Brad Miller

Individualism vs Collectivism

In True nature of the State on September 2, 2011 at 4:56 pm

All societies are based upon either the idea of Individualism or Collectivism. In today’s America we are travelling further and further down the road to Serfdom because a majority of Americans accept some of the foundational  ideological premises of Collectivism.

Ayn Rand understood even back in the 40’s that many Americans were supporting the Collectivist principles without even knowing it. Most Americans were staunch anti-communists at the time but they failed to realize that most of the Federal and State laws passed were actually based upon the same Collectivist ideology  which was ideological foundation of the USSR. The problem as Rand saw it was that people had a hard time understanding the fundamental premise behind the two ideologies. She masterfully laid out in her 1946 “Textbook of Americanism” the irreconcilable differences between two.

Ayn Rand’s ” Textbook of Americanism” is as she puts it is an  ” intellectual ammunition depot” for those want to advance the cause of Liberty.  It has had limited exposure due to the fact it only appeared  in a Hollywood Trade magazine “The Vigil” back in 1946. Thanks to The Foundation for Economic Education for making this ideological ammunition again  available for those who are fighting for the advancement of Freedom. 

Rand is a perfect authority for clarifying the differences between a Society based upon  Individualism and one that is based on Collectivism. She and her family suffered terribly after the 1917 Russian Revolution because her family was “bourgeoise”.  Which caused her to move to America in 1926.

I recommend reading her under appreciated novel “We the Living” set  in Russian after the Communist Revolution to get a first hand account of living conditions in a Collectivist Utopia. Even though the characters are fictional she states that this story is  her most autobiographical work.  In it she shows in human terms what happens when Collectivist ideology is fully unleashed. Her characters  in the story suffer misery, fear, starvation, poverty,  humiliation, and rampant acts of dehumanization . The arbitrary power wielded by those who spoke for the Collective was brutal and unrelenting. In the foreword she stresses that the evils of Totalitarianism she describes are not limited to the Russian brand of Communism, but are instead inherent to all expressions of Collectivism. 

That is why reading “Textbook of Americanism”  is such an important read today. Too many Americans are unaware of the Collectivist origins of many of the Laws and Programs in place in this country today. They fail to see Lenin’s or Marx’s influence when a politician urges that we “all share in  the sacrifice” and “spread the wealth” .. Even though this stealth Collectivism is hidden in phrases  of “social justice” and “fairness” they still share the same ideological basis which founded the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany which is the individual is subjected to the will of the majority and those who speak for it.  “Social Duty Comes First.”

That is why Rand’s ” Textbook of Americanism” is such a great resource for those who love liberty.

(It is short only 14 pages long but like “I, Pencil” by Leonard Read,  it is an essential weapon in the ideological arsenal who is fighitng to Live in a Free Society.)

By asking and answering  ten questions, Rand in a clear and rational style shows that the two ideologies of Individualism and Collectivism are irreconcilable. That is an important lesson today because we hear from both major political parties that we need “compromise”.  This compromise unfortunately is  always at the expense of Individual Liberty. In “TOA” Rand makes it clear why we don’t need any compromises when it comes to defending our Natural Right each of us have to our Life, Liberty and Property. In a rational way she explains that a  Society based on Individualism is one that leads to peace, prosperity and FREEDOM and  a Society based on Collectivism is one that leads to misery, poverty, and SUBJUGATION.

Natural Rights and individualism are inseparable. If you belong to yourself than you have a Natural Right to Defend your Life, Liberty and Property. If you belong to the State or the Collective then your Life, Liberty and Property belong to the whim of the majority.

Under a System of Individualism, men are equal before the law. When the politicians ask  Do the Rich should pay their fair share?”. The first question asked should be what moral right does any man have to seize the property of anohter?”The question should be asked “who determines this fair share?” “And more importantly who receives it?” These are moving targets which the biggest “gangs” in Society determine by using the Marxist’s formula of “From Each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” When you read  “We the Living” you’ll see the destruction of Life, Liberty and Property that result when this Collectivist Idea is implemented.

