Individualism vs. collectivism

Here is how George Will answers Elizabeth Warren’s statement that we posted yesterday:

Such an agenda’s premise is that individualism is a chimera, that any individual’s achievements should be considered entirely derivative from society, so the achievements need not be treated as belonging to the individual. Society is entitled to socialize — i.e., conscript — whatever portion it considers its share. It may, as an optional act of political grace, allow the individual the remainder of what is misleadingly called the individual’s possession.

The collectivist agenda is antithetical to America’s premise, which is: Government — including such public goods as roads, schools and police — is instituted to facilitate individual striving, a.k.a. the pursuit of happiness. The fact that collective choices facilitate this striving does not compel the conclusion that the collectivity (Warren’s “the rest of us”) is entitled to take as much as it pleases of the results of the striving.

Warren’s statement is a footnote to modern liberalism’s more comprehensive disparagement of individualism and the reality of individual autonomy. A particular liberalism, partly incubated at Harvard, intimates the impossibility, for most people, of self-government — of the ability to govern one’s self. This liberalism postulates that, in the modern social context, only a special few people can literally make up their own minds. . . .

Many members of the liberal intelligentsia, that herd of independent minds, agree that other Americans comprise a malleable, hence vulnerable, herd whose “false consciousness” is imposed by corporate America. Therefore the herd needs kindly, paternal supervision by a cohort of protective herders. This means subordination of the bovine many to a regulatory government staffed by people drawn from the clever minority not manipulated into false consciousness.

Because such tutelary government must presume the public’s incompetence, it owes minimal deference to people’s preferences. These preferences are not really “theirs,” because the preferences derive from false, meaning imposed, consciousness. This convenient theory licenses the enlightened vanguard, the political class, to exercise maximum discretion in wielding the powers of the regulatory state.

Warren’s emphatic assertion of the unremarkable — that the individual depends on cooperative behaviors by others — misses this point: It is conservatism, not liberalism, that takes society seriously. Liberalism preaches confident social engineering by the regulatory state. Conservatism urges government humility in the face of society’s creative complexity.

Society — hundreds of millions of people making billions of decisions daily — is a marvel of spontaneous order among individuals in voluntary cooperation. Government facilitates this cooperation with roads, schools, police, etc. — and by getting out of its way. This is a sensible, dynamic, prosperous society’s “underlying social contract.”

via Elizabeth Warren and liberalism, twisting the ‘social contract’ – The Washington Post.

The choices are individualism or collectivism.  Or is there something in between?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    There is no “third way”. If one way is free market capitalism and the other is socialist collectivism, the third way is fascism. And fascism deteriorates rapidly into another form of collectivism. Yes, I know that there is the G.K. Chesterton-beloved distributism, but it is mired in such a fear of bigness and love of smallness, that it has little bearing on reality.

  • SKPeterson

    There is no “third way”. If one way is free market capitalism and the other is socialist collectivism, the third way is fascism. And fascism deteriorates rapidly into another form of collectivism. Yes, I know that there is the G.K. Chesterton-beloved distributism, but it is mired in such a fear of bigness and love of smallness, that it has little bearing on reality.

  • Susan

    Re: “The choices are individualism or collectivism. Or is there something in between?”

    I’m thinking there is something different afoot. It looks like a desire to concentrate power into the federal government in order to make it omni-competent or omnipotent. This requires the usurpation or absorption of the authority/power from state/local governments and from state/local organizations (churches, businesses, charities, and so forth) in order to rule/dominate others more comprehensively and not only deny individual and collective rights to regulate themselves, but also deny private property rights in both cases. In this sense, it looks like it is trying to make itself a god.

  • Susan

    Re: “The choices are individualism or collectivism. Or is there something in between?”

    I’m thinking there is something different afoot. It looks like a desire to concentrate power into the federal government in order to make it omni-competent or omnipotent. This requires the usurpation or absorption of the authority/power from state/local governments and from state/local organizations (churches, businesses, charities, and so forth) in order to rule/dominate others more comprehensively and not only deny individual and collective rights to regulate themselves, but also deny private property rights in both cases. In this sense, it looks like it is trying to make itself a god.

  • SAL

    Government is overemphasized in these sorts of discussions. Community is comprised of a lot of things besides town hall, or a distant Congress and bureaucracy.

    Family is a bond that can link (economically and socially) all sorts of dissimiliar individuals. Church can be the safety net of last resort when even the government fails (New Orleans after Katrina).

  • SAL

    Government is overemphasized in these sorts of discussions. Community is comprised of a lot of things besides town hall, or a distant Congress and bureaucracy.

    Family is a bond that can link (economically and socially) all sorts of dissimiliar individuals. Church can be the safety net of last resort when even the government fails (New Orleans after Katrina).

  • http://LeitersburgLutheran.org Terry Culler

    There is something different–it’s called Christianity. I was somewhat shocked at the first discussion of this dust up because I expected to see more commenters focus on what we as followers of Jesus are expected to do. I ask anyone to show me in the Bible where we are called as Christians to be radical individualists or where market efficiency is given as one of God’s goals for His people. To say we live in a complex web of communities is not some sort of crypto-communism–it is an observation of fact.

    Hillary Clinton was frequently attacked by some for her book It Takes a Village, about child rearing. I admit I never read the book and I’m not overly fond of Mrs. Clinton, but the title is simply true. And it is true of so many other things in life too.

    I’m old enough that I was a conservative when it wasn’t popular and cut my intellectual teeth reading Burke and de Tocqueville and Russel Kirk. I think many who claim to be conservatives have little to no idea what true Anglo-American conservatism is. But whatever it is, it is not selfish individualism.

