The Two Main Approaches to Organizing Human Societies across history- Collectivism versus the free individual Wendell Krossa
The comment below comes from a “fiercely Independent” viewpoint. Kinda like Goldilocks- not too far Left, not too far Right. Sort of Libertarianish, or better- Classic Liberalism. Floating like a butterfly, free to alight wherever, enjoy the nectar and then move on. A self that is free in an open process and not fixed too rigidly on any “object” (i.e. not finding cemented identity in some immutable ideology, religion, nationality, race/ethnicity, or other objects of human identity). Open and free like ‘The Mutable Self’ of Louis Zurcher.
“Independent” because while both sides have commendable features and concerns, neither side gets it all right (and this is not “bothsideism”). David Boaz, for example, said regarding the US situation that Republicans needed to embrace more freedom in the social realm and Democrats needed to embrace more freedom in the economic realm. Neither side held a monopoly on good. My ‘Free Floating’ stance also keeps me from the dogmatic tribalism that locks into loyalty to one side only and views the other side as an enemy to be conquered or cancelled.
Interesting note: While some claim that the US Democratic party has previously been more centrist, many on both the Conservative and Liberal sides of the US situation now note that US Democrats/Liberals are being pulled further toward Leftist collectivist ideologies (“Woke Progressivism”). US Republicans continue also to be pulled toward coercive state intervention on social issues (i.e. women’s rights, choices, and freedoms).
The foundations of modern freedom and equality trace back centuries to developing principles that advocated that all people in a society should be treated equally under law (i.e. Magna Carta and earlier documents/practises). Contemporary views on freedom and equality are grounded in beliefs that every person deserves the same rights and protections as all others.
These beliefs include a foundational plank in modern freedom- i.e. protected property rights. That is the principle that you can create or improve something, and if you invest effort/resources in that something, then the resulting outcome of your investment is protected. You will reap the reward of your investment. Elites/powerholders, whether monarchy, lords, or government officials, cannot confiscate the outcome of your creativity and work. The protection of personal property under law is absolutely basic to equality and freedom. Protected property rights unleashed the modern burst of human creativity and progress with outcomes in an immensely improved human condition that we all value.
Balancing both sides and what works best:
(1) The primary orientation to the collective, or (2) a primary orientation to the individual. We never get all that we want on either side of these political divides hence, both sides are obligated out of common decency (“peace and love”) to make some compromise with, basically, what is often the other half of our societies. And there are enough major issues that both sides can agree to cooperate on (e.g. basic health care for all, criminal-justice reform, public safety priority, growing economies/jobs and good income for all, etc.).
The Left/Right or Liberal/Conservative dualism in our societies often becomes infected with the residual tribal impulse that we have inherited from our animal past. The tribal impulse continues to erupt in today’s societies, along with a dose of hardening dogmatism, to the detriment of the necessary cooperation to maintain peace. Fortunately, surveys show that most people on both sides identify with the more moderate/centrist positions on most social issues.
Is there some healthy balance between the free individual approach and the collectivist approach? Our societies continue the multiple-millennia back and forth tug between these two approaches to organizing human societies (see Arthur Herman’s “The Cave and The Light” for the long-term history of this tug-of-war, traced from the Greeks on down through subsequent millennia). It appears that most people will continue to embrace some mixed version of these two approaches that encompasses the concerns of both sides.
We are seeing one of the latest versions of the Collectivist versus ‘Individual freedom’ struggle play out in the arena of the climate debate where climate alarmists are advocating for coercive collectivist solutions.
I would locate the core issue as this- What primary orientation of a society (i.e. the Collectivist or the Individual approach) has a historical track record of providing the most good for the most people? And based on such evidence: What has then proven to be the more optimal approach for organizing human societies?
