I’ve often railed against collectivism, mainly because I find all political philosophies formed before the 20th century to be naive in the extreme and for lacking a stance on global politics. But I’ve rarely taken one on directly.
In this essay, I tackle this discrediting of collectivism directly, but more to the point, take on “Left Libertarianism”. The source of the muse of this essay does a good job helping argue against collectivism, and I will add my voice. But I will also discredit the muse’s alternative to this… a softer form of collectivism that they call “Left Libertarianism”.
Left Libertarianism is like calling something an “All Beef Soy Burger”, or “Fat Free Real Butter” or “All Natural Coca-Cola”. It realizes the problems in both collectivism and libertarianism, and tries to marry them in a frankenstein mashup of “best qualities of both” and fails on both accounts for reasons we’ll go into.
This makes no more sense than the name of the YouTube channel, AnarchistCollective… yeah, I know, right?
Now, first, let’s hear from the collectivist side. Granted, this is liberal collectivism, so milage may vary, but we need a common starting point.
I watched the next video to see how accurate it was in at least portraying itself. I’m not verifying the data. We’ll keep this a purely philosophical debate.
Now, historically, collectivism is “the greatest good for the greatest number”. We will try to keep communism and socialism specifically out of this discussion, simply because these political systems rarely fully embody a philosophical system, just as democracy and capitalism are rarely pure systems either.
Let me also state up front. While I’m a citizen of the United States, and at the time of this writing there are political leaders of a view that opposes collectivism, I do not support them. While they may oppose collectivism, I find their political philosophies equally distasteful.
This article is to oppose collectivism, but not to support what most people think of as “the other side”. Readers of my philosophy will clearly see that I take shots at that supposed “other choice”, embodied by such persons as Ayn Rand and the like.
While I could be classified by some as being an individualist, actual individualism never shows up. It shows up in disguises such as free market capitalism, deregulation, conservatism, libertarianism, and I subscribe to no such political ideologies as the forms of these that show up in political arenas.
What I do subscribe to is a philosophy based on the primacy of existence of sentience over extinction. This is, in and of itself, neither collectivist nor individualist. My philosophy goes to a more basic concern of what and why, while these childish implementations of philosophy concern themselves with how.
As for the how, I’m actually quite a bit of an anarchist. In fact, my next book will tackle modern anarchism, including why it is an important position to take going forward, especially in ethics and philosophy.
And I’m so glad that I found a video by someone claiming anarchism, so that this will be a somewhat fair debate. Their video is also nearly a half hour long, which will probably take more time to watch than my essay will take to read.
These terms are more than fair.
I find this video to be a prime example of a collectivist argument, so we will start there. Here is the video. Feel free to watch it in its entirety before continuing if you wish. It's actually not dull, just wrong and useless, haha.
Ok, let’s dissect this point by point.
The author states that collectives “allow individuals to pursue their own goals”. Actually, no, collectives allow individuals to pursue the goals of the collective. Sometimes this is voluntary, often it is not.
One voluntarily chooses to join some groups, and is forced to join others. In the middle of these two choices is another, voluntarily choosing to join a group, but being forced into some activities to remain in the group through coercion.
A voluntary group is something like a book club. All you do is pick a book, read it, and discuss it. But, if the group chooses a book that you do not like, you are not free to stop reading without leaving the group. Your participation is usually mandatory, but this participation is the core reason of the group, thus your joining and the goals are ethically aligned.
An involuntary group is something like a military draft. The individual is forced into service of a collective with no free will.
A group in the middle might be being the citizen of a country. You didn’t have a choice to join, but you do voluntarily participate in some of the available activities. You follow rules you don’t agree to, because you are coerced with removal from society, not because you agree to the rules. The stakes for leaving the society are high, and the choices of alternatives more suitable are relatively low.
As such, no… your “own goals” don’t mean anything in a collective, unless your goals align with the collective, and participation in rules and requirements of a collective is rarely voluntary.
Often, the guise of “democracy” is used to suppress individual goals. After all, if the majority of the book club wants to read Hamlet, you can’t complain that you want to read Sci-Fi. You got a vote like everyone else did, right? Of course, every single vote of the 10 person book club is won by the 7 close friends who always vote in unison. But, hey, you got a vote. Right?
Of course, you may say, what about a book club that gives everyone an equal chance to pick one book? If you have a 12 person book club, and each book takes 3 months to read, you’ll get your chance… once every 3 years.
So much for your “individual goals”. The benefits of the collective always favor the goals of the majority, and these usually do not change over time.
The point of the video goes on to state a more mainstay of collectivist thought, which is, “but look at all the good for society created from collectivist efforts”.
This argument is that a construction team represents a collective. In a narrow, completely voluntary collective, this may even align with individual goals.
But individuals choosing to build houses doth not a collective make. Sure, an individual rare builds a house alone. But a single goal voluntary collective represents nothing of philosophical or political collectivism.
10 Libertarians might write up a contract and do the same thing. 10 Collectivists of a non-profit would do the exact same thing. 10 Anarchists can also come to agreement to do the same thing.