  • http://LeitersburgLutheran.org Terry Culler

    There is something different–it’s called Christianity. I was somewhat shocked at the first discussion of this dust up because I expected to see more commenters focus on what we as followers of Jesus are expected to do. I ask anyone to show me in the Bible where we are called as Christians to be radical individualists or where market efficiency is given as one of God’s goals for His people. To say we live in a complex web of communities is not some sort of crypto-communism–it is an observation of fact.

    Hillary Clinton was frequently attacked by some for her book It Takes a Village, about child rearing. I admit I never read the book and I’m not overly fond of Mrs. Clinton, but the title is simply true. And it is true of so many other things in life too.

    I’m old enough that I was a conservative when it wasn’t popular and cut my intellectual teeth reading Burke and de Tocqueville and Russel Kirk. I think many who claim to be conservatives have little to no idea what true Anglo-American conservatism is. But whatever it is, it is not selfish individualism.

  • ELB

    Warren makes the point that the resources of the individual are not to be distributed for the good of the individual, but of the collective, which she says is the real basis of the wealth. It is the government that acts for the collective and presumably makes more wise and moral choices in this distribution. Since when? (Can we say “Solyndra”?)

    I think it is important to underscore the profound morality of individual men and woman relating as willing and uncoerced buyers and cellers making decisions in the market where EACH benefits in their own view from the transaction. The purpose of government is to prevent coercion or restriction on that freedom. (Yes, the powerful in the market will abuse their power if permited to do so. There is a place for anti-trust laws.) I believe that in His gift of vocation God orders these relationships so that there is a greater abundance also for the poor.

  • ELB

    Warren makes the point that the resources of the individual are not to be distributed for the good of the individual, but of the collective, which she says is the real basis of the wealth. It is the government that acts for the collective and presumably makes more wise and moral choices in this distribution. Since when? (Can we say “Solyndra”?)

    I think it is important to underscore the profound morality of individual men and woman relating as willing and uncoerced buyers and cellers making decisions in the market where EACH benefits in their own view from the transaction. The purpose of government is to prevent coercion or restriction on that freedom. (Yes, the powerful in the market will abuse their power if permited to do so. There is a place for anti-trust laws.) I believe that in His gift of vocation God orders these relationships so that there is a greater abundance also for the poor.

  • SKPeterson

    Pr. Culler, you are most certainly correct. We do indeed live in a complex web of communities, and not just communities delimited by political boundaries such as cities or counties, but church communities, neighborhoods, commercial spaces and other interactive spaces where we come together – even virtual spaces such as Cranach. The problem becomes one in defining what is the operative community that can best address particular social problems. To your Hillary Clinton example – her definition of community devolves on advocating a central, if not outright controlling, role for government in this village, to the exclusion of other community institutions. While her language is evocative of neighborliness and community cohesion, in practice it has the government superseding the rights of individuals and families and other members of the community. This is Elizabeth Warren’s failing as well – the notion that the rest of society needs to completely capitulate to the direction and directives of government and its ilk. For all the evils of business and corporations, they won’t show up in the middle of the night with guns and force you to buy their goods or services “paid for by the rest of us.”

  • SKPeterson

    Pr. Culler, you are most certainly correct. We do indeed live in a complex web of communities, and not just communities delimited by political boundaries such as cities or counties, but church communities, neighborhoods, commercial spaces and other interactive spaces where we come together – even virtual spaces such as Cranach. The problem becomes one in defining what is the operative community that can best address particular social problems. To your Hillary Clinton example – her definition of community devolves on advocating a central, if not outright controlling, role for government in this village, to the exclusion of other community institutions. While her language is evocative of neighborliness and community cohesion, in practice it has the government superseding the rights of individuals and families and other members of the community. This is Elizabeth Warren’s failing as well – the notion that the rest of society needs to completely capitulate to the direction and directives of government and its ilk. For all the evils of business and corporations, they won’t show up in the middle of the night with guns and force you to buy their goods or services “paid for by the rest of us.”

  • http://LeitersburgLutheran.org Terry Culler

    I am not responding to Elizabeth Warren’s position as much as I am to the false dichotomy between individualism and collectivism. Individualism, at least as most libertarians seem to see it, is really just a form of sin, which you might recall the Reformers referred to by the Latin phrase in curvatus in se–turned in on ones self. (I hope I got that right, my Latin is pretty rusty) Christianity not just posits but requires community. Conservatism of the Anglo-American sort has always been based upon the continuity between the community as it exists today with the community as it has existed throughout time. In the same way, when we speak of the Church we speak both of the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant.

    If conservatism deteriorates into rank individualism it will die a well deserved death because such is contrary to the will of God for His people.

  • http://LeitersburgLutheran.org Terry Culler

    I am not responding to Elizabeth Warren’s position as much as I am to the false dichotomy between individualism and collectivism. Individualism, at least as most libertarians seem to see it, is really just a form of sin, which you might recall the Reformers referred to by the Latin phrase in curvatus in se–turned in on ones self. (I hope I got that right, my Latin is pretty rusty) Christianity not just posits but requires community. Conservatism of the Anglo-American sort has always been based upon the continuity between the community as it exists today with the community as it has existed throughout time. In the same way, when we speak of the Church we speak both of the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant.

    If conservatism deteriorates into rank individualism it will die a well deserved death because such is contrary to the will of God for His people.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Terry Culler @ 7,

    But couldn’t you put collectivism as easily as a sin in that it can permit people to exalt mankind at the expense of man? That it can “legalize” persecution through the masses (i.e., ganging up on a particular class of people)?