Protected individual freedom and rights embraces personal property rights, protected freedom to enter private contracts, self-determination and self-government, and other personal freedoms. Such protected personal freedom uniquely unleashes human motivation and creativity to solve problems and to improve life in all ways, with the by-product of benefitting the larger collective- all humanity. Historically (notably over the past two centuries), the orientation of societies to individual freedoms, protections, and rights has resulted in the most good being done for the most people, with billions lifted out of the misery of poverty. And most critically, the distribution of power among competing/cooperating equal individuals has prevented the centralization of power that inevitably leads to eruptions of the destructive totalitarian impulse (i.e. meddling with the personal freedom of others, coercively controlling others).
Collectivism emphasizes the group and group goals as having priority over the individual and individual rights. Under collectivist approaches the individual is subordinate to some larger collective- i.e. regional, state, or national. Collectivism traditionally advocates for abolishing private property (nationalization of resources/industries). Collectivism involves the centralization of power under the direction of some guiding/controlling elite and that is its primary failing and danger.
Examples of collectivist approaches- tribal societies, communes (e.g. Robert Owen’s “Communalism”), Communism, Socialist states, the collective element in social democracies or Democratic Socialism, and more recently Left-leaning Progressivism.
Arthur Herman notes that German philosopher Georg Hegel gave modern collectivism its orientation to the state as the embodiment of the collective or greater good. The collective became government bureaucrats legislating for all members of a society how to live their lives (i.e. individuals subjected to state elites as in Marxist models). “Teams of bureaucrats become a virtual cadre of Philosopher Rulers who bring order and justice to a needy world… the State acting to protect us from ourselves because the State is our Better and Higher Self” (Cave and Light, p.436). The state or government then became the embodiment or representative of greater good in societies.
Let it be affirmed- Collectivist concern for greater or common good is to be honored. The issue, however, is how do we best achieve the most good for the most people, including the good of protecting the freedom of all. What does historical evidence reveal that works best to lift the most people out of the misery of poverty and into prosperity and well-being? In other words, which approach has worked best to actually get us to the greater or common good of all. Again- the most good for the most people?
The approach and principles that get us to the broadest possible common or greater good must be understood, honored, and protected above all else.
A Bit of History
HumanProgress.org notes the explosion of wealth creation and the consequent improvement of the human condition that began, notably, in the early 1800s (1820 to be more exact- https://www.humanprogress.org/about/). See also William Bernstein’s ‘The Birth of Plenty’. That outburst of progress points to the singular great contribution of the West to the rest of the world, a contribution that is often discredited/dismissed by the anti-industrial society activism that comes predominantly from environmental alarmism today. The overall anti-capitalism crusade of past centuries has been taken up more generally today by Left-leaning Progressivism.
Too many outright despise and belittle Western civilization, claiming that it has mainly been about the excesses of Colonialism, Capitalism, and the initial harmful outcomes of industrialization. Admittedly, early industrialization was damaging to people and to nature. But “Environmental Transition” or “Ecological Kuznets Curve” research shows that with increasing wealth, developing nations have responsibly transitioned to cleaning up industry, improving the human condition, and improving their overall environments. All people are natural environmentalists when they can afford to be such. This has been the history of the developed nations of the West and elsewhere.
The essential nature of the Western tradition is its orientation to individual freedom. The Western approach of organizing society around individual human freedom, protected personal freedom, has unleashed human creativity as never before through technological industrial society. The Western approach of orienting society to free individuals, via free market principles, has given us all that we value today in improved living conditions and the technological advances of today.
With the immense wealth-creating potential of free individuals, industrial society has also enabled us to protect and improve our natural world as never before. This overturns the relentlessly distorting narrative of environmental alarmists that economic growth and development destroys nature. See Desrochers and Szurmak’s book ‘Population Bombed’ for detail on how human progress in industrial society benefits even nature (e.g. declining rates of per capita resource use- “dematerialization”). Their book is an update on Julian Simon’s brilliant ‘Ultimate Resource’ that originally covered the same ground decades earlier.