 Rand clearly understood that the greatest issue of the day in 1946 was between the two systems, Individualism vs. Collectivism,  just as it is today.

“Individualism holds that man has inalienable rights which cannot be taken from him by any other man, nor by any number, group or collective of other men. Therefore each man exists by his own right, and for his own sake, not for the sake of the group.”

” Collectivism holds that man has no rights; that his work, his body, and his personality, belong to the group; the group can do with him as it pleases; in any manner it pleases, for the sake whatever it decides to be its welfare. Therefore, each man exists only by the permission of the group and for the sake of group.”

Those who advocate for Collectivism believe that only the will of the Collective should determine the rights of the individuals in Society. They believe that a system based on Individualism will leave individuals free to violate the rights of others because there is no clear delineation between when one  individual’s rights end and where another one’s begin. 

Rand’s reply to this argument is one that  everyone who loves freedom should memorize. It is the  foundation of the Freedom Philosophy and the greatest intellectual weapon against Collectivism. Rand describes how rights of individuals are delineated within a Society based on Individualism.

 “It is an objective  division not subject to differences of opinion, not to majority decision, nor to the arbitrary decree of society.”


That statement illustrates that the use of force is the gulf that separates the two ideologies. The use of Force is at the heart of Collectivism. When someone proposes that the Life, Liberty or Property of someone should be involuntarily seized to benefit others, that is a clear sign of the ideology of Collectivism in action. 

“The Practical Rule of conduct in living in a Free Society, a Society of Individualism, is simple and clear-cut; you cannot expect or demand any action from another man except through his free voluntary consent.”

This is the moral code of the Society based upon Natural Rights and Individualism where all action is voluntary. A Collectivist Society is not based on no moral code or Natural Law therefore all action is controlled by the majority and those who speak for it.

Ayn Rand ends her “Textbook of Americanism” with some words we should all keep in mind when we hear advocates of Authoritarians claim that more State control is the “moral” thing to do.

Without a Moral Code no proper human society is possible” and “Without the recognition of individual rights no moral code is possible.”  

Collectivism is a brutal impersonal ideology based on force. It denies human experience. In “We the Living” Kira the hero is talking to Andrei  a secret police agent with who she is having an affair with  and admonishes him with:

” You may claim the right to kill as all fighters do. But no one before you has ever thought of forbidding life to those still living”.

This is collectivism taken to its logical end.

Even though we don’t live under a total Collectivist Society I do believe that the majority of individuals in this  country accepts Taxation as a way take from those who have to benefit those who do not. Taxation is a  Collectivist idea because it involves the involuntary seizing of a man’s property by force and then transferring that wealth to others because of their “need”. This transference of wealth is based upon the same creed as Russian Communism.

“From Each according to his ability, to Each according to his need”. Collectivism is alive and well in America!!!

I disagree with Rand’s take on  the need for Limited Government. For me I personally throw my hat in the ring with the Free Market Society or Anarcho-Capitalist guys, like Nock and Rothbard. 

That being said, for me not to read Rand because I disagree with her on her limited government stance is just as ludicrous as  those who love liberty; but don’t read her because she was an atheist. I have to confess I used to not read her because of her views on God and selfishness. But I’m glad I matured and now understand that for me to miss out on her clear, rational, passionate defense of individual Liberty  for any reason is in the end only aiding the enemies of Freedom.

Ayn Rand unlike most of us and most of the writers we normally read actually lived under a Collectivist Society. Her warnings of where that ideology lead to is more relevant today than ever. The West,the birthplace of Individualism is forgetting its ideological roots and rapidly embracing the Collectivist creed. If you want to help stop this tide then read  “Textbook of Americanism” and ” We the Living”. They will help your understanding of the differences between the two systems and help you articulate that to others.

And That’s my Take,



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