    Either extreme is bad, not just individualism (and I would say that individualism is only sinful to the extent that it violates God-given order).

    BTW, fascism and socialism are more a difference of presentation than of conduct. Both are state-centered, state-dominant ideologies. I recommend this site: http://www.lawrence.edu/sorg/objectivism/socfasc.html

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Terry Culler @ 7,

    But couldn’t you put collectivism as easily as a sin in that it can permit people to exalt mankind at the expense of man? That it can “legalize” persecution through the masses (i.e., ganging up on a particular class of people)?

    Either extreme is bad, not just individualism (and I would say that individualism is only sinful to the extent that it violates God-given order).

    BTW, fascism and socialism are more a difference of presentation than of conduct. Both are state-centered, state-dominant ideologies. I recommend this site: http://www.lawrence.edu/sorg/objectivism/socfasc.html

  • DonS

    Pr. Culler: You certainly make some excellent and valid points about individualism, particularly yesterday when you referenced Ayn Rand. It may be helpful, though, to consider the difference between individualism relative to the government and individualism relative to the community. They are very different creatures, given the government’s modern tendencies to override and dominate our other community institutions, as well explained by SKP above.

    We need to assert our individual liberties and freedoms, guaranteed to us by the Constitution, against a central government which is increasingly willing to violate those liberties and freedoms, in the name of the “social contract” or other such liberal claptrap. But, as individuals in the Body of Christ, our liberty and freedom vis-a vis the government is not an entitlement to do as we please and ignore our responsibilities to our fellow community members. Rather, this liberty gives us the freedom to exercise those responsibilities, free of government interference, whether that interference be through excessive taxation, taking undue resources away from our ability to serve the community as God calls us, or excessive regulation.

  • DonS

    Pr. Culler: You certainly make some excellent and valid points about individualism, particularly yesterday when you referenced Ayn Rand. It may be helpful, though, to consider the difference between individualism relative to the government and individualism relative to the community. They are very different creatures, given the government’s modern tendencies to override and dominate our other community institutions, as well explained by SKP above.

    We need to assert our individual liberties and freedoms, guaranteed to us by the Constitution, against a central government which is increasingly willing to violate those liberties and freedoms, in the name of the “social contract” or other such liberal claptrap. But, as individuals in the Body of Christ, our liberty and freedom vis-a vis the government is not an entitlement to do as we please and ignore our responsibilities to our fellow community members. Rather, this liberty gives us the freedom to exercise those responsibilities, free of government interference, whether that interference be through excessive taxation, taking undue resources away from our ability to serve the community as God calls us, or excessive regulation.

  • http://LeitersburgLutheran.org Terry Culler

    J. Dean: I’m not at all sure I understand your argument. You seem to be saying that collectivism (Which I have never in my life endorsed or even looked on with mild favor) is sinful because it might encourage something bad. That is, if you’ll pardon me, very modern liberalism like. We have to stop transfats because someone might eat too much.

    That still does not get to the heart of the matter, however. Radical individualism is contrary to the Word of God, you just can’t get around it. And certainly, if we look at the worldview of ancient Israel, 2nd temple Judaism and early Christianity we find nothing like it. If those folks could even understand what Ayn Rand was saying about individuals (never mind that she was a virulent atheist) they would have been horrified.

    Where in the Gospels do you find any indication that individualism as it is defined today found favor with Jesus? Where do you find the Apostle speaking of it with favor? Where do you find economic efficiency as a Biblical notion? I contend you cannot do any of that. God calls His people into community because that is how we will spend eternity.

    So please, let’s focus on how we are to live now in the Kingdom of the left in preparation for the Lord’s return.

  • http://LeitersburgLutheran.org Terry Culler

    J. Dean: I’m not at all sure I understand your argument. You seem to be saying that collectivism (Which I have never in my life endorsed or even looked on with mild favor) is sinful because it might encourage something bad. That is, if you’ll pardon me, very modern liberalism like. We have to stop transfats because someone might eat too much.

    That still does not get to the heart of the matter, however. Radical individualism is contrary to the Word of God, you just can’t get around it. And certainly, if we look at the worldview of ancient Israel, 2nd temple Judaism and early Christianity we find nothing like it. If those folks could even understand what Ayn Rand was saying about individuals (never mind that she was a virulent atheist) they would have been horrified.

    Where in the Gospels do you find any indication that individualism as it is defined today found favor with Jesus? Where do you find the Apostle speaking of it with favor? Where do you find economic efficiency as a Biblical notion? I contend you cannot do any of that. God calls His people into community because that is how we will spend eternity.

    So please, let’s focus on how we are to live now in the Kingdom of the left in preparation for the Lord’s return.

  • DonS

    Two passages in Will’s article that struck me, in particular:

    The collectivist agenda is antithetical to America’s premise, which is: Government — including such public goods as roads, schools and police — is instituted to facilitate individual striving, a.k.a. the pursuit of happiness. The fact that collective choices facilitate this striving does not compel the conclusion that the collectivity (Warren’s “the rest of us”) is entitled to take as much as it pleases of the results of the striving.

    One of the reasons (among many) that I so strongly oppose government-paid health care is because I have seen the extension of this collective mentality to hyper-regulate individual behavior, in the name of saving the government money on future health care costs. Witness government’s increasing willingness to limit our food choices and to tax those foods deemed unhealthful.

    “Many members of the liberal intelligentsia, that herd of independent minds…” :-) I love that line. It’s so true!

