Those involved with the America First revival and the campaign to “make America great again” seem to be forgetting that America was made great in the first place with freedom. Personal freedom and civil liberties, and economic freedom with the protection of private property rights, freedom of contract and association, and especially free markets.
It was the philosophy of individualism upon which America was founded and in which the people had real freedom — and thus, prosperity.
Unfortunately, Donald Trump’s collectivist agenda involves a mystical nationalism with policies of authoritarian governmental controls, certainly not promoting individualism and inviolable free markets.
And I believe the problem is with many people on both the left and the non-left.
For instance, if you support college campuses imposing “diversity training” in which “diversity” is mainly described as learning how America is dominated by “white privilege,” and which suppresses and censors Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s emphasis on the “content of one’s character,” then you are probably a collectivist.
If you believe that all white people have some responsibility for pre-Civil War white people’s crimes against black people, then you are probably a collectivist. And if you believe that white people alive today who never owned slaves are obligated to contribute to “reparations” to currently living black people who were never slaves, then you are probably a collectivist.
If you believe that private insurance companies must by law provide health insurance to people with preexisting conditions, or private employers must provide paid maternity leave or child care, then you are not a supporter of the free market, private property rights and voluntary contracts.
If you believe that the government is morally justified using “eminent domain” to seize the property of those who won’t voluntarily let go of it for pipeline projects such as XL Keystone or Dakota, then you are a collectivist, and not a supporter of private property rights.
Do you support government taxation of the people involuntarily and the existence of a tax-funded government treasury with those tax-thefts being redistributed mostly to recipients that millions of tax “payers” would never voluntary contribute to? If so, then you are a major league collectivist. Yikes!
If you believe that the “rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, apply only to American citizens and not to foreigners, then you are a collectivist. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the conservative moralists on talk radio cite the Declaration and those rights as inherent, natural rights which preexist the formation of government (which they are), and then the conservative moralists go on to sound like they do not believe that non-American citizens have those same natural rights. Talk about cognitive dissonance.
And if you believe that each individual human being has a right to presumption of innocence and should be left alone and one’s freedom not violated unless and until there is a specific reason to suspect someone of criminally violating the person or property of others, then you are probably not a collectivist, but an individualist.
If you support Donald Trump’s military raids and drones killing innocent civilians overseas, then you are obviously a collectivist, certainly not an individualist or a believer in presumption of innocence and the aforementioned natural rights mentioned in the Declaration of Independence (or you believe that such natural rights only apply to Americans but not to foreigners, in which case you are probably a moral relativist as well as a collectivist, in my view).
If you defend the targeting and killing of innocent civilians, such as the atom bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or the bombings of Tokyo and Dresden during World War II, the mass killings of civilians by the U.S. military in Vietnam or Iraq and elsewhere, then you are obviously a collectivist. Oh, the rationalizing I’ve heard on talk radio including NPR of those criminally murderous actions by the U.S. government!
People use “war” as a rationalization for murdering innocent human beings and destroying the lives, homes and businesses of others, but such crimes are what they are: crimes. Those who rationalize the mass-killing war machine in Washington with its tax-feeding corporate merchants of death are really engaging in moral relativism.
If immigrants commit crimes against people or property and it’s not enough for you that those criminals are prosecuted and/or deported, but that all undocumented, non-citizen immigrants should be deported or restricted from entering the U.S., even innocent non-criminals who haven’t harmed anyone, then you are probably a collectivist, in my view.
If you support government bureaucrats and enforcers arresting and jailing businessmen for hiring workers whose presence in the U.S. is not approved by the government, even though no actual crime of violence, theft or fraud had been committed, then you are not a supporter of the free market, private property rights and voluntary contracts.
The “free” in “free market” is very important. It really means without requiring the approval of the government. It means markets left to the people to control, not the government. Free markets restricted to government borders are no longer free markets. I wish that more libertarians understood that, at the very least.
So if you think it’s morally justified to block people from traveling from certain countries into the U.S. territory even though most of them are not a threat, then you are a collectivist.
And finally, when references to property start to apply to the overall U.S. territory, there are those who believe in a collective ownership of the whole territory and that non-government-authorized travelers and workers who enter the territory are “invaders” and “breaking into” the country, and should be evicted like they have illicitly entered private property. That’s regardless of the many American private property owners and business owners who are happy to employ honest foreign workers who are not a threat and whose work is sincerely appreciated by the ones who really do matter: the consumers.
In my view, collectivism is a very bad thing. And part of that is group identity politics, which is exactly what the concept of “America First” comes from, as far as I’m concerned. So I am not particularly concerned with “making America great again,” but rather making America free again, which requires decentralization, and restoring private property rights, civil liberties and freedom of contract and association.
I feel like I’m alone in these views, including among other libertarians. As we’ve seen from the 20th Century, collectivist government policies do not end well.
Scott Lazarowitz is a libertarian writer and commentator. Please visit his blog.