Below is the first question and answer from A New Textbook of Americanism: The Politics of Ayn Rand. Begun in 1946 by Rand as an antidote to the spread of European collectivist ideas, the text explores fundamental issues in a question and answer format. Rand never completed the series but this recently released volume features contemporary Objectivist scholars answering the questions she did not, as well as some previously unpublished text by Rand.
The first question asks:
What is the basic issue in the world today?
I think the answer does a great job of explaining the fundamental political issue on a global cultural scale. There is, however, a perhaps larger and more significant issue in American politics today.
“The basic issue in the world today is between two principles: Individualism and Collectivism. Individualism holds that man has inalienable rights which cannot be taken away from him by any other man, nor by any number, group or collective of other men. Therefore, each man exists by his own right and for his own sake, not for the sake of the group. Collectivism holds that man has no rights; that his work, his body, and his personality belong to the group; that the group can do with him as it pleases, in any manner it pleases, for the sake of whatever it decides to be its own welfare. Therefore, each man exists only by the permission of the group and for the sake of the group. These two principles are the roots of two opposite social systems. The basic issue of the world today is between these two systems.”
The basic issue in American politics today is that it is not a debate between Individualism and Collectivism, but a contest between Collectivists. A power struggle to determine which group will hold power over the individual.
The “Left” in American politics is unadulterated in collectivist goals. The proclaim that government is the things we do together then advocate that what we should be doing together is providing healthcare, daycare, housing, income and soy lattes to everyone. They openly call for the government to take over and control more and more of every individual’s life and violate more of every individual’s rights in the name of the “public good.”
Consider the Left’s stance on the issue of firearms. There is no level of restriction on infringement of an individual’s right to possess firearms that the left would not support. The right to defend your own life is a fundamental right of every individual, a fundamental right the Left opposes.
The so-called “Right” in American politics is not fundamentally any better. Far from an antithesis of Collectivism and defenders of Individualism, the Right does not shy away from trampling the rights of individuals when it suits their needs. Free speech and property rights are among the first that the Right is willing to sacrifice. As for their defense of Individual Rights, you need to look no further than the Right’s response to the Left’s Utopian Socialist vision of the Green New Deal.
The Right mocked it, and rightly so, for the inanities of replacing air travel with high-speed rail and eliminating cow farts. The Right correctly criticized it for its expense and impracticality, and the fact that even if were implemented it would have little no effect on the climate. Some accurately called it Socialism thinly disguised as environmentalism.
No where on the right was anyone shouting that the Green New Deal represented the wholesale violation of the rights of every individual man woman and child in America.
American politics has become a debate between Left Wing Collectivism and Right Wing Collectivism. Each side wants nothing more than to determine the nature of the collective and then hold power over it.
The basic problem is that Individualism, the idea that “man has inalienable rights which cannot be taken away from him by any other man, nor by any number, group or collective of other men. Therefore, each man exists by his own right and for his own sake, not for the sake of the group.” is no longer a part of the American conversation.