  • DonS

    Two passages in Will’s article that struck me, in particular:

    The collectivist agenda is antithetical to America’s premise, which is: Government — including such public goods as roads, schools and police — is instituted to facilitate individual striving, a.k.a. the pursuit of happiness. The fact that collective choices facilitate this striving does not compel the conclusion that the collectivity (Warren’s “the rest of us”) is entitled to take as much as it pleases of the results of the striving.

    One of the reasons (among many) that I so strongly oppose government-paid health care is because I have seen the extension of this collective mentality to hyper-regulate individual behavior, in the name of saving the government money on future health care costs. Witness government’s increasing willingness to limit our food choices and to tax those foods deemed unhealthful.

    “Many members of the liberal intelligentsia, that herd of independent minds…” :-) I love that line. It’s so true!

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Sigh. The rhetoric on both sides has jettisoned some facts in order to score philosophical points. For example, Warren’s “social contract rhetoric” is true as far as it goes, but the way she wields the word “corporation” isn’t. A corporation is a legal entity designed to protect the assets of its owners. Any tax on a corporation is a tax on its owners. There is no technical difference between this and any other income/property tax (there are many practical differences, however). Warren leaves this out. Perhaps it is too complex for contemporary “sound bite” debates.

    On the other side, Will fails to come to terms the nature of Corporations as well, namely that the owners of a corporation are not the producers that generate wealth for the owners. This leads to two issues of economic justice. In the first place, should producers own the means of their production, and should producers get to keep what they produce? In the American system the answer to both is no, but the law in its ruling does not eliminate ethical questions.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    Sigh. The rhetoric on both sides has jettisoned some facts in order to score philosophical points. For example, Warren’s “social contract rhetoric” is true as far as it goes, but the way she wields the word “corporation” isn’t. A corporation is a legal entity designed to protect the assets of its owners. Any tax on a corporation is a tax on its owners. There is no technical difference between this and any other income/property tax (there are many practical differences, however). Warren leaves this out. Perhaps it is too complex for contemporary “sound bite” debates.

    On the other side, Will fails to come to terms the nature of Corporations as well, namely that the owners of a corporation are not the producers that generate wealth for the owners. This leads to two issues of economic justice. In the first place, should producers own the means of their production, and should producers get to keep what they produce? In the American system the answer to both is no, but the law in its ruling does not eliminate ethical questions.

  • Mary

    John #12 :” the owners of a corporation are not the producers that generate wealth for the owners.”

    I’m not sure of the numbers as I have never looked them up or researched them, but I would guess that most corporations ARE owned by the producers. Not the large multi million to multi billion dollar ones, but rather the small family owned ones.

    We have a small (20 employees) business that is also incorporated. We produce goods that people buy. We run on a very small margin. In good years probably right around 10%. From that number we have to make sure that we save up for the lean years. There can always be machinery break down or other maintenance that needs to done. The prices from our commodity vendors go up on almost a day to day basis. It is almost impossibe to pass most of these costs on to the retail customer. We would simply lose them. Every tax increase and regulation hits us very hard. At some point the question has to be asked. If I’m not making any money on this business and putting in over 60 hours a week, why do I keep plugging away? Ah well, at least I have a job!

  • Mary

    John #12 :” the owners of a corporation are not the producers that generate wealth for the owners.”

    I’m not sure of the numbers as I have never looked them up or researched them, but I would guess that most corporations ARE owned by the producers. Not the large multi million to multi billion dollar ones, but rather the small family owned ones.

    We have a small (20 employees) business that is also incorporated. We produce goods that people buy. We run on a very small margin. In good years probably right around 10%. From that number we have to make sure that we save up for the lean years. There can always be machinery break down or other maintenance that needs to done. The prices from our commodity vendors go up on almost a day to day basis. It is almost impossibe to pass most of these costs on to the retail customer. We would simply lose them. Every tax increase and regulation hits us very hard. At some point the question has to be asked. If I’m not making any money on this business and putting in over 60 hours a week, why do I keep plugging away? Ah well, at least I have a job!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Oh, George Will. You can definitely do better than that.

    He’s ostensibly replying to the Warren quote that’s made its way around the Internet, but somehow he reads:

    You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea — God bless, keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

    (my emphasis) and turns it into:

    Society is entitled to socialize — i.e., conscript — whatever portion it considers its share … [and] as much as it pleases of the results of the striving.

    Warren is talking about “a hunk” (i.e. some), but Will is arguing against all. I call straw man.

    Because such tutelary government must presume the public’s incompetence, it owes minimal deference to people’s preferences. These preferences are not really “theirs,” because the preferences derive from false, meaning imposed, consciousness.

    I see no reason this paragraph could not also be applied to “conservatism”, as well. After all, in case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve been voting in favor of the very problems that Will here decries for several decades now. “Conservatives” also think the people are fools — at least, the people who want government to do more than some libertarian minimal set, which is most of them. Oh, but the people don’t really want the government to provide for them when they’re old or sick! They’ve just been fooled to think they want that!

    Society — hundreds of millions of people making billions of decisions daily — is a marvel of spontaneous order among individuals in voluntary cooperation.

    Yeah, except when those hundreds of millions of people vote. Then that “marvel of spontaneous order” somehow gives way to something that Will detests. So … maybe not so marvelous?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Oh, George Will. You can definitely do better than that.

    He’s ostensibly replying to the Warren quote that’s made its way around the Internet, but somehow he reads:

    You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea — God bless, keep a big hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.

