Balancing Individualism and Societal Independence

Almost two weeks ago, I stayed up late to hear Obama’s victory speech. I was tired and Bobby had just woken up so I didn’t listen as well as I might have, but something right at the beginning made an impression on me.

Tonight, more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward.

It moves forward because of you. It moves forward because you reaffirmed the spirit that has triumphed over war and depression, the spirit that has lifted this country from the depths of despair to the great heights of hope, the belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.

When I heard these lines, I got warm fuzzies inside. “The belief that while each of us will pursue our own individual dreams, we are an American family and we rise or fall together as one nation and as one people.” This line encapsulates what I see as the key difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.

We have two traditions in this country, a tradition of individualism and a tradition of societal interdependence. Throughout our history the two traditions have danced in tandem, one greater, one lesser, and then the reverse. Today, Republicans embrace the former at the expense of the latter while Democrats attempt to balance the two.

I recently put a counterfactual to a friend: If giving up our right to own guns would result in the end of all gun violence, would you be okay with that? I personally would give up my right to own guns in a heartbeat if it meant the end of gun violence. I’m not sure, though, that the Republican party would be okay with that. In fact, I think they wouldn’t. The Republicans I know tend to see individual rights as more important than basically anything else. This is part of what goes into their opposition to things like universal healthcare.

Of course, there is also a much larger discussion regarding what “individual rights” entail and the influence of the Christian Right on the Republican party. It’s hard to square opposition to women’s reproductive rights or opposition to the rights of gay people to marry or adopt with the Republican party’s emphasis on “individual rights.” There is also a heavy emphasis on blind patriotism and unquestioning loyalty in the Republican party that the Democratic party generally avoids. But the point I’m trying to make here has to do with the Republican party’s rhetoric of individual rights and its refusal to acknowledge even the existence of things like a social contract.

Against this background, I honestly think that what I appreciate most about the Democratic party is the willingness to see the importance of both individual rights and greater societal good, and it’s desire to find a way to balance the two. And Obama’s speech served as a reminder of that.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Lana

    I vote Republican, and I would vote against gun rights. I am also from Texas, so I am unusual, lol. Gun rights is just one thing in the Republican party.

  • James Healey

    “It’s hard to square opposition to women’s reproductive rights or opposition to the rights of gay people to marry or adopt with the Republican party’s emphasis on “individual rights.””

    I disagree on the first part, to the extent that a woman can abort her child (although what she does before fertlization is entirely different). An unborn human possesses the right to life, in my opinion.

    • Ibis3

      Then don’t have an abortion. In the mean time leave my body alone and keep your slavery apologia to yourself.

    • phoenix_860

      I didn’t realize the fetus also owned my uterus…

    • phantomreader42

      James Healey: “An unborn human possesses the right to life, in my opinion.

      In your opinion, does a born, female human possess that same right? Or do you reserve that right solely for undeveloped parasites without a functioning brain, as most fetus-fetishists do?

      And why should YOUR opinion be enforced on others by law?

  • Angela

    Actually I think it’s a myth that political conservatives are advocating for individual rights. They seem largely unconcerned about individual freedom when it comes to things like women’s rights for example. Banning books from public schools and libraries and other methods of restricting information they deem appropriate doesn’t seem to really support an individual’s right to choose either. I think all the talk about individual freedom from the Republican party is really just a smoke-screen for “protecting our own interests at the expense of everyone else”

    • chervil

      Political conservatives don’t believe anything they say which is why Romney was the perfect candidate, a man who would say just about anything. But any of those candidates, when questioned on the specifics of their policies, could never come up with a single regulation they’d abolish, a single tax loophole they’d like to close, even Rick Perry couldn’t remember which departments he’d like to shut down. They are long on ideology and rhetoric and short on actual plans because they hate government so much they feel like government shouldn’t do anything at all. That’s why their activities are reduced to a long string of expensive hearings, fact finding missions and other assorted witch hunts, and not actual governing. They even outsource the creation of legislation to ALEC. They just can’t be bothered.

