the case, humanity would quickly perish. People simply would not exist as thinking and acting beings if they did not own themselves.

The first alternative would imply that the ownership group deserves the rights of being human, while the owned group does not. But obviously, since the “owned” group indeed are human beings, the first alternative is contradictary because it denies natural human rights to a particular group of humans. The first alternative is essentially the conditions for slavery, where one group lives parasitically at the expense the other. The second alternative, which is essentially the basis for communism or communalism, holds that everyone owns an equal share of everyone else. That would mean that if there are eight billion people in the world, everyone has the right to own one eight-billionth of everyone else. In essence, the communal option rests on a complete absurdity: that every man is entitled to own a piece of everyone else, but not to own oneself. The practicality of such a world would be absurd, where no individual could take any action without the prior approval of everyone else in the world. In the collectivist utopia, noone would be able to do anything, and humanity would surely perish. The collectivist world cannot be put into practise in the first place because it is physically and logically impossible to keep track of everyone in such a way. It is utterly impossible for a new-born baby in Pakistan to own a piece of land or home in Ohio, and vice versa. The very fact that individuals exist negates the communalist ideal. Communal ownership is simply not possible. Therefore, in practise, the communalist world falls back on our first alternative, where one group would own the person of the masses in the name of communal ownership. In short, any attempt at communal ownership will inevitably degenerate into class rule, and this is clearly demonstrated by all communist governments in history. Because of the fact that utopia of communal ownership is an absurdity, and the individual has no importance in communalism, it inherently yields some kind of oligarchy or dictatorship.

If each individual naturally owns their own body, then it follows that they own that which they use their body to create and use; their property. Ownership of property, such as one’s home, expressly stems from the expression of one’s self-ownership in stewartship and control over that property. One’s income, for example, derives from the expression of one’s self-ownership through the labour that brought about the income, and therefore the fruits of that is one’s ownership of their money. The exact same methodology applies here. The only other options would be for one group to own the property of everyone else, which is the grounds for class rule, or that everyone would own an equal part of the property of everyone else, which is an absurdity that will degenerate into class rule. Thus, we see that the collective, the whole, does not have rights of its own. Rights belong to individuals, not groups or the whole. The notion of collective rights and collective ownership is ridiculous.

It may be asked, what of ownership of land? Doesn’t noone own any land, or does everyone own the land? Some contend that everyone own’s the earth equally, communally. But this is an absurdity. The answer to the question is that, in its natural state, the land is in a condition of non-ownership. However, once an individual makes use of that land, the ownership of that land is theirs. While the owner of the land does not literally create the land, they do mix their self-ownership, their labour, with that land and create something new out of it. This is the basis for their ownship of that land, known as the “first use rule”. Once an individuals transforms a given piece of land for their own purposes, it becomes their legitimate property. The ownership of the land, however, extends only so far as one makes use of it. For example, if Crusoe lands on a baren island, he cannot legitimately claim ownership of the whole island. If he builds a home, he owns only that piece of land by which he makes use of. This becomes even more true when we introduce other individuals into the equation. If Jones has a home on another part of the island, then Jones too owns the land by which he makes use of, and Crusoe therefore cannot lay claim on such land. The collective option is equally absurd in terms of land ownership; it would imply that everyone on the island owns an equal share of the land. But Jones does not own any share of Crusoe’s land, for he has made no use of it. One cannot legitimately own something that they do not use. All of the resources of the earth do not belong to “society”, they belong to the individuals that make use of it. And if they do not homestead it, then it is in a state of non-ownership. Once again, the collective cannot objectively own anything, only individuals can.

Let us return again to our “society”. Does society have rights of it’s own that supercede the rights of the individual? But, as we have established, society is not an individual that chooses, acts and thinks on its own. Society is merely a term used for the cumulative result of the individuals that make it up. It is made up of independant individuals that choose, act and think on their own. Inherently, there is some level of diversity and conflict between the choices, actions and thoughts of varying individuals. Each individual chooses, acts and thinks in a way in which they percieve is their own good. This is inherently based on subjective value judgements. Thus, one cannot realistically attribute a particular value judgement to every single individual in the entire world or everyone in a particular country. As we have seen, it is the individual that has rights, not groups or the whole. By enforcing judgements of value that are subjective to the individual onto society as a whole, the rights of the individual will inevitably be violated. This is not to say that there are no judgements at all that can be justly enforced, but judgements of value (as in how much to pay for a given product, what to say or write and wether or not it is true, what to wear, what to eat, who to marry, which religion to practise, etc. – in short, any matter of personal opinion) cannot justly be enforced on individuals.