    (my emphasis) and turns it into:

    Society is entitled to socialize — i.e., conscript — whatever portion it considers its share … [and] as much as it pleases of the results of the striving.

    Warren is talking about “a hunk” (i.e. some), but Will is arguing against all. I call straw man.

    Because such tutelary government must presume the public’s incompetence, it owes minimal deference to people’s preferences. These preferences are not really “theirs,” because the preferences derive from false, meaning imposed, consciousness.

    I see no reason this paragraph could not also be applied to “conservatism”, as well. After all, in case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve been voting in favor of the very problems that Will here decries for several decades now. “Conservatives” also think the people are fools — at least, the people who want government to do more than some libertarian minimal set, which is most of them. Oh, but the people don’t really want the government to provide for them when they’re old or sick! They’ve just been fooled to think they want that!

    Society — hundreds of millions of people making billions of decisions daily — is a marvel of spontaneous order among individuals in voluntary cooperation.

    Yeah, except when those hundreds of millions of people vote. Then that “marvel of spontaneous order” somehow gives way to something that Will detests. So … maybe not so marvelous?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    As to Veith’s question:

    The choices are individualism or collectivism. Or is there something in between?

    Yes, there is, and it’s called reality.

    People need restraints, whether they’re acting as individuals or in the capacity as some sort of leader of many individuals — whether politicians or CEOs.

    Here I take issue with SK’s assertion (@1) that:

    There is no “third way”. If one way is free market capitalism and the other is socialist collectivism, the third way is fascism.

    Um, given that our present society is neither “free market capitalism” nor “socialist collectivism” … does that mean we live under fascism right now?!

    No, in our current society, there is no pure ideology — if, indeed, pure ideology exists anywhere outside of naive minds.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    As to Veith’s question:

    The choices are individualism or collectivism. Or is there something in between?

    Yes, there is, and it’s called reality.

    People need restraints, whether they’re acting as individuals or in the capacity as some sort of leader of many individuals — whether politicians or CEOs.

    Here I take issue with SK’s assertion (@1) that:

    There is no “third way”. If one way is free market capitalism and the other is socialist collectivism, the third way is fascism.

    Um, given that our present society is neither “free market capitalism” nor “socialist collectivism” … does that mean we live under fascism right now?!

    No, in our current society, there is no pure ideology — if, indeed, pure ideology exists anywhere outside of naive minds.

  • JunkerGeorg

    I’ve often wondered if those who deem Obama a “socialist” might more correctly deem him a “fascist”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but was it not that fascism was not so much anti-business, as much as it was in league with big business in exploitation over/against everyone else?

  • JunkerGeorg

    I’ve often wondered if those who deem Obama a “socialist” might more correctly deem him a “fascist”. Correct me if I’m wrong, but was it not that fascism was not so much anti-business, as much as it was in league with big business in exploitation over/against everyone else?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    There are no great scientists, only science, as in, “science tells us….”

    There are no great film makers, only the film industry, as in,… oh, wait.

    Basically just an argument against private property.

    Anyway, no one in against taxes, but there is a problem with the idea that we should tax people just because they have more than we do. That is wrong. We tax so that we can work together to build infrastructure or provide for the common defense etc. I don’t see how giving government money to Warren’s friends is in the interest of society more than folks just keeping the money they earned.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    There are no great scientists, only science, as in, “science tells us….”

    There are no great film makers, only the film industry, as in,… oh, wait.

    Basically just an argument against private property.

    Anyway, no one in against taxes, but there is a problem with the idea that we should tax people just because they have more than we do. That is wrong. We tax so that we can work together to build infrastructure or provide for the common defense etc. I don’t see how giving government money to Warren’s friends is in the interest of society more than folks just keeping the money they earned.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “People need restraints, whether they’re acting as individuals or in the capacity as some sort of leader of many individuals — whether politicians or CEOs.”

    People at all levels need restraints. However, there seems to be an almost perverse interest in restraining some paired with an equally perverse leniency towards others. Consider the alarming rate of illegitimacy that children suffer from these days. How about some social policies to restrain that destructive behavior? So many assume that anyone who isn’t affluent is a victim of the affluent when they are more often the cause of their own misery and that of those with whom they interact.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “People need restraints, whether they’re acting as individuals or in the capacity as some sort of leader of many individuals — whether politicians or CEOs.”

    People at all levels need restraints. However, there seems to be an almost perverse interest in restraining some paired with an equally perverse leniency towards others. Consider the alarming rate of illegitimacy that children suffer from these days. How about some social policies to restrain that destructive behavior? So many assume that anyone who isn’t affluent is a victim of the affluent when they are more often the cause of their own misery and that of those with whom they interact.

  • LAJ

    Actually, the worth of each person is one blessing that came out of the Reformation. If the government takes care of everything, why educate every child in the society? Education for each individual is anti-socialism, is it not? Since only a few make the decisions, why educate the rest? So I believe Christianity is very much a religion of each individual person and so is the reason we have our form of government. To me collectivism is anti-Christian because the welfare of the community trumps rights of the family unit.

