The Lone Collectivist
By Bryan Caplan
When you’re a normal member of your society, the appeal of collectivism is easy to understand. Most people believe what you believe and enjoy what you enjoy. So wouldn’t it be great if society as a whole continuously celebrated your worldview and lifestyle? When you fit in, walking on eggshells to spare minority sensibilities is most tiresome.
If you’re weird, in contrast, the appeal of individualism is easy to understand. Most people neither believe what you believe nor enjoy what you enjoy. You already feel isolated and alone. Public celebrations of popular values add insult to injury – especially when these celebrations are infused by the presumption that “These are the values that we as a society hold in common.”
Strangely, though, weird people often hail collectivism and scoff at individualism. Marxists do it. Greens do it. And reactionaries do it. They’re totally out of sync with their societies, but they nevertheless lament their societies’ lack of community spirit and common purpose. “A country shouldn’t just be a bunch of people living next to each other” is a typical lament. But weird collectivists rarely ask themselves, “What would happen if I couldn’t live next to anyone who didn’t share my identity?” The unwelcome answer, of course, is that Marxists, Greens, and reactionaries would have to recant or relocate.
I’m tempted to say that this is just another mark against the claim that self-interest drives political views. But I sense more sinister motives. Namely: Weird collectivists have a three-step daydream.
Step 1: Seize power.
Step 2: Use that power to tendentiously claim to “speak for society.”
Step 3: Force their worldview/lifestyle on their recalcitrant societies in society’s name.
Think of these three steps as the revolutionary version of “Society, stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself. Stop hitting yourself.”
Perhaps this is overly negative. But what else could the lone collectivist be thinking? His true feelings about the community in which he resides must be, at best, mixed. In a thousand ways, the lone collectivist’s community keeps telling him, “You… don’t… fit… in.” If he isn’t fantasizing about a world where he can authoritatively speak in society’s name, why else would the lone collectivist openly yearn for cohesive community? Stockholm Syndrome?