The Root Of Collectivism: The Fear Of The Burden Of Freedom

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Posted: Oct 31, 2018 11:37 AM
The Root Of Collectivism: The Fear Of The Burden Of Freedom

Many irrational people have the delusion that collectivism creates a Utopian society where citizens of such a society live free from oppression and secure.  As Paul explains in Romans, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather the Creator.”[1] This is the very Utopian worldview that collectivists put forth, often through legislation, regulations, or monetary policy using rhetoric pushing one-world governance.   However, Tzvetan Todorov, the Franco-Bulgarian philosopher, reveals the reality of collectivism, writing that, “Communist society strips the individual of his responsibilities.  It is always “somebody else” who makes the decisions.  Remember, Individual responsibility can feel like a crushing burden…The attraction of a totalitarian system, which has had a powerful allure for many, has its roots in a fear of freedom and responsibility.”[2] 

The result of what Todorov is discussing is that property rights diminish.  When a citizenry relinquishes their responsibility – becomes reliant on the government to provide – as a result, it begins to demand the property of others through the brute force of government.  Since governments have no wealth on their own, nor do they create any wealth, they must take wealth from other citizens in order to provide for the citizens which relinquish their own responsibility and rely on the government to provide.  The critical entry point to give government the power to achieve this is through taxation and the monetary and banking system.  “Once government intervenes in society’s (monetary) affairs, individuals will increasingly develop a disposition for violating other peoples’ property.”[3]The rich must pay their fair share.   Taxation.  “A pure fiat money system, once it has set into motion, will lead to collective corruption on the presumably grandest scale.  As is well known, government can secure its support by letting the public at large (actually parts of it) share in the enjoyment of the receipts fraudulently extracted from natural owners of things…With growing government handouts, a growing number of people and businesses will become economically and socially dependent on the continuation (or even further expansion) of government activity.”[4]  The government manipulates its people to give it legitimacy to violate property rights via money– the monetary, banking, and tax systems.

Even Adam Smith, in 1759, directly discusses the delusion many have of their ideology.  “The great body of the party,” declares Smith, “are commonly intoxicated with the imaginary beauty of this ideal system, of which they have no experience.”  He continues that “Those leaders themselves, though they originally may have meant nothing but their own aggrandizement, become many of them in time the dupes of their own sophistry, and are as eager for this great reformation as the weakest and most foolish of their followers.”[5]  This wise and prophetic comment by Smith is evident on nearly a daily basis on newscasts and in articles.  Smith also eloquently states that these type of people are “often so enamored with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government, that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it.  He goes on to establish it completely and in all its parts, without any regard either to the great interests, or to the strong prejudices which may oppose it.”[6]  In essence, they become tyrants over the little people which simply cannot see, nor understand, their grand vision of their ideology.  This happens most often even as other nation states are collapsing financially, and as the people of the nations are having their rights stripped away, brutalized, incarcerated, or killed.

Friedrich Hayek compares and contrasts effectively the individual versus the collective – by presenting which is selfish and which is not.   And although the collectivist will denigrate freedom and capitalism as a selfish means of existence, Hayek counters that collectivism, itself, is purely selfish and destructive:

What our generation is in danger of forgetting is not only that morals are of necessity a phenomenon of individual conduct but also that they can exist only in the sphere in which the individual is free to decide for himself and is called upon voluntarily to sacrifice personal advantage to the observance of a moral rule.  Outside the sphere of individual responsibility there is neither goodness nor badness, neither opportunity for moral merit nor the chance of proving one’s conviction by sacrificing one’s desires to what one thinks right.  Only where we ourselves are responsible for our own interests and are free to sacrifice them has our decision moral value.   We are neither entitled to be unselfish at someone else’s expense nor is there any merit in being unselfish if we have no choice.

That in this sphere of individual conduct the effect of collectivism has been almost entirely destructive is both inevitable and undeniable.   A movement whose main promise is the relief from responsibility[7] cannot but be antimoral in its effect, however lofty the ideals to which it owes its birth.  Can there be much doubt that the feeling of personal obligation to remedy inequities, where our individual power permits, has been weakened rather than strengthened, that both the willingness to bear responsibility and the consciousness that it is our own individual duty to know how to choose have been perceptibly impaired?...There is much to suggest that we have in fact become more tolerant toward particular abuses and much more indifferent to inequities in individual cases, since we have fixed our eyes on an entirely different system in which the state will set everything right.  It may even be, as has been suggested, that the passion for collective action is a way in which we now without compunction collectively indulge in that selfishness which as individuals we had learned a little to restrain.