England eventually got individual equality and freedom right after struggling with the issue over preceding centuries. The English initiated the individual freedom and equality movement with documents like Magna Carta that subjected kings/lords to the same laws, rights, and responsibilities that were to govern all others. See Daniel Hannan’s ‘The Invention of Freedom’ for this history. Those documents were early expressions of how societies could promote and protect the equality of all citizens.
The English innovation (Magna Carta and similar earlier documents) eventually developed into institutions like a parliament that represented all citizens equally and ceased being an institution that represented only the interests of ruling elites such as Kings/lords- the “government” or governing elites of the past. English Common Law also affirmed the equality of all via equal freedom, protections, and rights.
Most central to protected individual equality and freedom was the protection of individual private property. Kings/lords could no longer arbitrarily seize the property of commoners, a practice that had long undermined the human motivation to improve one’s private property. Later generations saw how powerholder intervention in private property undermined human motivation and resulted in horrific outcomes such as in China under Mao’s great collectivist redistribution experiments that ended in mass poverty, starvation, and death. The same violation of private property rights also resulted in mass misery under Stalin’s collectivism in Russia. We have further contemporary examples of the failures of collectivism in states such as Zimbabwe (previously the “breadbasket of Africa”), North Korea, and Venezuela (once one of the richest nations on Earth). How often do we have to bang our heads against the wall before we get the insanity of repeating the same mistakes?
The English protection of private property unleashed human creativity and more widespread endeavor by ordinary people to improve their own lives and families, knowing they would reap the rewards of personal labor, investment, and achievement. Protected private property is also an essential element in preventing totalitarianism because it provides the physical basis of dispersed power (Fredrick Hayek in ‘The Road to Serfdom’).
The institutions oriented to individual freedoms and rights all came together with wider public influence in the early 1800s and wealth creation took off as never before. Across previous history GDP had been basically flat with about 95% of populations living in absolute poverty.
You may hate and belittle the institution of private property, and its flaws, but understand that it works better than anything else that humanity has discovered to unleash creativity and consequently improve life overall for most people. Unfortunately, private property continues to be framed by collectivists as a great “evil” in human societies. Collectivists view private property as the main obstacle to greater or collective good.
Collectivists have insistently demeaned the human impulse to improve one’s life, one’s property, and the condition of one’s family, as the expression of selfishness and greed. I would counter that improving one’s personal situation in life (the condition of one’s family) through private property is the most basic form of love and responsibility, and the most important contribution that we can make to greater or collective good. This was Adam Smith’s point: “(Smith) the father of modern economics; he of the “Invisible Hand” in markets, the understanding that a person pursuing their own self-interest could contribute to the common good — be they butcher, brewer or baker”, Michael Higgins at https://nationalpost.com/news/world/the-capitalist-manifesto-how-many-millions-of-people-escaped-poverty-lived-longer-and-got-tv
Private property societies continue the spread of wealth creation and that is evident in the stunning decline of poverty across the world today. This evidence affirms the importance of private property as fundamental to sparking human motivation, protecting human freedom, and improving the general well-being of all. Property rights are the most effective means of achieving the greater or common good as the by-product of individual freedom, responsibility, and creativity.
I would then affirm that individual freedom, rights, protections, and equality of opportunity are the foundational elements of the successful model that the West has offered the world. This model for organizing human society endures relentless attack and distortion from collectivists. Herman in ‘The Cave and The Light’ traces the long-term history of these two models and their outcomes from the time of the Greeks. The Collectivist approach originated with Plato and his Ideals/Forms that should shape the ideal society. That approach then descended down through Hegel and Marx. The individually oriented model is traced from Aristotle and on down through the English tradition.
Collectivist models for organizing human society have repeatedly and inevitably unleashed the destructive totalitarian impulse, with its intrusive and coercive control of people, and that has consequently ruined both societies and nature. Central planning of resource use, nationalization of the business/economic realm, and state distribution of resources and the outcomes of production has repeatedly devastated human populations and environments. Collectivist models concentrate power in governing elites (i.e. the “enlightened vanguards” of collectivism) and that never ends well.
