Individualism is a philosophy of self-ownership and the pursuit of virtue. Despite the obvious positives of such a philosophy, many people oppose individualism. However, their actions clearly show a preference for self-reliance, even if they try to undermine individuality.
Today, I discuss how the actions of our opponents implicitly support self-ownership despite their anti-individualism arguments.
Table of Contents
- What Is Individualism?
- The Clear Benefits of Individualism
- Why People Oppose Individualism
- Three Ways People Support Individualism Through Their Actions
- 1) Everyone respects their own property rights
- No One donates to the government
- The simple hypocrisy of the collectivist
- 2) People believe in their human dignity
- Collectivists Respect Their Sovereignty
- 3) Individual Preferences Show Individuality
- Everyone Has An Opinion
- 1) Everyone respects their own property rights
- Concluding Thoughts: We Are All Individualists
What Is Individualism?
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Individualism philosophy is a social theory that values the individual above the collective and the state’s needs, wants, and desires. Politically, it is expressed through libertarianism, minarchism, and anarcho-capitalism. Economically, it is expressed through capitalism.
As a personal philosophy, individualism is about self-improvement through the rigorous pursuit of virtue. The clear benefits of individualism lie in its promotion of self-improvement, virtue, and personal responsibility, acting as a catalyst for overcoming vices and achieving personal goals.
The Clear Benefits of Individualism
Self-ownership and personal responsibility are net positives in society. Some benefits include:
- If you own yourself, you will value yourself and seek the best outcomes for your life. Individuals who seek their most virtuous ends will refuse the twin calls of vice and nihilism.
- Individualism is about virtuous living. Thus, your whims are subjugated to higher ideals, which helps prevent hedonism. You are less likely to pursue self-destructive and unhealthy tendencies if you don’t indulge in your impulses.
- Lastly, you cannot leech off your neighbor because you are responsible for yourself. This forces everyone to perform at their best and seek help when justified.
The impact of individualism on society is profound, promoting self-ownership, personal responsibility, and virtuous living. These are the pillars of a society where individuals value themselves and strive for the highest ideals, rejecting hedonism and nihilism. Such a society, governed by the principles of individualism, cultivates responsible and self-reliant citizens.
Why People Oppose Individualism
So why is individualism opposed, despite its clear benefits to society and the individual?
The principles of individualism grant power to the individual. Our society, leaders, and institutions do not derive power from responsible people. They derive strength from addicts. Self-reliance frees you from your personal afflictions and addictions. If you have few vices, you cannot be exploited by collectivists. Thus, they lose power.
For example, if individuals exercised sexual prudence and self-control, there would be fewer single moms and deadbeat dads. Single moms depend on the state and are always a reliable voting block for more government power. With fewer single moms, fewer individuals are relying on the state apparatus. Thus decreasing its influence.
Additionally, most people don’t want to be responsible for themselves. Responsibility is heavy and requires constant vigilance and effort. Weak individuals prefer to outsource responsibility and give power to institutions, even though such outsourcing is foolish.
For example, most people don’t want to deal with raising and educating their children. So they outsource this responsibility to the government so that the government can provide a poor education at a higher cost.
Three Ways People Support Individualism Through Their Actions
Because people are hostile to individualism, they are driven to refute it as often as possible. Such refutations are boring: individuals are not rational; individuals are greedy; individuals are flawed; individuals are selfish; we need order, and the government provides this; individualism leaves us atomized, etc.
I have refuted these claims throughout my blog and newsletters. Despite these tired arguments, opponents fail to see how their actions and behaviors show implicit and explicit support for self-ownership.
Individualism, as a foundational belief system and reality, cannot be denied. We are individuals; everything supports this reality, including how we carry ourselves.
Here are the three ways people support individualism through their actions:
1) Everyone respects their own property rights
An individual owns himself. Thus, he owns his labor and the by-products of it. Nearly every creed, from Christianity to socialism, denies this basic fact of life.
No One donates to the government
Regarding property, weak individuals are eager to take from others but are quick to defend their possessions. For example, everyone loves the nebulous idea of taxation and the benefits taxes bring. However, no one donates voluntarily and directly to the government to fund the social programs they claim to want.
I’ve never seen a statist give money to their local, state, or federal government. Why? Because they know that money will be wasted. They have no interest in putting their money on the line. Weak individuals prefer everyone forcibly give to the state, so the sting of wasted resources isn’t as direct or obvious.
Furthermore, statists, socialists, Christians, and other groups advocate for free healthcare, government roads, Medicare for all, and other social programs. They love watching the government control these industries and provide such services for “free.”
But when it comes to who they can sleep with, what they can eat, and other ways they can spend their time and money on personal pursuits, suddenly, they are very individualistic.
The socialist wants free healthcare but doesn’t want the government telling him what he can eat. The Christian wants the government to enforce social norms but doesn’t want his drinking or marriage heavily regulated.
