James Leroy Wilson's blog

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Individualism and Selfishness

Via Logan Ferree, more gag-inducing smug Big Government Conservatism:
As antigovernment conservatives seek to purify the Republican Party, it is reasonable to ask if the purest among them are conservatives at all. The combination of disdain for government, a reflexive preference for markets and an unbalanced emphasis on individual choice is usually called libertarianism. The old conservatives had some concerns about that creed, which Russell Kirk called "an ideology of universal selfishness." Conservatives have generally taught that the health of society is determined by the health of institutions: families, neighborhoods, schools, congregations. Unfettered individualism can loosen those bonds, while government can act to strengthen them.

Except, of course, it is the government that has loosened those bonds over the past century. Moreover, it is depraved for a warmonger to go around quoting Russell Kirk. Gerson continues:
By this standard, good public policies—from incentives to charitable giving, to imposing minimal standards on inner-city schools—are not apostasy; they are a thoroughly orthodox, conservative commitment to the common good.

In Gerson's eyes, to believe that the Declaration of Independence has some truth in it, and that the the Constitution puts limits on government, means what it says, and should be followed, is un-conservative. As Logan suggests, maybe that's true, in the European conception of the term.

But let's get back to this "unfettered individualism." Every argument against "unfettered individualism" boils down to this: "Government should have the power to fine, imprison, and kill people I don't like or who do things I don't like."

Individualists, on the other hand, believe in fining, imprisoning, or killing only in self-defense, against people who have done tangible harm to others without their consent.

Selfishness boils down treating others as means only, and not as ends in themselves.

So who is really the more selfish, the individualist, or the anti-individualist? The answer is pretty obvious to me.

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