      This country has incredibly complicated and complex global problems to address. Saying “individual freedom” over and over and over doesn’t cut it. What does individual freedom even mean against global corporate empires? I mean, I’m all for hard work, this is the hardest working country in the world, but it’s ridiculous to suggest that everyone starts from the same place, has the exact same access to the exact same resources, both natural and political, and all we have to do is toil longer hours and compete all on our own while corporations operate outside any country or government. And less regulation as a path to freedom? Please. Who do people think write the legislation? Why ALEC and other corporate lobbyists. Corporations LOVE regulations, and again, this is why politicians can’t name a single regulation they’d like to abolish, it’s all corporate regulation, designed to keep the market and taxation in their favor.

      • Ibis3

        this is the hardest working country in the world

        Seriously? Last I looked, there were still countries with widespread child labour and sweatshops. You might want to do a serious evaluation anytime someone tells you that the US is the “–est” anything country in the world. You’ll end up repeating obnoxious statements like this far less frequently.

      • chervil

        Uuuuuummmmm…… Didn’t John McCain say repeatedly in 2008 that this country has the most productive workforce in the world? Or are you calling him a liar?

        And who is it that employs the children in the sweatshops? The corporations that are so beloved by the republican party. You can take your phony self righteousness and shove it up your despicable, lying ass.

      • chervil

        Yes, and I am calling John McCain a liar, and so is his dopey sidekick Sarah Palin. What I was attempting to do with the statement that America is the “hardest working country in the world” is attempting to counteract the stupid Republican rhetoric that America made up of lazy moocher takers. That is perhaps the most reprehensible thing uttered by any politician, it’s a complete lie and the banner is being taken up by the party.

        In the runup to 2008, American corporations were seeing productivity go up because they laid off workers, increased the hours of existing workers while decreasing their salaries. This is how corporations were so profitable while American workers didn’t share in any of that profitability, they even saw their 401k’s tank. In 2008, McCain tried to salvage his flailing and failing campaign by saying that American workers were the most productive in the world. Now the Republican brand is labeling half the country as lazy, drug addled sex crazed moochers looking for handouts.

        Look, you took that one sentence out of all of what I wrote and really came after me in a totally obnoxious way. There was a reason why I wrote it. American workers are demonized by the Republican party, they’ve already given up so much over the years and it’s still not enough to satisfy the Republicans and their corporate overlords.

      • Uly

        Gosh, I just love it when people talk to themselves.

      • Chervil

        Oh great, the middle schoolers have found this site. Well, it was enlightening for a while, but clearly that’s over.

      • Ibis3

        Look, you took that one sentence out of all of what I wrote and really came after me in a totally obnoxious way. There was a reason why I wrote it. American workers are demonized by the Republican party

        I took that one sentence out because that’s the phrase I found objectionable. I don’t find it acceptable to rehabilitate the demonised American worker by shitting on the workers of other countries–not only those working as hard as Americans in comparable First World nations, but even those labouring without benefit of modern technology or outright exploited in developing countries.

        Now tell me where I lied or said something despicable.

      • Libby Anne

        Chervil – You might want to review my commenting policy. One rule is “no name calling.” Please attack ideas, not people.

      • Chervil

        Yes, you’re right, I overreacted, over exaggerated which i tend to do, and tried to explain myself. I’m just a commenter, not a blogger. The problem I had with your comment was the insinuation that I need to do this or that, am just “repeating obnoxious statements.” And just repeating talking points. I certainly wasn’t intending to be obnoxious, my intentions were only to reflect what I see. My writing isn’t the best, I’m definitely not as skilled as LA, and I learn so much from everyone here.

      • smrnda

        Some Republicans have wanted to abolish the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and the Environmental Protection Agency, so some have offered concrete suggestions of what they want to get rid of. OSHA is defunded to the extent that they have pretty much no regulatory power at present anyway.