The simple hypocrisy of the collectivist
The blatant hypocrisy highlights a fundamental truth: people respect their property when it is unduly attacked or challenged. They respect their individual desires and do not want that freedom infringed upon.
Such a mindset is not the mind of an altruistic collectivist focused on the “common good.” But an individualist who wishes to pursue what he thinks is best for himself.
2) People believe in their human dignity
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
Human dignity is the belief that someone is worthy of respect, honor, and courtesy simply for being human. Dignity is tied to the idea that we own ourselves and that our actions and desires should be respected and protected.
Of course, collectivists don’t believe this. Catholics do not think we should be free to choose our path, even if it’s virtuous, as long as that path goes against the teachings of the Church. Socialists do not believe we can focus on accomplishing our goals if such goals make us free of our addict neighbors. On and on, collectivists do not respect the individual’s dignity and will use the government, social pressure, and any other tool they have to undermine sovereignty.
Collectivists Respect Their Sovereignty
However, collectivists believe very, very much in their own sovereignty. They value their lives and the ability to live them freely. For example, environmentalists will complain about climate change and too many people on the planet. They are fine with subjugating the poor to a lower standard of living or murdering children in the womb. But they are never quick to sacrifice themselves or lower their standard of living.
Similar to the ridiculous notion that we can be altruistic, people simply show their love of self through their actions. And that’s individualism: the selfish pursuit of what you desire. Hedonism takes our path towards vice. But individualism takes us towards virtue.
Collectivists’ respect for their desires shows self-love and admiration for an individual’s dignity. There are no altruists. We all live and act towards what we desire as individuals.
3) Individual Preferences Show Individuality
Lastly, we must look at how people always make exceptions, even if they believe strongly in their convictions. Let me explain what I mean.
Socialism is the idea of group ownership of the means of production. Most socialists do not believe this and will gladly keep their own property while advocating yours is taken. However, there are a few socialists who take this belief to its logical conclusion. These people live miserable, mediocre lives, but they are consistent.
This consistent socialist will demand compliance from champagne socialists. Why does he demand compliance? Because he considers himself to be correct. He is appealing to his views and opinions. He values himself above others.
Everyone Has An Opinion
There can be no place where the individual does not assert himself and value his opinion. He cannot be altruistic; he is always selfish, and he will always pursue what he selfishly desires, even if such aims are for “other people.”
Even then, the individual is still displaying what he prefers. You can’t escape the individual. The individual may be the sum of his culture, heritage, country, family, and language. But, he is also how he responds to these things.
We can accept and reject multiple things, from a bad childhood to our native tongue. We can expand our knowledge in areas we are not inherently gifted in. We can overcome vices we are culturally and genetically predestined to indulge in. We can do nearly anything as long as the individual chooses differently.
Concluding Thoughts: We Are All Individualists
So much blood and ink have been spilled because people refuse to accept that individuals own themselves. Weak individuals, their lives so small, can only respond with anger and violence to the reality of self-ownership.
But I’ve highlighted the inherent human inclination towards individualism. Even people who champion collectivist ideologies often unconsciously exhibit behaviors and values indicative of individualistic principles.
Despite the proclaimed allegiance to collectivism, the underlying human respect for personal freedom, property rights, and individual preferences reveals the inescapable nature of individualism. We all want to be free. We all want our actions, desires, and property to be respected.
No ideology is perfect because man is imperfect. Therefore, while individualism is the foundational component of civilization, other things, such as God and family, are crucial to further flourishing.
But our lives should not be subject to the whims of others. Our lives should not be dictated by violent institutions. Our lives should not be enslaved to whatever fancy strikes the elites.
There is no peace, success, or greatness without the individual. We cannot erase him, no matter how hard we try.
“What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.” – Confucius
- When were you first exposed to individualism? What did people say about it? What do people say about it now?
- Does the hypocrisy of others bother you? Why? Where do you find yourself being a hypocrite? I ask to get you thinking critically about your emotions and how the world may rock you.
- Reflect on instances where you or others around you have opposed individualistic approaches or ideas. Were there underlying fears or biases driving this opposition? Did the opposition stem from a genuine belief in collectivism, or were there elements of self-interest and individual preference in the opposition?
- Identify situations where you or others, despite professing support for collective ideologies or norms, acted in ways that implicitly supported individualism. What do these instances reveal about the inherent human inclination towards individualism?
- What is frustrating about the modern world? What do you wish were different? What could you do to escape the madness all around us?
- Think about how you can incorporate the principles of individualism in your daily life, career, and relationships. How can you balance your individual preferences and values with your responsibilities and commitments to others?
- Reflect deeply on instances where your actions may have been inconsistent with your professed beliefs and values. How can you address such discrepancies and align your actions more closely with your beliefs? How do your reflections on such instances inform your understanding of individualism and collectivism?
Please remember it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.