Saturday, August 12, 2006

Individualism as necessary part of society

Value systems are like brains, in that everyone necessarily has one (even if they don't work very well). Anyone who makes choices necessarily has values, since a value is simply something that we seek to gain or keep. Even being inactive is a choice, and thus everyone has values in some form, even an ascetic (who values survival and suffering for a greater religious good).

Another inescapable fact is that different individuals have different value systems. Explaining the reason behind these differences is really to explain moral development in the whole, and I have already done so on my blog Goosing the Antithesis in numerous entries (such as this one). Suffice it to say that everyone is born with certain talents and flaws, indoctrinated in this or that way, received a certain amount of education, brain maturation and starting choices, and that all these things together form what can be called one's moral capital.

Not only do we have different value systems, but we also have different ways of fulfilling them. We all value nutrition, but we all eat different foods, mostly because of the region where we were raised. Most of us value friendship, but we have very different requirements for the people we consider friends.

All of these are inevitable facts, which must therefore dictate how we approach social issues and social organization. If there was only one value system to which we all adhere by virtue of being human, then enforcing a singular value system through the state might make some sense on a moral standpoint. But there isn't, and it doesn't. The natural multiplicity of value systems shows the state monopoly over law to be ridiculously arbitrary.

As any good market anarchist knows, the moral fact of individualism is based on the premise of ontological individualism. Ontologically, all that we observe in human systems is nothing more or less than individuals and their extension in material objects. Society is the process by which these individuals and their extension interact peacefully, and evolve within this process. A market is a specific part of these interactions, pertaining to a specific aim and method. There is no such thing as a "culture", "country", "common good" or anything else which does not refer to individuals and their extension.

Society does not exist without peaceful interactions. The state is an attack on society because it attempts to enforce a singular value system (codified into "the law") on an entire population of individuals which hold different value systems. The result is coercion, twisted incentives, social warfare and disorder - the opposite of a healthy society. A healthy society is one where people see each other not as potential victims, but rather as potential friends - where hands are not balled in fists but rather extended in handshakes, and where people who do not wish to deal with each other are not forced to do so by the danger of a central enforcment of values.

Individualism, therefore, is necessary for society, and collectivism is its enemy. The collectivism of statism demands that we treat each other like children, who need to be ordered around for a subjective and ever-changing "higher good". The individualism of market anarchy asks us to deal with each other as adults, sitting around a negociating table to hash out our differences and find ways to cooperate peacefully.

There is a received belief that individualism leads to chaos. This is total nonsense. Only the futile and immoral attempt to enforce arbitrary conformity leads to chaos - social warfare and physical warfare. Individualism cannot lead to chaos, simply because people are not interested in living in chaos. Most people value stability and peace of mind. Only the ruling class and its cronies benefit from chaos. Thus the ruling class must constantly hammer away at modern consumeurist individualism and its corollaries, to defame them in the same way that it has defamed its enemies in the past. But these old lies in new clothes aren't as attractive as they used to be !

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