  • James Healey

    “It’s hard to square opposition to women’s reproductive rights or opposition to the rights of gay people to marry or adopt with the Republican party’s emphasis on “individual rights.””

    I disagree on the first part, to the extent that a woman can abort her child (although what she does before fertlization is entirely up tp her). An unborn human possesses the right to life, in my opinion.

    Also, gun rights are necessary as a matter of last resort against the government, although I suppose a tyrannical governent would suspend gun rights first anyway.

    • Angela

      The problem with an unborn human’s right to live is that it does come at the expense of another’s rights. Imagine someone is in kidney failure and will die unless they can get a transplant ASAP. You have been identified as a match but do not wish to donate a kidney and there is not time to find another donor. In your opinion should you be forced to donate a kidney against your will to support this person’s right to live?

      These circumstances are not so different as you may believe. Even a normal, uncomplicated pregnancy and childbirth requires no small sacrifice on the part of the mother. Anyone who says otherwise has never experienced it. And as we’ve seen in recent posts sometimes the mother’s life and health are jeopardized. In my opinion it’s not ethical or fair to demand that others risk their own health or well-being, even if it’s to save a life.

    • smrnda

      There’s a great quote from someone that a totalitarian state that depends on an unarmed populace is either doing it wrong or very incompetent. Plus, who says that everybody who raises up arms in rebellion against the government is on the right side? Armed citizens might just be seeking to impose their own order on everybody else.

      • Steve

        The whole idea of American citizens rising up against the government is just so much infantile nonsense. That may have worked in the 18th century when everyone had flintlocks and cannons. Today – even with semi-automatic rifles – the “rebels” would just get mowed down. Yeah, there are examples of successful insurgent forces, but without heavy weapons they can’t do much.

    • Christine

      We have very strict gun control here in Australia. I don’t feel at all as though I’m being deprived of anything. My “right” to own a gun, or lack thereof, does not stop the government from coming up with ridiculous legislation that interferes with my life.

  • Rilian

    I don’t get warm fuzzies. I feel disgusted by that idea. Other americans are no more my family than are people from other countries. My actual family is my family. But above all I’m an individual, with actual freedom.
    And I’m not a republican.

    • Helen

      You feel disgusted by the prospect of helping people in your community, and being helped? Why?

  • smrnda

    I have to say, there is no such thing as independence or self-reliance, unless you’re living as a stone age hunter gatherer somewhere. If you want civilization, you’re going to need interdependence.

    The reason people continue to believe in self-reliance is the labor which sustains them has been rendered invisible. It could easily take the combined efforts of millions of workers to make my day run smoothly, but I only see a tiny amount of what’s going on. Once you have money, you think because you can pay for what you need you are self-reliant, but those products wouldn’t be on the shelves and those services wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for a lot of people being kept down. Even worse is when someone gets in a position of leadership and then they think it’s them, and not the workers, who create everything.

    • Rilian

      Interdependence doesn’t require being slaves to each other.

      • Anat

        And where do you see ‘being slaves to each other’ in what Libby-Anne quoted?

      • Rilian

        That was a response to smrnda.
        It sounds like she’s saying “you’re dependent on other people, therefore you don’t get to have freedom”. But that interdependence is chosen by each person. And they can choose not to participate also. If they don’t have the choice to opt out (taking with that all the good and bad), then it’s slavery to the group.

      • Rosie

        I agree that interdependence doesn’t require being slaves to each other (though our current standard of living in the first world DOES indeed rely on slave labor), but in the larger sense interdependence is something we can’t get away from while we live. We require some things to keep the body alive: clean air, water, food. And so if one person poisons one of those things in a certain place and time, many others suffer through no doing of their own. If one person claims a huge amount of these resources–more than they need to live–then others will starve for lack of resources. What freedom is there for those who lack resources, or whose resources are poisoned by others?

        I don’t think interdependence is a problem (or if it is a problem, I can’t see any solution that doesn’t look even worse, much worse), but hierarchy and unequal distribution of power are problems. They allow some people to have freedom (and excessive control of resources) at the expense of others, and it’s no wonder the others tend to revolt from time to time.