Many in the younger generation, not familiar with the horrific outcomes of the past century’s Collectivist experiments, are once again leaning toward Collectivist approaches that promise utopian-like outcomes, or the restoration of some lost past paradise.
A central issue
Collectivists/Socialists refuse to acknowledge the failures of their approach to organizing societies even after the long history of such repeated failures. Why? Because Collectivists sincerely believe that their model for organizing society is “morally superior”. Collectivists believe sincerely that they represent and defend the “greater or common good” while they caricaturize and misrepresent the individual freedom model as promoting selfishness and greed that obstructs and neglects the greater or common good. Consequently, Collectivists believe that their approach is best for all others and that inspires them to repeatedly engage crusades to coerce others to submit to their model. They cannot let go of the dream for Socialism’s eventual success… somehow.
Insert note: My Marxist professors at Simon Fraser University (late 1980s) defended Socialism as a noble and humane system for organizing society that just needed another chance to exhibit its essential goodness and effectiveness. They argued that Communism (collapsing around that time) was a perversion of true Socialism. Their defense blurred the point that Socialism was just another version of Collectivism that centralizes power and control of people’s lives (see former Socialist Joshua Muravchik’s history of Communalism/Socialism in ‘Heaven on Earth’).
The Collectivist belief in the moral superiority of their system dismisses the evidence that the societal orientation to individual freedom (protecting individual freedom) has lifted more people out of the misery of poverty than any other approach in history. Despite its abuse by some, the Western free market model has done more to enhance the “greater or common good” and to improve nature than any other model. Note also, by comparison, the disastrous environmental outcomes of Collectivist central planning of resources in the Soviet Union during the last century.
A further point of interest- Collectivism has long and comfortable association with Christianity. This is seen in New Testament references to the early Christian movement. Note, for example, Luke in his Acts history stating that early believers “held all things together in common”. That is viewed as the ultimate authentic expression of love, to share all things in common with others. That helps to understand the comfortable fit between Christianity and Socialism over history. But try that communal sharing, especially if coerced, at societal levels (e.g. Communist Russia and China) and watch populations inevitably descend quickly into misery and horror. Fortunately, more moderate forms of Christianity have rejected the more Collectivist versions of their religion (i.e. the “Liberation theologies” of Latin America).
The outcome could be different though, if the sharing were voluntary- that is, coming from a place of personal freedom and choice.
Wealth that is gained legally and fairly under commonly agreed “equal opportunity” free market rules should be left to the personal choice of the owner as to how to distribute the wealth. Examples here would include Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and others. It should be the voluntary and free choice of the owner to share legally and fairly gained wealth as they choose. Note that Gates and Buffet are giving their immense wealth away to promote greater or common good in the manner that they choose. Note also that the bulk of taxes in Western societies are often paid by the wealthiest individuals- e.g. in the US the top 10% of earners pay 70% of federal income taxes (the top 1% pay 38%).
Added notes on organizing human societies
Collectivist models- from Owen’s Communalism, to Socialism, to Communism- all centralize power/control and then an “enlightened” elite are responsible to run the collective. The results have been notoriously the same- unleashing the totalitarian impulse even in well-intentioned people. Who said that the most dangerous people in society are those who believe that they are especially enlightened, more than others, and know what is right and good for others, and therefore will coerce others to submit to their vision of what is good for all.
That is why Frederick Hayek argued that the model of society oriented to protecting individual rights and freedoms, for all its failings, better prevents totalitarianism and protects freedom because it disperses power among competing individuals and organizations (Road to Serfdom). Individually-oriented models promote self-control, self-responsibility, and self-determination. In systems oriented to protected individual rights, people are free, as much as possible, of state control.
