The Danger of The Greater Good


Why is it that people who push individualism often warn about the dangers of collectivism? Do we not often make sacrifices for our community? Is that not for “the greater good”(Every time you read this think of that scene from Hot Fuzz) of society? I mean even the great philosopher of our time, Spock told us “The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few…or the one.” Okay, obviously that was a joke but that is what many are being taught today. If you asked a bunch of students about socialism vs capitalism the vast majority will say that socialism is good because it’s about helping everyone equally and capitalism is evil because it only leads to greed. So what’s wrong with it?

In a word, everything.

Now we can’t blame the students for this way of thinking. Often, at that age we don’t completely understand what we believe and why. I’ll admit, when I was that young, I would’ve told you that communism is bad and capitalism is good but I wouldn’t have been able to tell you why. I didn’t know. I had never really given it any real thought. I had just been told that my entire life growing up by people I trusted. Also, since I grew up on war movies and TV shows like Kelly’s Heroes, The Longest Day, Patton, Glory, The Great Escape, M.A.S.H, Hogan’s Heroes, Combat!, Rat Patrol, and the like you could say my view was pretty pro-America and therefore pro-capitalism. But I digress.

It really wasn’t until fairly recently that I started a journey of self-reflection of what I believed and why. And I think this is probably one of the biggest arguments we are having today.  So here are my thoughts.

The big problem with collectivism on the scale we are talking about is that it always leads to tyranny.  This has been true throughout history. In Athens it was the educated class ruling everyone for the greater good. In the U.K., Russia, The Aztecs, China and Japan, among many others, it was some form of a monarch. There are many more examples but I don’t want to take too long on this. The point is that collectivism was the way of the world of the past. The reason why this country was so groundbreaking was that it was the first country founded on the Judaeo-Christian idea of the rights of the individual. If you look at a lot of the writings of the founders of the country they made it quite clear why they didn’t want these old forms of government. They knew that the worst atrocities in history were done in the name of “the greater good”.

Now, I feel that I must out a part where some people will call me a hypocrite. Because there are a lot of examples where I have praised actions done for the greater good, or the good of society. However there is a major difference here. And it clearly shows that context is important. So lets go back to that joke I used at the beginning using Spock. This is one of the most beautiful moments in Sci-Fi history. But let me ask you a question. Would this moment have the same meaning if Kirk had ordered him to go in there? Or if Spock had told Scotty to go in there? Or Scotty to one of his engineers? Of course not. It completely changes the movie. In fact, I would be willing to bet that the franchise dies if that was what had happened. It’s still about the rights of the individual. Sacrifice is not sacrifice if it’s not a personal choice. Another example, charity loses it’s meaning if you are forced to give it(welfare anyone?). There is also no longer any such thing as heroes. So well pointed out in the movie The Incredibles.  

This seems like it should be pretty obvious. Maybe even to the point where you would even call it that wonderful oxymoron; “common sense”.  But we can clearly see that this is direction we have been going for some time now. More and more of our money goes to whatever projects are deemed for the greater good. More and more our opinions are silenced for the sake of the greater good. More and more our sources of information are stifled in the name of the greater good. More and more of our individual rights are taken in the name of the greater good. The good news is that it looks like more and more people are waking up to this and are pushing back.  We must stop this regression to the ideas of the old world and return to what made this country unique.  The rights of the individual.

If you want a wonderful book on this subject and more, I highly recommend The Mainspring of Human Progress by Henry Grady Weaver. I will add it to my books page when I get that up and running but it is one of the best books I have ever read. Really opened my eyes to a lot of these ideas as well as educated me on a lot of the things we got from the Arabic community that I had no idea had come from them. Which in turn showed me how little I had really learned in school but that a subject for another time.




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