    • Jaimie

      What you say is true Smyrnda. However, there are many people out there who believe just like Rilian. The common good is a philosophy that just doesn’t compute. Cooperation with others, especially with those they don’t agree with, is a poison to them. It’s slavery! It’s a fundamental disconnect of how society really works.

      I’m bad, but I can’t help chuckling at the really extreme ones who do not want to be Americans anymore. After spending years telling us liberals that we hate America! Secede! We can do it on our own! Hahahaha!

      • smrnda

        The type of people who complain that it’s ‘slavery’ to have to cooperate when they don’t want to would be just fine if other people were stuck accepting a deal the other people didn’t like but worked in their favor.

        Just to have it said, there is no such thing as totally voluntary cooperation. All our choices are bounded by the choices that other people made first, and as long as people have different places in hierarchies and different levels of control of resources, nobody in any exchange is participating on anything like an equal level.

        The funny thing about people who on about the ‘slavery’ – if an employer’s power over workers is limited by law, or if there exist any laws protecting workers, they call that ‘slavery’ but no amount of grinding the workers down is anything but freedom. Freedom isn’t being able to do what you want to do but is conveniently defined as ‘the absence of state intervention’ – which works out well for people with lots of resources that they control since then, they become the new feudal lords.

        Rilian, it’s nice to know that I live in a nation where there are people who could care less if other people live or die. Wow, way to feel *real big and tough there* with your philosophy of indifference. It’s certainly an outlook that only some entitled, pampered bourgeois ignoramus could maintain.

        Did you read my account of my own life? I’m admitting that my upper middle class lifestyle is the result of other human beings being treated like disposable garbage, and that I think it’s fair that I should be willing to accept a little bit higher taxes to fix this.

        Paolo Freire had a great quote about oppressors. To paraphrase, they’re so used to privilege that they think even the slightest change to benefit others who have been treated unfairly for their benefit) and they whine about how their being oppressed.

        I like to think I’m sensible enough that if life is unfair in my favor, and that I’ve been the beneficiary of nothing but luck and unearned privilege, I’d admit it, and so I do. Nice to know that plenty of other people in the States are still clinging to the adolescent notion that they’re the only people that matter.

        A society based on indifference to others just isn’t going anywhere. I’m willing to care about others since it’s part of the social contract – in the end, if I’m not willing to be there for the random stranger, then when I’m the random stranger in need of a safety net, I”ll be out of luck. Wouldn’t want that to happen to me or anyone I care about.

      • Rilian


        “Rilian, it’s nice to know that I live in a nation where there are people who could care less if other people live or die.”

        I care about everyone. So I’m not one of those people.

  • smrnda

    Sorry about that Rilian, but when someone starts invoking the word ‘slavery’ in a discussion of interdependence, it’s usually a sure sign of someone about to cut and paste Ayn Rand. Given your comment was extremely short, I was wrong to make too many assumptions about your beliefs, but if you’re going to use loaded words like “slavery” it helps to add a context or else it looks like you’re engaging in some kind of hyperbole.

    I mean, I could have interpreted your comment to support my own vision of life – that ‘interdependence’ currently means convenience for people (like me) on the top (since by world standards, I’m on the top even if I’m not in the 1% in the US) and slavery for the people who put my phone together, put my computer together, and farmed the bananas that I ate. The snappy one-liner posted as a response made me think it was meant as a disagreement.

    So sorry, but please, supply a little context. Just enough so people can *get* where you are coming from.