  • LAJ

    Actually, the worth of each person is one blessing that came out of the Reformation. If the government takes care of everything, why educate every child in the society? Education for each individual is anti-socialism, is it not? Since only a few make the decisions, why educate the rest? So I believe Christianity is very much a religion of each individual person and so is the reason we have our form of government. To me collectivism is anti-Christian because the welfare of the community trumps rights of the family unit.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Meh, it is really a matter of degree. Most of us could probably get along with Warren’s arguments if the proportion of very low functioning people were lower. When the goods and services that people need and want can be produced by a huge fraction of the people, then folks can just trade fairly with others and there is enough extra to care for the people with intractable problems. But when that is reversed and there are not enough competent producers and tons of low functioning folks, then there are problems because people with intractable problems take huge amounts of resources to keep them in first world accommodations.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Meh, it is really a matter of degree. Most of us could probably get along with Warren’s arguments if the proportion of very low functioning people were lower. When the goods and services that people need and want can be produced by a huge fraction of the people, then folks can just trade fairly with others and there is enough extra to care for the people with intractable problems. But when that is reversed and there are not enough competent producers and tons of low functioning folks, then there are problems because people with intractable problems take huge amounts of resources to keep them in first world accommodations.

  • kerner

    Terry Culler:

    Well, I’m not going to defend Ayn Rand, but I do think there are Biblical principles that are recognizable in modern individualism.

    For example, I see parallels between the Lutheran doctrine of vocation and Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Both conclude that we get our daily bread primarily as a result of individuals doing their jobs. The free market economist concludes that a competitive, market driven, system that rewards the individual worker for doing his job productively will generate the most daily bread for everybody.

    Also, the free market economist recognizes human nature for what it is. Fallen and selfish. This is why all, and I mean all, systems that attempt to codify charity as a government function always become corrupt and always fail. Yet, free market systems that allow the individual achiever to prosper create a society that is generally more prosperous; and the poor are thus better fed.

    You can also argue that the 7th, 9th and 10th commandments presuppose and therefore endorse the individual right of private property. See especially the 9th commandment as set forth in the Small Catechism:

    Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.

    What does this mean?–Answer.

    We should fear and love God that we may not craftily seek to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house, and obtain it by a show of [justice and] right, etc., but help and be of service to him in keeping it.

    This is a pretty direct repudiation of the entire concept of “economic justice” that we hear from the left these days. To get all hot and bothered about the “widening gap between the rich and the poor” flies in the face of the 9th commandment. The complaint is not that the poor are suffering or that they don’t have what they need, but rather that the rich have more (and increasingly more) than the poor have.

    So if some have more (even a lot more) than others, is it proper “by a show of justice and right” (e.g. a redistributive tax code)to try to get our neighbor’s house and inheritance away from him? Just the opposite. We should help and be of service to him in keeping it.

    I could go on, but you get the point. There is plenty of support in the Bible for an economic system of individual property rights, honest hard work and vocation. I don’t think it gets us to Ayn Randian individualism, but it does get us pretty far away from collectivist stateism.

  • kerner

    Terry Culler:

    Well, I’m not going to defend Ayn Rand, but I do think there are Biblical principles that are recognizable in modern individualism.

    For example, I see parallels between the Lutheran doctrine of vocation and Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Both conclude that we get our daily bread primarily as a result of individuals doing their jobs. The free market economist concludes that a competitive, market driven, system that rewards the individual worker for doing his job productively will generate the most daily bread for everybody.

    Also, the free market economist recognizes human nature for what it is. Fallen and selfish. This is why all, and I mean all, systems that attempt to codify charity as a government function always become corrupt and always fail. Yet, free market systems that allow the individual achiever to prosper create a society that is generally more prosperous; and the poor are thus better fed.

    You can also argue that the 7th, 9th and 10th commandments presuppose and therefore endorse the individual right of private property. See especially the 9th commandment as set forth in the Small Catechism:

    Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.

    What does this mean?–Answer.

    We should fear and love God that we may not craftily seek to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house, and obtain it by a show of [justice and] right, etc., but help and be of service to him in keeping it.

    This is a pretty direct repudiation of the entire concept of “economic justice” that we hear from the left these days. To get all hot and bothered about the “widening gap between the rich and the poor” flies in the face of the 9th commandment. The complaint is not that the poor are suffering or that they don’t have what they need, but rather that the rich have more (and increasingly more) than the poor have.

    So if some have more (even a lot more) than others, is it proper “by a show of justice and right” (e.g. a redistributive tax code)to try to get our neighbor’s house and inheritance away from him? Just the opposite. We should help and be of service to him in keeping it.

    I could go on, but you get the point. There is plenty of support in the Bible for an economic system of individual property rights, honest hard work and vocation. I don’t think it gets us to Ayn Randian individualism, but it does get us pretty far away from collectivist stateism.

  • http://LeitersburgLutheran.org Terry Culler

    Mr. Kerner: The two great commandments, love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and spirit and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. To equate the Lord’s explanation of the second table of the Law with free market economics is both factually wrong and bordering on blasphemy.

    I will bow to our hosts greater understanding of the doctrine of vocation, but it has never seemed to me to mean what you contend it does. Vocation has a left kingdom component, but its principle underlying thrust is the building up of the Kingdom of the Right. We are called to do the works God has prepared for us before the beginning of time.

    I have nothing against the free market system, indeed it is the most successful of economic systems in bringing about temporal welfare of the population. But I do fear many have made of it an idol which they worship mindlessly, giving lip service to Jesus but caring more about mammon than people.

  • http://LeitersburgLutheran.org Terry Culler

    Mr. Kerner: The two great commandments, love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and spirit and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. To equate the Lord’s explanation of the second table of the Law with free market economics is both factually wrong and bordering on blasphemy.

    I will bow to our hosts greater understanding of the doctrine of vocation, but it has never seemed to me to mean what you contend it does. Vocation has a left kingdom component, but its principle underlying thrust is the building up of the Kingdom of the Right. We are called to do the works God has prepared for us before the beginning of time.