Today we have mixed systems- “Democratic Socialism” or “Social Democracy”- with mixed results. For example, we all agree to some limits on personal freedom for the greater or common good (i.e. state legislated taxation for the sharing of common infrastructure costs, and assisting the less fortunate members of our societies, etc.). And our societies go through the ongoing back-and-forth tug between the two models for organizing society and Arthur Herman argues that this tugging is good. There are legitimate concerns on both sides and some form of compromise or balance between them is necessary for peaceful coexistence.
William Bernstein in ‘The Birth of Plenty’ speaks to this ongoing tug between state intervention/control and free markets. He probes the issue of what scale or size of government will enable our societies to operate at their best by generating the most good for the most people? Should the size of Government be at 15% of GDP? Or 20%? Or 30-40%? The bigger that government becomes, via increased state intervention and control (i.e. increasing taxation and regulation of individuals), the more the individual creative impulse is undermined, and then all suffer, equally. Greece in past years was an extreme example of this. Greek governments tried to give everyone everything until the productive business sector collapsed under the burden of overly generous programs for all. One of the best economic minds of the past century, Milton Freidman, argued that the most good for the most people would be a government (all three levels) at around 15% of GDP.
Most people (90% plus) intuitively affirm the ideal of protecting personal freedom from government intrusion, via regulation and taxation, as the test at the back of David Boaz’s book shows (Libertarianism: A Primer). The vast majority of people value personal freedom.
I would conclude that the historical evidence affirms that giving primacy to personal freedom results in immense benefits to greater or common good (the most good for the most people), versus the historical evidence that shows that giving primacy to Collectivism (subjecting individuals to a controlling collective) results in inevitable harmful outcomes to greater or common good, including harmful outcomes to environments from centralized control of resources (i.e. “enlightened” state bureaucrats determining resource distribution).
Add to this mix the Collectivist view that populations are engaged in class warfare- i.e. poor against rich, or people fighting for the common good versus selfish individuals in free markets. Collectivists hold the view that individual endeavor to improve oneself is greed and selfishness that is to be unfavorably contrasted with the “greater good” motivations of Collectivists. But the real issue is how have all sectors of populations done over past centuries. The evidence affirms that the approach that has been oriented to individual freedom has improved the lives of most people, with poverty declining, and middle-class sectors growing across the world. Most people are better off today and this long-term historical trend of the improving human condition continues to flow mainly from the individually-oriented approach.
Further follow-up notes:
All models for organizing human society are corrupted by excessive selfishness and greed but models oriented to individual freedom have the built-in safety check of institutions such as a free press that exposes such corruption. On the other hand, Collectivist models (centralized power) have a history of suppressing individual freedom, including press freedom and the public’s ability to criticize governing elites or powerholders, and we see the same old harmful results repeatedly. Venezuela is a recent repeat of this history of totalitarian suppression of opposition (press and political). Note also today the increasing censorship coming from the Progressive/Woke side of US society (extremist liberals censoring conservatives on social media platforms).
Further, there are free market organizations that exist to protect against monopoly (note the history of the breakup of Ma Bell, and more recently the similar challenges to Microsoft). Under Collectivist approaches the state itself becomes the mega-monopoly protecting itself against dispersion of power and control.
The individual-oriented model is most essentially about freedom and the unleashing of human motivation, creativity, and endeavor to improve individual life and family. That is fundamental human responsibility. And it does not have to be most essentially about selfish greed. Successful achievers can then freely decide how to contribute to greater or common good (i.e. protecting the primacy of self-determination).
Today the pull toward Collectivism is re-emerging in Progressivism and the environmental alarmism movements. Modern ‘Liberalism’ has abandoned the Classic Liberalism of the English tradition that has brought freedom and all its benefits to our modern world.
Bob Brinsmead in a discussion group often reminds us that if you redistribute money from wealthier people, then yes, you will have a great party. But the outcome will be that all then become equally poor and unemployed as societies collapse. How will businesses then find the capital that enables them to provide jobs for employees to take care of their families? Note the extreme examples of these redistribution schemes in Chinese collectivist experiments under Mao. Again, we all agree to some level of redistribution for common good- i.e. taxation. The disagreement centers around the levels of redistribution and where that redistribution begins to cause more harm than good by undermining the motivation and creative output of free individuals.
