OPINION – If you were asked to name the greatest political divide in American society today, how would you answer?
Is it Republicans versus Democrats? The rich versus the poor? Believers versus non-believers? Once we start down this road, we end up with the kind of list that quickly snowballs into an avalanche of labels yet still fails to describe the real divide.
As G. Ed Griffin points out in his essay “The Future Is Calling”, the real conflict isn’t just about the merits of a proposed action. It’s about whether a policy or course of action is ethically justifiable or not.
Viewed through the lens of principle, the most important division in our nation today is the one between the individual and the collective.
Griffin rightly states that a majority of collectivists and individualists are men and women of good intentions. They want a good life for themselves and the people around them. The difference is in how they go after their goals.
The individualist views human rights as natural, nontransferable, individual rights that limit the power of government over us. The best example of this can be read in the Declaration of Independence which states:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men …
The collectivist sees things differently. Under collectivism, our rights are granted or given to us by the state. This means that government exists to tell us what our rights are rather than securing and protecting them.
Individual rights require government to act within clearly specified limits on its power. No individual may be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process. Government cannot rightfully do what would be wicked or immoral for the individual to do in preserving his rights.
If it would be wrong for me to forcibly take money from my neighbor and use it for philanthropic purposes, it would not be right for a thousand, or a million, people to forcibly take his money for the same purpose.
Collectivism, on the other hand, makes our rights a matter of simple math. The natural rights of the individual are subject to the approval of the majority when it is being done “for the greater good” of the group.
Acts that deny the rights of the individual are somehow transmuted into acts of imaginary nobility when they are done for the so-called common good. But how can something that is truly good be detrimental to another good?
One place where we can see this distinction playing out is in the rising hysteria following a measles outbreak that began at Disneyland. Not only is the outbreak being blamed on individuals who, for various reasons, choose not to be vaccinated but there are increasing calls for mandatory vaccinations.
One Pasadena woman whose sister came down with measles is being threatened with an involuntary quarantine if she does not get the measles vaccine. California’s state epidemiologist is also warning those who are not vaccinated to “stay away from Disneyland.”
What’s curious is that a surprising number of the people who contracted measles at Disneyland were, in fact, already vaccinated. In other words, vaccination is not the panacea that the collectivists are pretending it is.
The individualist approach to this measles outbreak would be to follow one’s own conscience on reducing exposure to the disease while encouraging others to make an informed decision on whether or not to become vaccinated. Fear of what others may or may not choose to do would not be a deciding factor.
The collectivist approach is to clamor for legal intervention that would treat every person who has not been vaccinated as a walking time bomb. Fear and numbers remain the moral basis for all collectivist law and policy.
Will they advocate removing children from the homes of parents who have rejected the group’s will? This is not a far-fetched possibility when we consider what has already been done in the name of the common good.
We saw this in the Parker Jensen case in Utah back in 2003 when a 12-year-old boy was nearly forced to undergo unnecessary chemotherapy by the well-intentioned collective.
Meanwhile, in Connecticut, 17-year-old Cassandra Fortin has been taken from her home and ordered to undergo forced chemotherapy even though she wants to refuse the treatment. By what right does the collective force a young woman to undergo medical treatment she does not want?
Genuine common good doesn’t require government violence. It’s really just voluntary individual good on a larger scale.
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- Perspectives: Anti-discrimination laws, seeking power not equality
- Letter to the Editor: St. George Airport, Disneyland & Common Core; grounding effects of education reform
- Perspectives: Discovering American history reinvented, guilty
- When the safety of immunizations comes into question
- What the HAYnes? You’ve got a flu to catch
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and opinion writer in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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