I was pondering today. One of the big things touted by libertarians and Ayn Rand followers is how they believe in the self. They love their individualism. The logical question is, "Why is their plan better for individuals and non-conformists than an alternative plan?" Or an even better question is, "Which plan is best for individuals?" One look at the religious right nutjobs immediately disqualifies social conservatism is a valid answer. Afterall, the very concept of social conservatism is the systematic destruction of an individual's soul and subsequent replacement with the soul of the social construct of choice. The real debate is over the economic side of the equation. Which is better, big government, big business, or rugged individualism? And most importantly of all, why?
Now, I'm not going to mince words. I'm a social democrat. This essay reflects my personal views on why big government is better than big business. And in my opinion, it all comes down to defining what it is that you want to get from the individual.
Individualism is the idea is that an individual should be given maximum choice over everything they do and own. To aid in this, as much responcibility as possible should be delegated to the individual himself. A good example is home ownership. The individual has his own house, his own lawn, his own lawnmower, his own water filter, his own air purifier, his own food garden, and even his own business. The draw back is in recreated effort. You only use your lawn mower once a week, but everyone in the neighborhood has one. The purpose of this is to give the individual absolute control and absolute privacy. Only when these are achieved can one truely express himself without fear of reprisal. So the theory goes.
Individuality is the actual expression of yourself. The person buys all blue colored accessories because he likes that color best is expressing himself. A person who buys a shirt with a picture or saying on it that interests him is expressing himself. Individuality is important because it is the source of new ideas. When everyone is the same, few new ideas are generated. When there is a wide variety of inputs to exercise the brain muscle, you become a veritable idea factory. All of our useful inventions started as an idea. If you like the internet, automobiles, mass-transportation, boats, sports, or domesticated animals, you can thank an idea for it. So in short, individuality is a prerequisite to modern society. Thus the question is how do we get the most individuality?
A mainstay of the libertarian arguement is Homo Economus. Homo Economus is the idea that every person will always pick the best option when purchasing things. Homo Economus is the prerequisite that makes a liberal democratic society (aka capitalism) work. However, in order for Homo Economus to function properly, he must be perfectly knowledgable and perfectly in control. It is assumed that when you buy something, you will do background research and pick the best product or service. It also assumes that you won't give in to advertising or impulse purchasing.
Would everyone here who has never given in to advertising or impulse purchasing and has done a background research on every product and company he purchased from please raise your hand now?
You, the guy next to the one smartass who actually raised his hand. Please smack him for me.
Tell me, do you really think about the little things? Do you do a background check on silverware? On shampoo? On underwear? Sure, you may end up not buying a brand because they had poor quality, but do you look into all the side effects like child labor? Homo Economus does. He does a full background check for every ten cent purchase he makes.
Now that we know that we don't have time for such little things, think about what it would be like if you had to do it for even the most basic of services. You'd have to be a microbiologist just to figure out which water supplier to use. You'd have to be an electrician to choose your power company. Or worse, you'd have to be all that to set up your own system for water and electricity. You'd have to take time to grow your own garden, so add dietician to the mix. As you can see, the result of rugged individualism is that life becomes more complicated and difficult.
A word about difficulty. It always brings a stir to people's hearts to read about some guy who overcame difficult odds to win. We love watching other people play competitively. Competitive sports are a billion dollar industry with multi-million dollar stars. Rugged individualists love difficulty and heap praise on those who take it up. However, when you are on the inside you see a different pattern.
If you have ever played competively at a high level, you will notice the elimination of fluff. Power is priority one. You need to be more powerful than the other team to win. Thus any strategy that is not the most powerful is discarded. That is truely disappointing because the fluff is where individuality is. Everyone becomes the same because they have recognized the most powerful strategies and use them exclusively.
Apply that to everyday life. If everyday life is difficult, the same thing happens. If you have to grow your own food, you will gravitate towards those that are easiest to grow. You simply don't have space, time, or the environment for the exotic foods you enjoy so much when you have to do everything yourself. Thus everyone becomes the same. Tell me, if you grow the same food as everyone else, make the same clothes as everyone else, and build the same little hut as everyone else, how much are you expressing yourself? Individualism destroys individuality.
Big business is even worse. Big business exists for one sole reason: to make money. The bottom line is all that matters. Thus they use the most powerful strategy because it gives the biggest returns for the least amount spent. They eliminate all the fluff, or at least as much as they possibly can. Again, the fluff is where you express yourself. Unless you want a completely generic shirt with a Brand XYZ logo, you have little individuality. Even the cute slogans you have are merely one of many copies that many other people have. So big business only a cut above rugged individualism. But that's not all. Big business wants to insure its market. Huge advertising budgets are spent to replace your ideas with those that favor the big business. So big business combines the disadvantages of rugged individualism with the soul stealing of social conservatism for a double blow to individuality. Big business destroys individuality.
Thus we are left with collectivism. For the conservatives out there that means big government. Big government gives the advantages of the economies of scale while being willing to run at a loss for the sake of including fluff. Economic collectivism combind with social individualism will provide the greatest degree of individuality; of expressing yourself.
Let's take a moment to forget reality and invision what could be. I see a world where the clever use of automation and infrastructure insures that everyone has free food, housing, clothes, utilities, and basic allowance. You could never work a day in your life and have a comfortable if basic life. You could do anything you want without question or restraint. Want to be a musician? Go for it! Want to become well read? Go for it! Want to work on one of the automation oversight teams? Go for it! It would be a world where everyone could express maximum individuality. It would be world where the maximum number of ideas are generated. It would be a world where the maximum number of ideas are implemented.
The automobile is an implemented idea. Television is an implemented idea. The computer is an implemented idea. The internet is an implemented idea. The library is an implemented idea. The zoo is an implemented idea. Fire and the wheel are implemented ideas. Putting man on the moon was an implemented idea. The hubble space telescope is an implemented idea. The mir space station was an implemented idea.
The mir space station was an implemented idea that was scrapped. You see, it was fluff. The effect on the bottom line became too much. This implemented idea that could have helped send our race to the stars was scrapped because we don't live in the invisioned world.
Implemented ideas make life better for everyone. A society that implements the most ideas is one that becomes exponentially better for everyone.
It is the society I want to live in.
Social democracy forever!
--- Landon Fox, The Blue Savant
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