Saturday, July 23, 2005

The Individual and Society

A recurring theme of the posts here at Libertopia is that of individualism and individual liberty. While it may, at times, sound like a broken record (or a scratched CD), the concept of individuality is among my core principles. Beyond that, it appears to be a perennial “bee in the bonnet” for social ideologs of every flavor (excepting, of course, individualists).

As it happens, coincidentally, two of my fellow LLP members are engaged in a gentlemen’s disagreement, as well as my discussion with someone at another blog. I’ll deal with the latter first, which concerns Old Whig’s Brain Dump.

Al concludedthis post with the following question: What, though, is the goal of political theory? As one might expect, my answer was: “As far as I’m concerned, the highest goal of political philosophy is the preservation and maximization of individual liberty.” Additionally, I rejected the desire of society to impose a narrow, subjective moral code on others. But Ron, a commenter, took issue with my response. The money quote comes from the comment exchange of the aforementioned post, in which Ron wrote:
With 6 billion people on earth it is very hard to find a place by yourself where you can be alone enough to really be an individual.

As far as majority ruling it is probably the best form of Government ever created. Unfortunately I think that anywhere you have people collecting together for safety or economic reasons there are going to be some choices made that one group or the other do not like. In other words people are going to feel forced into obeying laws they don't believe are right.
First of all, my view of ‘individualism’ is not synonymous with ‘isolationism’. Rather, my individualistic leanings refer to the unfettered ability to direct the affairs of my life, without being granted permission to do so by ‘the group’. Now, it’s important to appreciate the distinction between the subjective and the objective, in terms of self regulation. That is: objective prohibitions of personal conduct are limited to actions that impinge the liberty of another; whereas, all other conduct is the purview of the individual. To me, this is straight forward, but unfortunately, such is not the case for everyone. In that regard, I spoke to the decline of individualism a while back.

With respect to the second part of Ron’s comment, and specifically: "As far as majority ruling it is probably the best form of Government ever created.", I could not disagree more. Rather than rehash my opposition to ‘majority rule’, I'll mention one of my first posts, in which I demonstrated the dangers of democracy. Now, to Ron’s other assertion: "In other words people are going to feel forced into obeying laws they don't believe are right.", I would say that “how one feels” about a certain law is irrelevant. What is truly important, in terms of drafting legislation, is that individual liberty is respected and that deference is given to the subjective choices of each individual adult. In other words, strict adherence to the original meaning and intent of the Constitution, a document designed to protect a "minority of one".

In the same vein, my fellow LLP members, Brad and T.F. Stern, are examining the tension between the concerns of society and those of individuals. Brad’s view is not unlike mine. He sees it this way:
This, of course, is going to ruffle a lot of feathers. Some people are intolerant of any change, and to some people, tolerance is a code-word for “acceptance” or “celebration”. As with most things, my view on this is live-and-let-live. The people that talk about divorce destroying the “sanctity” of marriage don’t understand that other people getting divorced doesn’t mean you are required to at some point. Riled up about some female celebrity flouting tradition to become a “single mother”? That doesn’t mean you can’t raise your kids in a nuclear family. You think homosexuality is wrong? Don’t partake. You think your way is the “right” way and the “moral” way? Follow it, but don’t be shocked when others take a different route.
Conversely, T.F. is convinced that individuals ought not to be “permitted” the liberty and freedom to be secular. He draws a line in the sand where tolerance is concerned.
When I hear that we must be tolerant of the deviant carnal members of our society, that is not the same as permitting these degenerates the ability to remove the foundation upon which our society depends by altering our concepts of liberty and freedom to mean disobedience and rebellion to God’s commandments and the eternal laws which have always been in place, regardless of man’s acceptance of them.
While I certainly recognize the freedom of others to think and say whatever they like, I reserve the right to think and speak in opposition to any and every idea that is ultimately aimed at limiting my liberties and the liberties of similar dissenting views. In effect, various moralists and culturalists set themselves up as a mob of social dictators, who insist upon conformity to standards of their choosing, while rejecting the same treatment in reverse. The classic American example is illustrated in the form of partisan politics. Both the Left and the Right spend inordinate amounts of cash to seat their candidates, with the express purpose of imposing their ideological will upon everyone. All the while, they rather hypocritically decry the Islamists for having the selfsame goals. But to be fair, where the latter ignores the right to Life (suicide murderers), the former ignores the right to Liberty and Property (The New Deal, The Great Society, Reich, Kelo, prayer in public schools, "blue laws", McCain-Feingold, the FCC, etc., etc., etc.).