Coming to agreement on a common goal is NOT collectivism! Political ideologies don’t exist in environments of perfect agreement. Libertarians, conservatives, liberals, collectivists, anarchists, etc do not EXPRESS an ideology in an environment in perfect, unanimous agreement. There is no distinction. The individualists in perfect unanimous agreement work exactly the same as the collectivists in perfect unanimous agreement.
Philosophy and ideology exist only in an environment of conflict of interests. And in a collective, it expresses itself when there is disagreement among members. It is expressed with how that disagreement is resolved.
Political Philosophy is only concerned with resolution of conflict. This could be a conflict over the distribution of resources, the distribution of power, the distribution of benefits, or the distribution of labor.
If there is no conflict, there is no Political Philosophy to be expressed.
This is a huge kink in the armor right off the bat for this video, which is trying to express collectivism by its proposed benefits, such as better neighborhood housing. But all mainstream political philosophies propose great societal benefits.
This is a selling tactic by the video, not statement of distinction.
Let’s move on…
The next topic of the video is communalism. This is a rather generic term that applies to human culture, not philosophy. This is all well and good. Whether you read 1984, A Brave New World, Atlas Shrugged, we see “communalism” portrayed as a main component of all political philosophies. Even the ultra individualist Ayn Rand put her hero’s into a valley together to cooperate and live together rather than saying, “So John Galt moved to the Alaskan Wilderness, never to see another human again, and lived happily ever after. The End.”
I will state, however, that the speaker’s idea of a “fragmented community” is rather narrow minded. One thousand people living in an area who do not want to have contact with one another may still be communal. Having lived in a suburban community, I liked waving at my neighbors, but I didn’t want to talk to them, and wanted them to leave me alone and stay off my lawn. They generally shared this value with me.
Communal spaces are bonded by a shared value, not by hanging out in the backyard drinking ice tea as portrayed in the video. That’s simply one type of shared value, and the speaker assumes that if we don’t agree with this, we’re in a fractured community. He fails to see that it still remains a “community” and that “fractured” is simply a subjective description based on the speaker’s set of values.
Apparently, the author says that the right thing to do is to be all sociable. I disagree. I don’t like most people. I rather they stay the fuck away from me. I find the people I want to talk with in very specific locations and run in very specific social circles. And I prefer to talk with them in one on one settings, not group settings.
So my idea of my ideal community would not be the same as the speakers, nor do I accept his idea of “healthy” community. I’ve lived in one of those as well. I generally found the average interesting information of the residents below my liking and they wanted to bullshit about local issues that I cared nothing for.
I’d call this type of community a form of extreme local ethnocentrism. I find such communities boring. The speaker thinks such communities are peachy. I’m sure many others agree, and they can all voluntarily go to those communities, so long as they stay the hell away from me. I prefer to travel so I can meet people much different than me, from places in the world that don’t look like my neighbors.
I’d call this type of community a form of extreme cultural relativism. I find those communities fascinating. I’ll take the company of a peasant farmer in Thailand over that of any neighbor of mine for 500 miles any day of the week.
It’s a global world, buddy. Fuck the neighbors down the street, I can read the paper if I cared to know the local gossip. And this form of communalism is too narrowly focused on local areas by the speaker as the only valid form.
Frankly, I find more communalism in an online community, though only if there is enough diversity.
I will praise the speaker for one thing, at this point. He points out very valid points on the dark side of communalism. I’m not just bashing the guy, but you sitting here watching me nod my head every time I agree with him would be boring, no?
Now, at about 6 minutes and 30 seconds in the video, the speaker wonderfully defines philosophical collectivism as traditionally held.
Now, he goes on to state that he and his like minded associates reject this definition, as do I.
But how he tries to redefine this is in an attempt to be practical. It’s a decent attempt.
He tries to square the circle with something he calls Left Libertarianism, which is to maximize individual rights and freedoms within collectivism.
How he does this isn’t called “Left Libertarianism”. It’s called democracy. Not representative democracy, not authoritarian democracy, not a republic…. but pure democracy. Everyone votes everytime on every issue with no ruling authority.
We’re now to go skip ahead from the speaker’s “big reveal” which is nothing more than a pure democracy and, of course, a bill of rights for legal protection of maximized personal freedom.
The speaker then goes on to rather do a wonderful job of destroying collectivism and hierarchical power distributions for all its faults.
Well done. I really like how he describes what he calls “irrational collectivism”, though this isn’t “collectivism”, per say, but group think, herd mentality, or mob mentality. But, I do see where he is going and playing on a theme.
He makes similar mistakes. He says that saving by one individual can be good, but by all individuals destroy an economy. He says this COULD be called a paradox. Google buddy, it IS called a paradox, the Paradox of Thrift. It even has a wikipedia entry. This is a basic tenant of free market capitalist economics, and he should have known this before tackling the topic.
He also explains that, basically, not everyone has good knowledge and makes poor decisions. Again, 5 seconds using Google… it has a name, too. Asymmetrical Information. They even won a nobel prize.