    I have nothing against the free market system, indeed it is the most successful of economic systems in bringing about temporal welfare of the population. But I do fear many have made of it an idol which they worship mindlessly, giving lip service to Jesus but caring more about mammon than people.

  • Davd Fraser

    We need not impale ourselves on the horns of false dichotomies. The embracing of a radical individualism forgets we live only as social beings, dependent from birth to death on others. That creates obligations and commitments, part of which is mediated through the government.

    We don’t want the government to colonize the family or the economy yet at the same time we have learned of the enormous destructive capacity of the free market when left unregulated. We can see this over the last 200 years. It is the reason the “welfare state” arose in liberal Western capitalist societies. The “free market” has the ability to colonize family life as well (so two parents work 60 hours a week and the traditional family life withers). Without some good economic and family policies countering the individual’s self-interest, really bad consequences flow.

    One example is our lax attitude toward child support (unlike Canada or European family policy where parents can’t walk away from children — and where there is social support for children so they don’t live in poverty).

    As the sociologist Robert Bellah put it in a Christianity Today article (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2002/julyweb-only/51.0.html?start=1)

    “So Americans want the freedom of radical individualism, but they don’t like the consequences. Perhaps the way to reach those people, whether you’re a teacher or a preacher, is to suggest to them that you can’t have it both ways. If you really do want a coherent marriage and a coherent community, you can’t build your life on the notion that whatever momentarily happens to gratify your needs is what you’re going to do. The teacher and preacher can suggest that you can be a strong, self—respecting individual exactly because you accept commitments and obligations. And that the I and the we are not in conflict—that when you have a strong sense of we, in this marriage, or in this church, or even in this nation, that enhances rather than weakens you as a person.”

  • Davd Fraser

    We need not impale ourselves on the horns of false dichotomies. The embracing of a radical individualism forgets we live only as social beings, dependent from birth to death on others. That creates obligations and commitments, part of which is mediated through the government.

    We don’t want the government to colonize the family or the economy yet at the same time we have learned of the enormous destructive capacity of the free market when left unregulated. We can see this over the last 200 years. It is the reason the “welfare state” arose in liberal Western capitalist societies. The “free market” has the ability to colonize family life as well (so two parents work 60 hours a week and the traditional family life withers). Without some good economic and family policies countering the individual’s self-interest, really bad consequences flow.

    One example is our lax attitude toward child support (unlike Canada or European family policy where parents can’t walk away from children — and where there is social support for children so they don’t live in poverty).

    As the sociologist Robert Bellah put it in a Christianity Today article (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2002/julyweb-only/51.0.html?start=1)

    “So Americans want the freedom of radical individualism, but they don’t like the consequences. Perhaps the way to reach those people, whether you’re a teacher or a preacher, is to suggest to them that you can’t have it both ways. If you really do want a coherent marriage and a coherent community, you can’t build your life on the notion that whatever momentarily happens to gratify your needs is what you’re going to do. The teacher and preacher can suggest that you can be a strong, self—respecting individual exactly because you accept commitments and obligations. And that the I and the we are not in conflict—that when you have a strong sense of we, in this marriage, or in this church, or even in this nation, that enhances rather than weakens you as a person.”

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “One example is our lax attitude toward child support (unlike Canada or European family policy where parents can’t walk away from children — and where there is social support for children so they don’t live in poverty).”

    What kids in poverty?

    The only way you could claim that any American kids live in poverty is to define poverty differently from how it has been defined throughout history. All kids have access to food, shelter, medical care and education regardless of their parents’ ability to pay for it. We have food stamps, Section 8 housing, Medicaid and free public education. This minimum standard provided by the social safety net exceeds the standard of living that 99% of people in history lived under and is actually higher than that of many Europeans who have jobs. Now, I will concede that none of these material benefits make up for the atrocious behavior of the parents of these kids and the emotional abuse and neglect the kids suffer from their parents.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “One example is our lax attitude toward child support (unlike Canada or European family policy where parents can’t walk away from children — and where there is social support for children so they don’t live in poverty).”

    What kids in poverty?

    The only way you could claim that any American kids live in poverty is to define poverty differently from how it has been defined throughout history. All kids have access to food, shelter, medical care and education regardless of their parents’ ability to pay for it. We have food stamps, Section 8 housing, Medicaid and free public education. This minimum standard provided by the social safety net exceeds the standard of living that 99% of people in history lived under and is actually higher than that of many Europeans who have jobs. Now, I will concede that none of these material benefits make up for the atrocious behavior of the parents of these kids and the emotional abuse and neglect the kids suffer from their parents.

  • George A. Marquart

    Pr. Culler: how wonderful and refreshing it is to hear the Gospel so clearly. Thank you and thanks be to God.

    Part of the problem with individualism among Lutherans stems from the now prevalent pernicious teaching that we must “develop a personal relationship with Jesus.” Hence it’s all about the individual. But the Gospel teaches us that we no longer need to be concerned about ourselves, because God has taken care of that matter through our dear Lord Jesus. We are now free to serve individuals in the Body of Christ, the collective if you will. Our Lord never said that He wants to develop a relationship with each individual; He said “where two or three are gathered in my name” (not one) “there am I with them.”

    It is clear from our Lord’s final discourse with His disciples that it is the Comforter Who will come to dwell in each of them. John 14: 16, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” Therefore we know that God maintains His relationship with each individual through the Holy Spirit, Who comes to dwell in us through the waters of Baptism, Who intercedes for us, guards our souls, and gives us His priceless gifts.