    • Paula G V aka Yukimi

      From reading previous comments by Rilian I think she might define herself as libertarian, an anarchist, an anarcho-capitalist or something close to that but obviously I’m not Rilian so I’m just pointing out what I think. Personally I don’t understand that view of “evil” government (obviously, governments aren’t perfect) and I am a big defender of the social contract, regulations that keep everything safe form food to any other thing, … but my best friend (who recently died of leukaemia) was anarco-capitalist so I’ve heard plenty of that view. She believed charity should take care of people in trouble (and that everybody would be more generous if they didn’t have to pay taxes, fat chance of that), that if we lived in small tribes, everything would work better, she investigated about installing privately run police and prisons, …I think part of it all was a reaction to the communist part of her country and some unfair treatment her parents received form the regulation of their self-employed small company. The first time I heard the words anarchist and capitalist together, after having seen the other extreme of anarchism way more frequently, I thought it would be at most a fringe movement and it isn’t too big but it’s well spread.

      • smrnda

        Given that welfare states, government regulation and a comprehensive social safety net have worked so well in so many nations, the burden of proof is on the anarcho-capitalist to explain to me why, given we have examples of what works, we should follow a model that has never even been tried before in any place just because someone finds it to be ‘metaphysically consistent’ or some other rubbish. To me, the anacho capitalist is like the ‘holistic healer’ who is trying to get me to quit seeing my doctor on the grounds that they have some mythic knowledge that’s just leaps and bounds above medical science.

        Though I will say a few things. I might think I’m free, but I know that I’m not because the one choice I would like to make (not to live off the exploitation of others) isn’t one that’s really open to me, unless I want to leave civilization.

      • Rilian

        Hey, Rilian is a boy’s name >:(
        And yes I’m a libertarian / anarchist.

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        I’m really really sorry for misgendering you. It won’t happen again.

      • Paula G V aka Yukimi

        I agree with you srmnda and it’s not just that it hasn’t been proved not to work, it’s that the few things that have been tried, have usually failed giving it even less credibility.

        There’s very few things that are under our control and it’s pretty awful to know that you are contributing to the exploitation of lots of people simply by existing and especially living in a first world nation even if you are the most progressive person in the world who really tries to change things. Reality sucks but you have to live it.

  • smrnda

    Rilian, the problem with libertarians is that they believe that it’s tyranny for a government to act without unanimous consent of all the people governed by it, but within a private regime you can just ‘take it or leave it.’ To me, tyranny is when a person with greater power uses that power to oppress someone with less. So if people vote on a tax that I don’t want to pay, it isn’t really making my life that inconvenient. If we all had to unanimously agree on everything the government does, then the government would be able to do absolutely nothing. However, a guy working in a slaughterhouse can either accept the conditions, or starve basically.”Choice” is a middle class privilege.

    I’m not sure how old, educated or well-traveled you are, but could you show me a historical precedent for libertarianism working? How long have you worked? In what field? I usually disclose a lot about my work history so that people at least can figure out what life circumstances inform my opinions. If you have been a working adult for less than 8 years, or if you’ve never had to care for dependents, I’m going to totally dismiss anything you say as the perspective of someone with inadequate real world experience to be talking about what political or economic systems actually work.

    My take on dependence is that the workers who middle and upper class people depend on should overthrow the people who get to enjoy ‘choice’ and ‘freedom’ by denying it to the workers, or that people should just admit that their life of privilege and ease comes only from the fact that others live lives with much less privilege and much more toil. The ‘freedom’ that I enjoy isn’t something I deserve, but something that a person whose exploitation makes my freedom possible has a right to demand to limit.

    • Rilian

      I don’t think you should say “the problem with libertarians”. That’s synonymous with saying “The problem with Rilian”. I think what you meant was “the problem with libertarianism”. Anyway.
      I don’t know about how “it” would function, “it” being an actual free society. It doesn’t matter to me. The only relevant point is that the group of people calling themselves a government, no matter who they are or how many of them there are, don’t have a right to boss me around, steal my money, or lock me in a cage.
      *My* ideal world would include people who help others because they want to. I want to.

  • smrnda

    I could clarify that I think ‘freedom’ exists only in a social context where people all have differing degrees of power. I think that in the end, more people get more freedom when people can use political power as a way of countering economic power. Nobody is going to get a deal they want 100%, but I think politics ought to be the art of the possible, not the pursuit of idealized social orders that can’t be realized.

