Thursday, July 22, 2010

Live Free or Die = Collectivism

I've noticed a collectivist under-current in some of the thinking of folks involved in the Free-State Project and other libertarians. This collectivism is subtle but real.

Sure, "live free or die" as a personal motto or ethic is ultimately an expression of individualism. But many libertarians incorrectly diagnose the ills of modern statist society to be due to a lack of willingness to die for one's liberty on the part of the masses. They are asserting something along the lines of "if only people were more generally willing to die for their liberty, we'd all be truly free." The idea is that a tyrant can't dominate a people composed of individuals who are mostly willing to die rather than be enslaved to the tyrant.

But I think this is subtle or stealth collectivism because dying for one's liberty is not really dying for one'sown liberty (you can't be free when you're dead). Instead, dying for liberty is dying for the liberty of others. And such self-sacrificial acts - while laudable in their own right - are not performed in one's own interests but in the interests of the collective. Those who subscribe to the theory that we are not free because enough people are not willing to die for freedom ultimately have no faith in the self-organizing nature of society composed of uncoordinated individuals pursuing their own, independent ends.

Even if it's just an expression of one's personal credo or motto, I still cringe every time I read the phrase, "Live Free or Die."


Anon4UgyREWY said...

Why are you biased against any and all forms of collectives? Do you reject the reality that human beings are social animals, can act collectively, and organize themselves in different forms of collective?

You can't be so individualistic without having a poor view of reality. Go look at some monkeys in the wild sometime cause that's where we come from.

Clayton said...

Anon: I am not biased against "collectives." My point is that "Live free or die" is _supposed_ to be an expression of individualism, yet it is not, really.

As far as collectivism goes, I have no problems with it except insofar as it is an ingredient of statism, that is, as far as it is used to justify the two-tiered system of law and personal privilege.