    To the extent that God deals with each of us as individuals whom He knows by name, and about whom He knows if a hair from our heads falls to the ground, we are individualists. But this is not a relationship which we defend or boast of as if we have achieved it, because St. Paul rightly asks, “what do you have that you have not received.” But to the extent that we are “members of one Body”, each individual is charged with responsibility for the Collective. So, in the life of the Christian, individualism and collectivism are not “either or” issues, as they should not be in the civil realm. Once they become that, they invariably cause strife, without achieving anything positive.

    As an aside, the so called “collectivism” of the Soviet Union was a sham; nothing more than a buzzword for individuals to achieve power over the masses. Sadly there are enough examples in contemporary history that show how effective slogans can seduce entire societies to act against their own interests.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • George A. Marquart

    Pr. Culler: how wonderful and refreshing it is to hear the Gospel so clearly. Thank you and thanks be to God.

    Part of the problem with individualism among Lutherans stems from the now prevalent pernicious teaching that we must “develop a personal relationship with Jesus.” Hence it’s all about the individual. But the Gospel teaches us that we no longer need to be concerned about ourselves, because God has taken care of that matter through our dear Lord Jesus. We are now free to serve individuals in the Body of Christ, the collective if you will. Our Lord never said that He wants to develop a relationship with each individual; He said “where two or three are gathered in my name” (not one) “there am I with them.”

    It is clear from our Lord’s final discourse with His disciples that it is the Comforter Who will come to dwell in each of them. John 14: 16, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” Therefore we know that God maintains His relationship with each individual through the Holy Spirit, Who comes to dwell in us through the waters of Baptism, Who intercedes for us, guards our souls, and gives us His priceless gifts.

    To the extent that God deals with each of us as individuals whom He knows by name, and about whom He knows if a hair from our heads falls to the ground, we are individualists. But this is not a relationship which we defend or boast of as if we have achieved it, because St. Paul rightly asks, “what do you have that you have not received.” But to the extent that we are “members of one Body”, each individual is charged with responsibility for the Collective. So, in the life of the Christian, individualism and collectivism are not “either or” issues, as they should not be in the civil realm. Once they become that, they invariably cause strife, without achieving anything positive.

    As an aside, the so called “collectivism” of the Soviet Union was a sham; nothing more than a buzzword for individuals to achieve power over the masses. Sadly there are enough examples in contemporary history that show how effective slogans can seduce entire societies to act against their own interests.

    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  • kerner

    Terry Culler:

    I did not “equate” the second table of the law with free market economics. I said that the 7th, 9th and 10th commandments presuppose a right of private property. If an object were not your neighbor’s private property, it would be impossible to steal or covet it. Stealing is by definition the wrongful taking of an item that, again by definition, is the private property of someone else. If there is something bordering on blasphemy in that observation, please explain it to me.

    The doctrine of vocation, as I understand it, includes the observation that the means God usually uses (absent manna from heaven) to provide our daily bread is the vocations of the farmers, millers, bakers, truck drivers, grocers, etc. who actually get the loaf to a place where we can actually purchase a loaf and take it home. We, in turn, provide daily bread to all those people by giving them money for the bread we eat. And this applies to every capital good and service we need because “our daily bread” is not comfined to actual bread, but to all our physical needs.

    See here:
    http://www.cranach.org/vocation.php

    To suggest that here are no connections between this doctrine and economics is ridiculous. How the the 2nd tables of the lawapplies to Christians pursuing their respective vocations ought to be a matter of some interest to us, since God is using our vocations as a means to fulfill one of the petitions of the Lord’s prayer. I’m not saying that every plutocrat is doing God’s work simply by being rich, nor do I deny that gluttony is a vice to which the rich are particularly prone.

    What I am saying is that many on the left have mistaken covetousness for “economic justice”. This occurs when the left stops worrying about whether the poor are actually deprived, and starts worrying about “the gap between the rich and poor”, which is no more nor less than being envious that our neighbor has more than we do, i.e. covetousness. Again, if I’m wrong, show me how.

  • kerner

    Terry Culler:

    I did not “equate” the second table of the law with free market economics. I said that the 7th, 9th and 10th commandments presuppose a right of private property. If an object were not your neighbor’s private property, it would be impossible to steal or covet it. Stealing is by definition the wrongful taking of an item that, again by definition, is the private property of someone else. If there is something bordering on blasphemy in that observation, please explain it to me.

    The doctrine of vocation, as I understand it, includes the observation that the means God usually uses (absent manna from heaven) to provide our daily bread is the vocations of the farmers, millers, bakers, truck drivers, grocers, etc. who actually get the loaf to a place where we can actually purchase a loaf and take it home. We, in turn, provide daily bread to all those people by giving them money for the bread we eat. And this applies to every capital good and service we need because “our daily bread” is not comfined to actual bread, but to all our physical needs.

    See here:
    http://www.cranach.org/vocation.php

    To suggest that here are no connections between this doctrine and economics is ridiculous. How the the 2nd tables of the lawapplies to Christians pursuing their respective vocations ought to be a matter of some interest to us, since God is using our vocations as a means to fulfill one of the petitions of the Lord’s prayer. I’m not saying that every plutocrat is doing God’s work simply by being rich, nor do I deny that gluttony is a vice to which the rich are particularly prone.

    What I am saying is that many on the left have mistaken covetousness for “economic justice”. This occurs when the left stops worrying about whether the poor are actually deprived, and starts worrying about “the gap between the rich and poor”, which is no more nor less than being envious that our neighbor has more than we do, i.e. covetousness. Again, if I’m wrong, show me how.


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