The issue for our societies is not equality of outcomes, an impossible standard, but rather, how are all sectors of society doing? Evidence shows that life has improved immensely for all sectors of modern societies, whether in the realm of health (infant mortality declines, disease control, longer life expectancy for all), calorie intake, technology improvements, etc.
Overall, there are fewer poor people as the populations of many world societies are moving into middle class status. Comparing poorer sectors of a population with the wealthiest people does not reveal an accurate picture that most people, including the poorest, are doing much better today. And the examples of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates show that not all inequality is wrong. See William Watson’s https://nationalpost.com/opinion/william-watson-inequality-good-bad-and-benign.
The French Revolution tried to include material equality in its Constitution, as something to be guaranteed by the State, and that differed from the American Constitution.
Today, environmental alarmism pushes for collectivist solutions and policies in its anti-industrial society crusade. Note the push for centralized control of world economies and lifestyles via institutions like the UN (see Michael Hart’s ‘Hubris: The Troubling Science, Economics, and Politics of Climate Change’).
“Capitalism” should be considered a “dead word”, too burdened by accreted and distorting baggage. A better term would focus on the core issue and ideal of freedom and how freedom unleashes human motivation and creativity to improve oneself, and that is the most basic form of human love. So also, consider that Adam Smith’s term “self-interest” is no longer so useful as it instinctively incites images of individual selfishness and greed that affirm Collectivist distortions. That distortion misses the basic love that is at the core of the responsibility of everyone to improve their own lives and their families, and how this motivation leads to cooperation with others (mutual benefit of commerce) and that fosters peace and stability in societies and between nations. See note below on “the moralizing influence of gentle commerce”.
The issue is not the individual pitted against the greater or common good as though these are mutually excluding entities. But rather which approach to organizing society has best achieved the outcomes of maintaining individual freedom as well as improving the greater good? The historical evidence affirms clearly that protecting individual freedom and rights, as well as preventing totalitarianism, has resulted in lifting billions out of poverty and into middle class status. The individual freedom and rights approach has achieved more greater or common good than any other approach to organizing human society (i.e. the most good for the most people).
The fallacy of “limited good” is also important to confront as this primitive myth buttresses the collectivist activism to coercively redistribute the wealth of more successful people. Collectivists believe that if some people attain more material good, then others must lose out, as resources are limited. Again, see Desrochers and Szurmak in ‘Population Bombed’, also Julian Simon’s ‘Ultimate Resource’ for rational responses to the fallacy of limited good.
Under the “Simon Project” at HumanProgress.org there is the following statement: “Are we running out of resources? Many scholars, including Thomas Malthus and Paul Ehrlich, believed that population growth would result in the exhaustion of resources and a global catastrophe. University of Maryland economist Julian Simon rejected their ideas. In his 1981 book The Ultimate Resource, Simon argued that humans were intelligent beings, capable of innovating their way out of shortages through greater efficiency, increased supply, and the development of substitutes.”
Jordan Peterson rightly notes the Marxist belief that if some people in our societies get more then that is wrongfully gained wealth that is the result of greed, selfishness, and theft. Such belief justifies action to level things, to coercively redistribute the wealth of others. It justifies redistribution activism as righteous action against evil. The motive behind such redistribution is resentment, says Peterson.
Also, critical to include are the histories that reveal the “moralizing influence of gentle commerce”. How commerce improves general human goodness and helps maintain peace among populations. This all began with early specialization of labor and trade. People then gained mutual benefit and learned to cooperate peacefully to maintain that mutual benefit. Domestication of animals/plants, and urbanization (concentrating populations on urban areas thereby lessening pressure on natural areas), were accompanying trends that assisted mutually benefitting trade (see ‘The Company of Strangers’ by Paul Seabright for the story of this historical process).