By treating society as a whole as an individual in its own right, with a concience, choices and actions of its own, the reality of the individual and their cooperation with others dissapears from sight. This functions to obscure things. A common concept stemming from collectivism that people are supposed to accept is the supremacy of the majority. But this notion must be discarded as illegitimate. If 150,000 people voted to murder and enslave 100,000 other people, or 2 other people - it would not be legitimate. If 80% of the country was Muslim or Atheist, it would not be legitimate to make such things official and mandatory state edicts. If a majority of Americans are scared of fatty foods, it would not be legitimate to illegalize fatty foods. Neither "the whole" nor the majority can legitimately violate the rights of the individual. The number of people involved in a given measure is not the basis by which it can objectively be regaurded as right or wrong. To play such games with numbers unjustly negates ethical considerations. If Jane thinks that Jack should not have the right to vote, or should not be allowed to speak his mind, this would not be a legitimate or enforcable claim. Increase the number of Janes in society to a relative or numerical majority, and it still would not be legitimate. But if we consider the majority’s opinion to be obsolute in determining the law, then we allow such illegitimate things to occur. Claiming that enforcement of the majority’s personal opinions into the law by saying that it’s for the good of “society” provides us with further absurdity, for the Jacks are themselves part of society and they are being given the short end of the stick. In accordance with what has been previously established, we can clearly see how the notion of the collective and majority is being used to obscure the individual and provide justification for questionable and clearly unethical things.

Under what grounds do people seek to justify such notions? “The Public Good” or “The General Welfare”. But what is the public good; how can it really exist if the individuals within the public vary greatly in what they consider to be their good? "The public good" is so broad that it can be interpreted to mean whatever the individual wants it to. It must be realized, therefore, that things done in the name of the public good and majority rule cannot actually benefit the whole public, they inherently will go against the good of various individuals. There can never objectively be a "public good" beyond the consistant application of rights of the individual. As soon as it is conceded that the majority should always rule, the grounds for religiously violating the rights of the individual have been set up. By giving the government the power to practically do as it pleases in the name of “the public good” or “the general welfare”, by allowing the federal courts to have an overtly broad interpretation of the general welfare clause of the constitution, the government has been empowered to break the limits imposed on it by the social contract (the constitution) that is supposed to bind it, and therefore the government, especially the judicial branch, has been given virtually omnipotent power.
It is almost universally accepted that democracy is good, that democracy is freedom itself. But democracy is not freedom. Democracy just means majority rule. Pure majority rule is mob rule. Mob rule does not equal freedom, it equals tyranny. This should be obvious – as we have established, if the majority always rules, then the majority can violate the rights of the minority and the individual. For example, it should be obvious that a majority opinion that slavery is okay would not magically make slavery correct - it would require circumventing majority rule in such a case to protect the minority. Just as a majority vote in congress for an unconstitutional and unethical law, such as one that created a state religion, would not be "freedom" it would be tyranny of the majority. "Democracy" in the middle east would result in nothing but a Muslim theocracy.

America was created, in part, to protect the minority and individual from this. There are fundamental inherent rights that no majority should be able to vote away. This sentiment is clearly reflected in the declaration of independance, which was heavily inspired by the natural law/natural rights principles espoused by enlightenment figures such as John Locke. To be clear, that does not mean that oligarchy is any better, it is tyranny for different reasons. But it is important to not buy into the cliche of "democracy = freedom", which is not the case. It is a pure misconception, as is the notion that America is supposed to be a pure democracy, which is not the case either.

America was not founded as a Democracy, it was founded as a Constitutional Republic with strict protections of the individual's freedom through strict limits on government power. "A Republic, if you can keep it" were Franklin's words when asked after the constitutional convention what kind of government was created. John Adams argued that democracies merely grant revocable rights to citizens depending on the whims of the masses, while a republic exists to secure and protect pre-existing rights. Ultimately, Democracy (majority rule) is not compatable with individual rights, as it is a collectivist construct. An endless majoritarian rat-race for control over others. Again, it must be realized that if the majority’s rule were truly supreme, then any unethical action or measure can be provided with false justification by playing a numbers game. Whenever someone suggests that majority rule is freedom they're lining us up for tyranny.