    • Rilian

      I hypothesize that in an actual free market, people wouldn’t be stuck in a situation where they have to work for a giant corrupt company or starve.
      The question is how do we get there from here.

      • Jayn

        “I hypothesize that in an actual free market, people wouldn’t be stuck in a situation where they have to work for a giant corrupt company or starve.”

        You do realise that a lot of the laws we have in place came about because people got fed up with exactly those, and other similar, situations? The problem with taking the government out of economics is that time and again we’ve seen people with resources use them to gather more at the expense of others, and people without resources having to take whatever scraps they can get. And capitalism rewards the worst of human tendencies, often in self-destructive ways.

        Your ‘hypothesis’ is the exact opposite of what has happened historically.

      • smrnda

        Seriously, the government is bossing you around, stealing your money and out to lock you in a cage? Please, ditch the hyperbole and give me some concrete examples of this horrible oppression the government has crushed you under. Then contrast this to actual forms of oppression, like getting fired for throwing up while pregnant which I know at least 2 women who had this happen to them.

        Without empirical evidence to back up your ‘hypothesis’ about how an actual free market would operate your hypothesis is pipe dream ungrounded in reality. There exists lots of empirical evidence from history that without government intervention in the economy and regulations of commerce, that people are less free (since isn’t it employers, not businesses that boss people around much of the time?) and have lower standards of living. You might want to study some history, for starters I suggest the book “The Good Old Days, They Were Terrible” that tells you a lot about what life was like for people when the government decided to just let the market be. I’m sure your view of ‘freedom’ would be much different if you were an industrial worker benefiting from a lack of government interference in workplaces in India, where you can get an unmeasured dose of heavy metals and dirty water.

        All you have supplied is some juvenile hyperbole and a faith in an ideal that you can’t describe or explain or provide any explanation for how it would work or be attained. I take ideas for how to get things done seriously only when they’re backed up by actual empirical evidence. I say there is no such thing as a free society, and I think there’s a lot more evidence to back up my view than yours. The only difference is the degree of freedom people have within the society.

      • Steve

        I’ve noticed that a lot of libertarians are just reflexively anti-government. They seem to be for all kind of oppression and injustice as long as it’s done by someone else. It’s the same with the “state’s rights” crap, where they effectively say that discrimination is ok if it’s the states who discriminate and not the federal government,

        And in America the problem with libertarians is they they are strictly right-wing. You hear nothing about the individual liberty parts that are emphasized in some schools of the movement. It’s only “liberty” for the businesses, the rich and the powerful. Robber barons trying to rob more.

      • Rilian

        I don’t believe there was an actual free market.

      • Rilian

        Libertarianism is left-wing!
        Because it’s absolute freedom.
        Notice the word liber in both libertarian and liberal. That means freedom.
        Conservatives want to keep everthing the same as whatever “golden age” they happen to like.
        I’m a voluntaryist. In a free society, even if you start with nothing, you still have something, because you own yourself and the fruits of your labor. You get to decide who to trade that with and what for.

      • Doe

        You may own yourself in a free society. But humans, like businesses, require a considerable amount of investment before they will start producing returns. Someone who can convince a person with means to invest in them will be much, much better off than someone who has no one to invest in them. This leads to a situation where the people with resources are courted heavily by the people with no resources because their investment is a ticket out of poverty and early death. The society also loses a sizable fraction of its productivity because the people who have no one to invest in them end up not producing to their full capability.

        I don’t entirely agree that you have control over who you trade with and what for. There are some resources that can command almost any price. If I control the medicine that keeps you alive, you will pay me just about anything until you decide that dying is preferable to paying me. I think this is a source of disconnect for people on the left and people on the right, because the right sees the left as demanding resources just for existing (healthcare, education) and the left sees the right as setting up these massive barriers that keep disadvantaged people down. The goal is to prevent these one-sided exchanges where the resource-controller can demand a price and the consumer must pay it or suffer serious consequences (again, healthcare and postsecondary education).

