Once again, after the insidious police murder of George Floyd and the resulting nation-wide riots sweeping across America, the collectivists are showing their true colors. It is an object lesson illustrating how ideologues and fanatics (both “left” and “right”) will callously exploit any tragic series of events as a means to advance their agenda. It is the ethical stance of the totalitarian True Believer: “the end justifies the means.”
Actions have consequences. Individuals commit crimes, not “society,” “the Far Right,” “the Far Left,” or any other semantic abstractions. What is happening in America’s metropolitan urban areas and densely crowed cities has brought to mind this classic excerpt from Murray N. Rothbard’s For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto, published in 1973.
I’ve boldly highlighted the most pertinent and relevant passage:
Society and the Individual
We have talked at length of individual rights; but what, it may be asked, of the “rights of society”? Don’t they supersede the rights of the mere individual? The libertarian, however, is an individualist; he believes that one of the prime errors in social theory is to treat “society” as if it were an actually existing entity. “Society” is sometimes treated as a superior or quasi-divine figure with overriding “rights” of its own; at other times as an existing evil which can be blamed for all the ills of the world. The individualist holds that only individuals exist, think, feel, choose, and act; and that “society” is not a living entity but simply a label for a set of interacting individuals. Treating society as a thing that chooses and acts, then, serves to obscure the real forces at work. If, in a small community, ten people band together to rob and expropriate three others, then this is clearly and evidently a case of a group of individuals acting in concert against another group. In this situation, if the ten people presumed to refer to themselves as “society” acting in “its” interest, the rationale would be laughed out of court; even the ten robbers would probably be too shamefaced to use this sort of argument. But let their size increase, and this kind of obfuscation becomes rife and succeeds in duping the public.
The fallacious use of a collective noun like “nation,” similar in this respect to “society,” has been trenchantly pointed out by the historian Parker T. Moon:
When one uses the simple monosyllable “France” one thinks of France as a unit, an entity. When . . . we say “France sent her troops to conquer Tunis” — we impute not only unit but personality to the country. The very words conceal the facts and make international relations a glamorous drama in which personalized nations are the actors, and all too easily we forget the flesh-and-blood men and women who are the true actors . . . if we had no such word as “France”. . . then we should more accurately describe the Tunis expedition in some such way as this: “A few of these thirty-eight million persons sent thirty thousand others to conquer Tunis.” This way of putting the fact immediately suggests a question, or rather a series of questions. Who were the “few”? Why did they send the thirty thousand to Tunis? And why did these obey? Empire-building is done not by “nations,” but by men. The problem before us is to discover the men, the active, interested minorities in each nation, who are directly interested in imperialism and then to analyze the reasons why the majorities pay the expense and fight the war necessitated by imperialist expansion.
The individualist view of “society” has been summed up in the phrase: “Society” is everyone but yourself. Put thus bluntly, this analysis can be used to consider those cases where “society” is treated, not only as a superhero with superrights, but as a supervillain on whose shoulders massive blame is placed. Consider the typical view that not the individual criminal, but “society,” is responsible for his crime. Take, for example, the case where Smith robs or murders Jones. The “old-fashioned” view is that Smith is responsible for his act. The modern liberal counters that “society” is responsible. This sounds both sophisticated and humanitarian, until we apply the individualist perspective. Then we see that what liberals are really saying is that everyone but Smith, including of course the victim Jones, is responsible for the crime. Put this baldly, almost everyone would recognize the absurdity of this position. But conjuring up the fictive entity “society” obfuscates this process. As the sociologist Arnold W. Green puts it: “It would follow, then, that if society is responsible for crime, and criminals are not responsible for crime, only those members of society who do not commit crime can be held responsible for crime. Nonsense this obvious can be circumvented only by conjuring up society as devil, as evil being apart from people and what they do.”
10:36 am on June 2, 2020
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