Another common theme in relation to collectivism and majoritarianism is the notion that “we are the government”, and believers in democracy wrongly define it in terms of the people’s oneness with their government. In essence, the distinction between society, which is the sum of the individuals that make it up, and the government, which is a particular group of individuals within that overall society who control the apparatus of force and compulsion over the territory, has been blurred. Further, the distinction between the proper role of society, which is to provide for needs and wants, and the proper role of government, which is to enforce rights, has been blurred. The notion that we are the government is an absurdity. For, if we truly are the government, then any action that the government engages in, anything that a government does to an individual is not only voluntary on the part of the individual, but is “just”. But that is logically and physically absurd, for that would imply that if the government does anyting to an individual, they only “did it to themselves”. As the great libertarian Murray Rothbard noted:

“If the government has incurred a huge public debt which must be paid by taxing one group on behalf of another, this reality of burden is conveniently obscured by blithely saying that "we owe it to ourselves" (but who are the "we" and who the "ourselves"'). If the government drafts a man, or even throws him into jail for dissident opinions, then he is only "doing it to himself" and therefore nothing improper has occurred. Under this reasoning, then, Jews murdered by the Nazi government were not murdered, they must have "committed suicide," since they were the government (which was democratically chosen), and therefore anything the government did to them was only voluntary on their part. But there is no way out of such grotesqueries for those supporters of government who see the State merely as a benevolent and voluntary agent of the public.”

Obviously, the government is not “us”. The government does not in any real sense “represent” the majority of the people by the mere fact that it is made up of separate individuals that represent themselves. But even if it did, even if a large percentage of the populace voted to murder and rob a small percentage, it would still obviously be murder and slavery, not suicide or voluntary work on the part of the targeted minority. It must be seen that the government is a separate institution from “society”. There are two crucial distinctions between the government and all other organizations within society. First, every other person or group receives its income by voluntary payment, through voluntary gift or purchase of a given good or service. A government does not function in this way. Only a government obtains its income by coercion and force, through the threat of imprisonment or confiscation if the payment is not forthcoming. Of course, this payment is known as taxation. In short, only a government forces you to buy its product or service, and it gives you no choice as to what kind of product or service you will receive. This is the vital distinction between a government “service” and the free market.

The second distinction between government and any other institution is that, apart from criminals, only the government can use its revenue to commit violence against its own or any other subjects; only the government can prohibit pornography, compel a religious observance, or put people in jail for selling goods or services at a higher or lower price than the government decrees. Essentially, only the government is empowered to use violence against the rights of its subjects, whether to extract revenue, to impose a particular personal opinion, or to imprison or kill those that are subversive to its opinions. And historically, the overwhelming portion of all despotism, all enslavement, confiscation and murder in the history of the world has come from government. The defining feature that lets governments get away with such things is that lack of any higher check on its power; in short, there is no institution to turn to for protection against the government. You might be able to turn to the government for defense against a “private” aggressor, but when the government itself is the aggressor there is no overriding institution to turn to, and therefore the only option is to turn to one’s own aggressors. Finally, it must be realized that the previous mechanisms of confusion (collective ownership, majority rule, the public good, we are the government, etc.) are perpetuated and encouraged by intellectuals within and allied with governments. Thus, it must be noted that no matter how powerful the majority may be, the government ultimately does not base itself on them, for it is a group of its own with its own motives. It may concede to the majority when the majority happens to coincide with its motives (which is likely to be purposefully cultivated opinion by the state), but it ultimately is a separate institution from society that acts in its own interest.

In conclusion, we find ourselves facing a number of glaring truths. These can be summed up as follows: (1) society (and any collective group within it) does not exist as an individual entity, and therefore it does not have rights, thoughts, choices or actions of its own - only individuals exist, have rights, think thoughts, make choices and engage in actions (2) collectivist ideas, because they are impossible to actually come to realization, inevitably lead to one group controlling another group in the name of the collective (3) majority rule, which is the basis for democracy, inevitably violates the rights of the individual, and therefore the common presumption that democracy is the best or even a good form of government is not founded in reality and (4) governments are separate institutions from society as a whole that are distinguised by the use of compulsion and force in order to establish and continue their existance, and collective ideals are touted by state intellectuals in the name of providing justification for their actions and expanding their power into the realm of the arbitrary and omnipotent.

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