Bryan Griffin: The Perils Of Social Collectivism

May 1, 2019

Collectivism is an ugly concept with great potential for harm.

Economic collectivism, the concept central to Communism, is the centralization of the ownership of land and the means of production. It favors the state or “collective” in property rights over the individual.

Social collectivism, a phrase I am coining in this broadcast, is the phenomenon we are witnessing in current American political discourse wherein the group identity of a people is given more priority and emphasis than the individuals that comprise it, even when individuals don’t have a choice in the group they are assigned.

Terrible consequences have come from experiments in collectivism in economics, and I believe we are witnessing the manifest of a political ethos hyper-focused on collectivism.

It would seem that hate for a group of people is a common occurrence in the daily news-cycle. From Charlottesville, to Christchurch, to the recent Synagogue and Chabad shootings.

Noticeably, the stated justification of hate-based crimes in America is always the identity of the group targeted, not the specific individuals within it. Mass shootings are indiscriminate, with the sole purpose of killing as many members of a group as possible.

Of course, this is not to equate identity politics with hate crimes, as there is an extraordinary evil and malicious intent that drives these criminals to harm others, but it is worth it to reexamine the national discourse at a time when we see people act on group hatred all too often.

Are we allowing our political discourse to focus too much on the collective?

We see a news media obsessed with conflict between race and genders, and live among politicians and candidates, especially on the left, that bring everything back to identity politics. Democrat contenders are running first on being gay, or being a woman, or being of a particular national origin, and only secondarily (if at all) on their political policy positions.

For example, Beto O’Rourke has been publicly admonished for posturing to identify himself as Hispanic while also publicly criticized for lacking in substantive policy ideas.

Pete Buttigieg uses his gay identity as a campaign talking point.

And we all remember Elizabeth Warren’s ridiculed DNA test to prove that she was part Cherokee Indian. That turned out to be only 1/1024th true.

Yes, we can acknowledge societal disparities between groups of people and work to correct them. But there is so much room to deemphasize the focus of the national discourse from non-chosen demographics, like skin color.

At the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, an invited anti-Israel performer quickly devolved from a political message to signing jovially about anti-Semitism. At Trinity College, a professor Tweeted “whiteness is terrorism.” At Georgetown, a professor calls for the castration of white men, among other violent retributive sentences to be exacted upon men indiscriminately.

These are outliers in average progressive discourse, but they nonetheless self-identify on the far-left and believe they are furthering the cause of social justice by promoting these views, fueled by righteous indignation in an “us vs. them” mentality promoted by heavy collective focus.

It’s all gone too far and needs a heavy dose of the alternative.

The conservative ideology emphasizes individual rights over the collective.

Individual rights are those rights that each person has to live, work, think, and behave in a way they choose and to be defined by those self-made choices, not by the assigned identity of the group they were born into. The right of the individual to carry out their choices about their life is protected by keeping the government at a limited size that doesn’t require the heavy hand of bureaucracy to assign group identities to administer and provide a litany of government entitlements.

We can deemphasize society’s obsession with groups by insisting on being treated by politicians, policies, and the government as individuals. We deserve to be considered as individuals because we are individuals, with each of us possessing unique qualities and attributes to offer society. We must insist upon this to the elected elite. Celebrate our differences and recognize the individuals they reflect, don’t use them to pit us against each other.

Bryan Griffin of the London Center for Policy Research is a lawyer and author who specializes in American policy in the Middle East.

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