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Individualism vs collectivism

Masterhawk

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Individualism: An ideology that emphasizes the importance of the individual

Collectivism: An ideology that emphasizes the importance of society as a whole. Individuals may occasionally be expected to sacrifice for society as a whole

I am a liberal. This means that I believe in upholding individual freedom wherever possible. I place the burden of proof on the state to prevent arbitrary laws and preserve individual freedom.

The US leans heavily towards individualism for historic reasons. The country was founded by settlers who had to fend for themselves. The US constitution upholds certain individual rights because the founders did not want an oppressive government. American culture emphasizes the importance of working hard for your own sake.

The problem with individualism is made apparent when people start doing things that come at the expense of society as a whole. Examples include lobbying for laws which take out competition so that you can make more money, living off of government money when you could be working and contributing to society, and living a lavish lifestyle when many people are still in poverty.

To be honest, this is the main flaw in lazzes faire capitalism. Those with money act in their own interests rather than the interests of society. Capitalism purports to channel self interest towards productivity.

Countries in Northeastern Asia are collectivist. The idea rests in doing well for the sake of society or the honor of your family. Because people are more concerned about society as a whole, the governments get to be a bit less shy about doing things that would be frowned upon in a more individualistic society. For example, South Korea was able to keep infections low through contact tracing which does involve invasion of privacy to some extent but kept cases low. In these countries, governments tend to be much more pragmatic. And this method of governance is very successful. The asian tigers went from backwater countries to fully developed in half a century.

So collectivism has its advantages but what are its disadvantages?

Collectivism often promotes conformity, meaning that dissent is often discouraged. Someone like Logan Paul might be viewed as foolish in the US but in Japan, he was viewed as disturbing the social harmony. South Korea is considered a democracy, yet political freedom isn’t quite as high as it is in the US. Defamation suits concern whether what was said is in the public interest (truth isn’t a defense on its own like it is in the US). Collectivism can also make a society unpleasant to live in. South Korea takes education extremely seriously. So seriously in fact, that during the final exam, planes are forbidden from taking off or landing as to avoid making any noise. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the education is any pleasant. Education is often very stressful with frequent studying. Furthermore, collectivism often tends to stifle dissenting opinions for the sake of harmony.

Some cultures practice sectarianism, also known as tribalism. This basically combines the worst aspects of both ideologies. Each of the different “tribes” are struggling with one another under sectarianism. The individuals within each “tribe” are expected to sacrifice a bit for the “tribe” even if it leaves the whole worse off. This often leads to corruption as government officials are expected to show favoritism towards their “tribe” whilst holding other “tribes” to a lower standard. Sectarianism can also lead to conflict. This is a very big problem in Africa, largely because the way the borders were drawn (by the colonists) gave no respect to geopolitics. In the Central African Republic, there’s a conflict going on between the Seleka (muslims) and Anti-Balaka (christians). In South Sudan, there’s a civil war between the government which is mainly run by Dinka and rebels who are primarily Nuer. The country previously gained independence from Sudan which is run by arab muslims while the south is run by black christians. In Northern Mali, there’s a Turang insurgency to gain independence. For these reasons, sectarian countries tend not to be prosperous.

In conclusion, it’s best to find a balance between individualism and collectivism.
 

BitterPill

Ignorance Is Virtue
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Finding the balance is the thing.
 
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