The Varieties of Conservative Collectivism

In my latest column for The Week, I argue that David Brooks is wrong about the problem with individualism and that self-professed individualists, such as Glenn Beck, are really just as collectivist as Brooks, but with a flag fetish and a penchant for Ye Olde Constitution fonts. I speculate that this has something to do with why the GOP is busted.

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20 thoughts on “The Varieties of Conservative Collectivism

  1. Bravo!One question which, I hope, does not tarnish my admiration for the main thrust of your piece:What about Scandinavia?From the article:> And individualism works. As Brooks himself notes, individualistic societies tend to be wealthier than collectivist ones. And studies show that individualistic societies, which emphasize choice and personal fulfillment, tend to produce happier people than do collectivist societies, which are anchored by conformity, honor, and inherited obligations. By almost any measure, individualism is a success.Is it true that individualist societies tend to be wealthier than collectivist ones?No snark intended. I am sincerely interested in the data.

  2. “Is it true that individualist societies tend to be wealthier than collectivist ones?”Aside from getting into a philosophical discussion as to what constitutes “wealth”, and assuming we're talking about purchasing power, cost of living, etc… then the answer is an unequivocal: yes.

  3. This is the problem I see with the Republicans — all factions have their idea of freedom yet when it comes to the tough decisions like pot, gays, war, a woman's choice over their body each faction has a line they draw on personal liberties.

  4. That article was a long way of saying that most conservatives and Republicans are statists. The same goes for liberals and Democrats.And this is supposed to be insightful?

  5. Perhaps one day our science will be sophisticated enough to answer one of life's most enduring questions: How is it, exactly, that David Brooks has convinced so many to take him so seriously when every argument he makes is so transparently awful? He's like Leon Kass. At first glance, you might think it's magic or mesmerism. But I believe that science will eventually win the day. Of course, that bright future will undoubtedly be clouded by the sober ruminations of a futuristic David Brooks, who will (very soberly!) explain that according to “science” people really were much happier and more fulfilled back when Ur-David Brooks was mangling scientific research and arguing from crude, offensive stereotypes in the paper of record.

  6. I agree that we have individual and social natures. I am not the first to suspect that our individual genetic endowments might include a bias one way or the other. That said, I think the answer lies in moderation, and balance.Was it just my read, or is your piece at The Week maybe looking too much for a “winner” rather than a balance? People who are themselves strongly individual or strongly social may not be happy with that … but they are outliers after all.

  7. At one time libertarians allied themselves with racists and nationalists like Glenn Beck because it is impossible to have a robust welfare state in a country deeply divided by race. It is nice to see that you reject this sort of thing and are trying to limit government while embracing social liberalism. I think there are a lot of areas where progress can be made in this respect, from better crime policy to means testing certain programs. That said I think you are going to have to take economic externalities like Global Warming more seriously. I know you oppose carbon tariffs and I think I actually agree with you. Rich countries should bear the costs of global warming. That said even if rich countries are bearing the costs we need poor countries to cooperate. The cheapest ways of reducing these emissions are in poor countries and so rich countries wanting to prevent global warming's worst effects see China as a great opportunity. This could be good for both rich countries and poor countries.

  8. trying to limit government while embracing social liberalism.No, social liberalism is also collectivist.The areas where individual liberty overlaps with liberalism and conservatism are not areas where libertarians have “embraced” those collectivist ideologies.

  9. I am reminded of a story I have heard about Ludwig von Mises at a Mount Pelerin Society meeting in the late 1940s or early 1950s. After a discussion of taxation and redistribution, Mises said to the largely conservative group, “You are all socialists.” In the appendix to The Constitution of Liberty Hayek says that conservatives have more in common with socialists (collectivists) than they have in common with classical liberals. The collectivism of the two former groups gets manifested in different ways depending on the circumstances. But collectivism it is. Permit me to advertise my recent blog on a similar subject:http://thinkmarkets.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/wh

  10. I prefer the variety you guys have in the states where you can find either someone liberal, middle of the road or conservative.Should I just accept the fact that conservative girls will always be a minority in Europe?

  11. “And individualism works. As Brooks himself notes, individualistic societies tend to be wealthier than collectivist ones. And studies show that individualistic societies, which emphasize choice and personal fulfillment, tend to produce happier people than do collectivist societies, which are anchored by conformity, honor, and inherited obligations. By almost any measure, individualism is a success.”Are you implying that there is a cause and effect relationship? And if so, which causes which? I'd be interested in the empiric evidence.

  12. The facts of our contingent evolution have also resulted in our being composed of cells. Being composed of cells is at least as necessary to our existence as is our being social creatures and perhaps even more so. Down with collectivism, up with cellism. Read your Nicomachean Ethics Mr. Brooks. Aristotle had that one right. What makes us us is our ability to be cognizant, the fact that as individuals we are cognitive loci. Ultimately, that is why rights accrue to individuals and not collectives. Collectives cannot legitimately possess rights or exercise powers not delegated by individuals to the collective. Further, individuals cannot delegate rights they do not possess.

  13. This reminds me of Hayek's “Individualism and the Economic Order”. Quite often, people who consider themselves both allies and enemies of 'individualism' are quite unclear what they mean by it – Rousseau considered himself an individualist, after all.This is the first thing I've read by you. Interesting, though I'm not sure I agree with everything.

  14. I think you are going to have to take economic externalities like Global Warming more seriously. I know you oppose carbon tariffs and I think I actually agree with you. Rich countries should bear the costs of global warming.

  15. Pingback: I Like Glenn Beck Because He’s Fun to Watch - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine

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