      • Steve

        The question is freedom for who? All prominent American libertarians (and especially that whackjob Ron Paul, who is also a theocrat) only want more freedom for corporations and the rich. They want to remove any and all laws that restrict corporations and thus create an even more massive power imbalance. They don’t give a shit about civil liberties. Ron Paul doesn’t care who the states oppress as long as there isn’t the federal government. It’s really nothing but anarcho-capitalism.

        Yes, there are other schools that aren’t like that. But they aren’t what American libertarianism is.

      • Rosie

        An individual may own “the fruits of his labor”, but no amount of work will make something out of nothing. In order for my labor to be fruitful, I need to have access to some raw materials. And so long as people are allowed to “own” the basic building blocks (land, water, air) such that they can keep other people from accessing them (and one of the basic tenants of capitalism is the ownership of land), there are going to be some people left out in the cold, unable to access the raw materials necessary to make their labor fruitful. So it seems to me that the free market and libertarianism can only work *for everyone* if we bring back the notion of the commons, and abolish the ownership of natural resources by individuals.

  • Michael Busch

    Libby Anne,

    This contradiction between claims to be for unfettered individual rights while actually undercutting those rights is a known pattern of authoritarian regimes. Basically, the social dominators who become authoritarian leaders like being able to do whatever they want without limits. Authoritarian followers then end up acting against their own best interests to avoid being excluded from or punished by their community.

    I recommend Bob Altemeyer’s book The Authoritarians to you, if you haven’t read it already.

  • Doe

    As an adjunct to my earlier comment, I’d like to say that it really bothers me when pro-life people say that an aborted fetus could be the next Einstein, or Tim Tebow, or whatever. Because they tend to not be willing to invest in kids, and the next Einstein could be working a crap job because his/her parents can’t afford to keep him/her in school. I know a lot of bright girls who put off college, and in some cases even high school, because they became pregnant and decided to keep the child (not that we had access to abortion in my area). What if one of them could have cured cancer?

    I’d be careful with the hypothetical no guns = no gun violence argument. That could easily be turned around to be “would you be okay with the death penalty if it was shown to sharply reduce crime?” I probably wouldn’t be okay with the death penalty/capital punishment either way, and I’m not sure I would be okay with taking away everyone’s guns either. I think the big disagreement isn’t “do individual rights trump greater societal good” but “at what point to individual rights trump greater societal good”. And (I’m sure Libby knows this) conservatives really believe that supporting individual rights IS supporting society.

  • smrnda

    Rilian, I don’t want to sound patronizing but you don’t seem to have any understanding of how economics or human survival works. Human being require access to resources to survive. Without that, you do own yourself and the ‘fruits of your labor’ but with no resources, you’re pretty much screwed. I mean, how to some people come to control access to resources and others don’t? How did property emerge?

    Another point is that there’s no way out of having to bargain and compromise on a world with finite resources. The notion that we could live in a world where you never have to accept any condition you don’t agree with 100% is just impossible for a world with finite resources. Maybe if we were living in an age of Star Trek style technology we could all just get a replicator and a holodeck and then be totally free, without need for anyone else, but this isn’t a realistic program.

    In terms of political ideology, I’m only interested in concrete plans that have lots of specific details of how they are to be implemented and predictions of what might happen and descriptions of what metrics should be used to determine of the policy has succeeded or failed.

    Also Rilian, Europe is far less libertarian than the US, but I don’t know any Europeans who think that we are freer. If you define freedom as ‘absence of government’ yeah, people in India are even freer, but if you think of freedom as ‘being able to live the life you want’ with better social welfare programs, Europeans are freer than us (at least some of them.) They’re free to have longer vacations, better health care, better access to education. They pay taxes for these things and I’m sure there’s a few people who aren’t happy with the system, but not everyone can always get what they want.

    I’d recommend Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan as a book that, though old, presents a good case that in the absence of some kind of State with regulatory powers, there is no freedom.