Creed of Freedom
© 2006 by G. Edward Griffin. Published October 19
A subscriber recently posed this question:
Hasn't China done well under collectivism? I remember in the sixties when we learned that they were starving in China, and that was even in the words to a song. Now, most of the products in our home (power tools, electric heater, computers etc) come from China. On CNN we see their freeways that look just like ours. How significant are a few political prisoners, forced abortions, and prematurely harvested organs from condemned prisoners, in comparison to the economic welfare of millions of people? ...
Could different degrees of collectivism be appropriate (that is, produce the least evil) for people of different levels of 'enlightenment' (that is, for people whose reluctance to accept personal responsibility prevents them from enjoying the benefits of individualism)?
This is my reply:
The sacrifice of individuals for the benefit of the group is one of the principles of collectivism. Therefore, you are asking if collectivism (including denial of human rights for some individuals) would be acceptable if it produced economic benefit for the nation. The answer depends on whether you are in the larger group enjoying economic benefit or the smaller group of victims of the police state. It depends on whether you are enjoying material wealth or are a political prisoner, a woman being forced to abort, or a man being executed for the commercial value of his liver. It depends on whether you look only at high-rise buildings and modern roads or also at regimented life styles, fear of authority, blocked access to information, restrictions on travel, limits on religious practice, and denial of free speech.
Collectivists have trouble with this choice because they believe that anything is acceptable so long as the number being benefited is greater than the number being penalized, and—most important – they assume they will never be among the victims. Individualists also desire economic benefits, but they know there are none of them in the gulag. They also know that, if we deny human rights to a single person or a minority, eventually we could become victims ourselves.
If we assume that we should allow the benefits of freedom only to those who are enlightened enough to accept personal responsibility, we have already abandoned individualism. The assumption that “we” should decide who is qualified implies that “we” have the power to enforce that decision. In other words, it assumes that we are in control of society and are acting as benevolent dictators. That puts us right back to collectivism, where the so-called enlightened ones rule with absolute authority – for the benefit of the masses, of course. If we grant freedom to people on the condition that they will use it wisely, we are only pretending to give it because we retain the power to take it back any time the recipient fails to live up to our expectations. We are saying, in effect: “You are free to do what you wish provided you do exactly as we say. If you fail to follow our directives, then you will lose your freedom.” That’s not freedom at all. It’s collectivist dictatorship.
This is a bad analogy because freedom is not ours to grant in the first place. Individualists believe that human rights are intrinsic to each individual. They are not granted by other men and certainly not by the state. Each of us is born with them; and, if we know what is good for us, we had better protect them. One of the biggest threats to our freedom in modern times is the beguiling argument that they may be denied for the so-called good of the group or the nation. That is the greatest political scam of all history.