They are no longer the liberty of the individual, his freedom of movement, and scarcely that of speech.  They are the protected standards of this or that group, their “right” to exclude others from providing their fellowmen with what they need.   Discrimination between members and nonmembers of closed groups…injustices inflicted on individuals by government action in the interest of a group are disregarded with an indifference hardly distinguishable from callousness; and the grossest violations of the most elementary rights of the individual…[8]

We should also heed the warning from Samuel Adams that, “The right to freedom being a gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave.”[9]  Adams is forewarning us to be perpetually vigilant.  Claude Frédéric Bastiat, the famous French economist, and perhaps, the most prolific economic writer in history, also bestowed a warning against giving up one’s freedom to the state:

Government is that great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.[10]

Bastiat, in his treatise, Government, states exactly what Hayek would reiterate 100 years later: “Government cannot satisfy one party without adding to the labor of the others.”[11]  Bastiat’s economic lessons are perhaps the best and most concise even to this day.   As Murray Rothbard wrote, “Bastiat was indeed a lucid and superb writer, whose brilliant and witty essays and fables to this day are remarkable and devastating demolitions of protectionism and of all forms of government subsidy and control.  He was truly scintillating advocate of an untrammeled free market.”[12] 

This belief – and this behavior – puts America in complete conflict with collectivism.   Perhaps no one articulated this better than Alexis de Tocqueville:

Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom, socialism restricts it.  Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number.  Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality.   But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.[13]

Hayek also reiterates the clash that Tocqueville so fervently observed, “that democracy as an individualist institution stood in an irreconcilable conflict with socialism.”[14]  Ronald Reagan also starkly warned America of this propinquity.  “[I]f you lose your economic freedom, you lose your political freedom and in fact all freedom.  It is never more than one generation away from extinction.  Every generation has to learn how to protect and defend it.”[15]  As Jesus said to Peter, we also must uphold, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling-block to me; for you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”[16]

Good economics align with Natural Law.  At our founding and in our founding compact we obligated to Natural Law.  Natural Law is God’s Law and, therefore, reality.  We are to learn and follow this reality even with economics.  “Do not conform to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”[17]

[1] Guideposts, The Guideposts Parallel Bible (Carmel, NY: Guideposts), New International, Romans 1:25, p. 2850.

[2] Stéphane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Jean-Louis Panné, Andrzej Paczkowski, Karel Bartošek, and Jean-Louis Margolin, 1999 (Originally published in 1997), The Black Book of Communism:  Crimes, Terror, Repression, (Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press), pp. 12-13.

[3] Thorsten Polleit, February 1, 2013, “Banking and the State,” Mises Daily, (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute), [http://mises.org/daily/6314/Banking-and-the-State].

[4] Thorsten Polleit, February 1, 2013, “Banking and the State,” Mises Daily, (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute), [http://mises.org/daily/6314/Banking-and-the-State].

[5] Adam Smith, 2014 (originally published in 1759), The Theory of Moral Sentiments, (Lexington, KY: Economic Classics), p. 203.

[6] Adam Smith, 2014 (originally published in 1759), The Theory of Moral Sentiments, (Lexington, KY: Economic Classics), p. 204.

[7] Hayek notes here that “This becomes more and more clearly expressed as socialism approaches totalitarianism.”

[8] Friedrich A. von Hayek (Bruce Caldwell, Ed.), 2007 (originally published in 1944), The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents, (Routledge, London: The University of Chicago Press), pp. 216-218.

[9] W. Cleon Skousen, 2006 (originally published in 1981), The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle that Changed the World, (United States of America: National Center for Constitutional Studies), p. 12.  Referenced from William V. Wells, 1865, The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams, (Boston, MA: Little Brown and Company).

[10] Claude Frédéric Bastiat, 2007 (originally published in 1848), “Government,” from The Bastiat Collection, (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute), p. 99.

[11] Claude Frédéric Bastiat, 2007 (originally published in 1848), “Government,” from The Bastiat Collection, (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute), p. 99.

[12] Murray N. Rothbard, 1995, Classical Economics: An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, Vol. II, (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute), p. 444.  Also referenced in Mark Thornton, April 11, 2011, “Why Bastiat is Still Great,” Mises Daily, (Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute), [http://mises.org/daily/5180], and Doug French, February 24, 2012, “The Clear Language of the Austrian School,” Townhall.com, [http://finance.townhall.com/columnists/dougfrench/2012/02/24/the_clear_language_of_the_austrian_school/page/full/].

[13] Referenced in Friedrich A. von Hayek (Bruce Caldwell, Ed.), 2007 (originally published in 1944), The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents, (Routledge, London: The University of Chicago Press), p. 77.  See footnote 3 for Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835, Democracy in America.

[14] Friedrich A. von Hayek (Bruce Caldwell, Ed.), 2007 (originally published in 1944), The Road to Serfdom: Text and Documents, (Routledge, London: The University of Chicago Press), p. 77.

[15] Ronald Reagan, January 1978, “Whatever Happened to Free Enterprise?” Address delivered by Governor Reagan at Hillsdale College during the Ludwig von Mises Lectures Series, [http://www.hillsdale.edu/news/imprimis/archive/issue.asp?year=1978&month=01].

[16] Guideposts, The Guideposts Parallel Bible (Carmel, NY: Guideposts), New International, Matthew 16:23, p. 2488.

[17] Guideposts, The Guideposts Parallel Bible (Carmel, NY: Guideposts), Revised Standard, Romans 12:2, p. 2881.