These holes are really disturbing me as to the credibility of this author.
I could forgive it if he were just doing what I do, philosophizing from his own meditations, trying to come up with new ideas. But he’s not. He’s describing something people already seem to believe, and thus, should be well researched already.
Perhaps this isn’t the case, so I’m going to keep giving him the benefit of the doubt. At this point, I’m 18 minutes into the video, and he’s still completely failed to make a case for “Left Libertarianism” or distinguish it from pure democracy.
And then he goes on to quote a nobel paper at 19 minutes… benefit of doubt removed.
I’m tossing this “philosophy” in the trash. It’s just pure democracy, with a bill of rights to protect the minority. That’s just called a left philosophy that supports pure democracy over representative philosophy.
There’s not anything “libertarian” about this at all.
But let me attack this directly when he comes to the point just before 22 minutes.
He believes in self management, aka pure democracy, with information freely available to all members.
This fails on so many levels.
First, making information available does not make information known.
Second, group think actively suppresses information.
Third, information is available “in the group”. What if the group doesn’t know something? What if a supplier of the group doesn’t tell them that they use child labor? And what about consumers, they get access to all information of the group? So bye bye proprietary knowledge, and we all drink generic cola and take generic drugs that nobody can patent?
What the fuck part of this is libertarian in the LEAST? I’m not even a libertarian, and find that strange.
The best example of this in action from the speaker is a group of friends… seriously. And this is assumed that nobody holds more power in a group of friends than any other member. This guy must not be in the same groups of friends as the rest of us, because that’s not how they work.
Group dynamics always eventually lead to power flowing away from an equilibrium. Always. Anyone who thinks this isn’t true is ignoring the distinctions of skills, especially that of charisma, speaking ability, social status, available time, etc.
One can reject social hierarchy, but let’s not kid ourselves out of the realities of power distribution.
And right off the bat, I can name two organizations that would never have achieved what they have under this model, NASA and Apple.
At 24 minutes, the speaker admits that yeah, this needs to be experimented because life isn’t a utopia. But then goes on to basically assume a utopia, and ultimately my biggest argument here at the lack of a philosophy, that being a universal unanimous agreement.
When the idea of “conflict” or conflict of interest arises, it’s just “discussed”, and where a real philosophy will give a method of resolution, it's all lacking here outside of pure democracy. I’ll give you a couple seconds to imagine how that shit’s gonna turn out in real world “experiments”. Lord of the Fucking Flies....
On the whole, I think the speaker does a good job in shooting bad ideas down. But the speaker offers no actual philosophy, political, economic, ethical, or metaphysical in any way, shape, or form as a valid alternative. The speaker can’t even come out and just use the word democracy! We have to suffer word mumbo jumbo.
I even had to give the speaker the “bill of rights” which is smallest of threads connecting it to Libertarianism.
I’ll give the speaker credit for being well spoken and delivering a nice presentation.
But it’s just saying democracy good, dictatorship bad. That’s all I really got from this.
If summarizing this as “pure democracy at all societal levels with a bill of rights for individuals” doesn’t sum this up, it’s not evident in this video and I’m so uninterested at this point as to not care to watch another half hour of dancing around the issue by some other speaker.
On the whole, after handing this speaker their own idea back to them on a silver platter… sigh… I can say that this doesn’t inherently violate the Philosophy of Negation.
However, it adds absolutely nothing to it. If anything, it’s a distraction from real philosophy. When conflict arises, it just throws its hands up and says, “Well…”
It needs the Philosophy of Negation to even HAVE an ethical philosophy. Hell, Philosophical Collectivism actually has a conflict resolution mechanism. I disagree with it, but at least it has one. So does Libertarianism, which I disagree with as well, but it’s there. Anarchism has conflict resolution as well, but I’m not going into that one just yet. That’s got a very large series coming
I'll leave you with the comment that I left the video maker:
"Let me boil this down. There's nothing "libertarian" here, at all, period. And before anyone says otherwise, realize that the early libertarian writers were out to establish property rights as a moral imperative derived from self ownership via ownership of one's own labor. I'm not even libertarian and know that, come on now. So...this is pure democracy with (you didn't state it, so I'm giving you a freebie) a bill of rights for the minority. It's democratic collectivism without hierarchy. Political philosophy is concerned with resolution of conflict, which is lacking here. Namely, it doesn't say how the laws of the unstated bill of rights (your ONLY possible link to libertarianism) is enforced. No conflict resolution, no political philosophy, period, ever. Second, you don't explain any economic philosophy... is it still free market, if so, how is information distributed so that its not asymetric... free information and no ownership and no patents? Very unlibertarian. Anyways, just call it pure democracy, cause that's all this is. The rest is just sociology with a bend towards everyone having a beer together at the neighborhood barbeque. You did a great job discrediting bad philosophies, economic and political. You just never offered anything new. Rebranding the political philosophy of 500 B.C. Athens doesn't make it new."