See also https://business.financialpost.com/opinion/philip-cross-capitalism-doesnt-just-make-economies-better-off-it-creates-more-virtuous-people
An example of the moralizing influence of gentle commerce from mutual benefit relationships:
Labor specialization, trade, and mutual benefit: Long, long ago an upland forest dweller, with his specialized experience in making wood implements, learned to trade with a seaside dweller with his specialty in gathering salt, and both benefitted. It worked like this (evidence based on cave drawings): The long-ago cave man once told his wife that he was offended by something that his trading partner- i.e. seaside dweller- had said and he planned to kill him when they next met to trade. The wife of the caveman cautioned him, “Honey, if you don’t come back with salt today for our supper meal, then you ain’t ‘gettin any’ tonight”.
Cave-dweller then thought to himself- “Sheesh, not ‘gettin any’? Yikes.” So he trudged down the mountainside to meet seaside guy, promising himself that he would hold his anger in check, let the offense go, and keep the trade arrangement going. And yes, he then “got some” that night and all was well as early civilization was able to continue. And because seaside dweller survived and had offspring, so here we are today. Its just that simple, eh.
Now you ask me- Is that a true story? Of course, yes, it is true… that is a story.
The envy of other’s private property and wealth
Collectivists, holding strong antipathy to private property, advocate for taking more money from the wealthy as the solution to society’s financial problems. But some cautions present themselves regarding this proposal…
The wealthy pay the bulk of a society’s tax burden. The top 10% of taxpayers in the US already pay 70% of the tax burden.
Generally, if people are wealthy, they are probably good at creating businesses, jobs, and wealth for others as well as themselves.
They may need their wealth for more research and development, to create further business ventures, jobs, and wealth for others. Note Elon Musk and Steve Jobs in this regard.
Most wealthy people earn their wealth legally and fairly and many give most of it away. Again, note Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, among others, in this regard. Why violate their private property rights and their freedom of choice in how they redistribute their wealth?
Be careful of the distorting stereotypes of wealthy people as greedy, selfish, evil and therefore that becomes justification to take their wealth away via state coercion (i.e. taxation, regulation).
Collectivist models that centralize power in ever-growing governments (via things like government regulation and taxation) chip away at individual freedom and this is always a dangerous direction to take (again, the failed Socialist states of Zimbabwe and Venezuela serve as recent historical examples). We all agree to allow some outside control to intrude into our lives (state regulation) and the redistribution of some of our income (state taxation). A kind of embrace of a “social contract”. But great care is needed to not allow this trend to get out of control, to allow it to become carried away. Apparently, Europeans have gone further down the road to surrendering personal freedom to central states with more regulation of their lives and more taxation of their income. The English and Americans, more oriented to individual freedom, are hesitant to follow those Social Democracy or Democratic Socialism models.
Societies need to have built-in mechanisms to counter and reverse the trends toward excessive regulation such as the law that was enacted by the British Columbia Liberal party. That law required that one old regulation had to be removed for every new regulation introduced. Others have legislated that two previous regulations should be removed for every new regulation introduced.
Governing elites, infected with the pathological impulse to meddle in and control the lives of others, will persistently do so via excessive regulation and taxation.
Daniel Hannan in “Inventing Freedom”
Hannan on the Western contribution to the world: Personal property rights, personal liberty, and representative government. “There are three irreducible elements… The rule of law… the government of the day doesn’t get to set the rules… they are interpreted by independent magistrates… the law is not an instrument of state control but a mechanism open to any individual seeking redress…
“Personal liberty… freedom to say what you like, to assemble in any configuration you choose with your fellow citizens, to buy and sell without hindrance, to dispose as you wish of your assets, to work for whom you please, and to hire and fire as you will…”
“Representative government… Laws should not be passed, nor taxes levied, except by elected legislators who are answerable to the rest of us…”
“… the individual should be as free as possible from state coercion… (wars for freedom in the last century were between countries that elevated the state over individuals and countries that elevated the individual over the state) …”