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Toxic Collectivism

Post #1878 • November 9, 2020, 11:30 AM • 2 Comments

My letter to the Los Angeles Times:

Dear Editor:

Carolina Miranda owed herself and her readers a more sympathetic contemplation of American individualism before coming to the conclusion that it is “toxic,” as she put it (“U.S. individualism isn’t rugged, it’s toxic — and it’s killing us,” October 30, 2020).

The individualism upon which America was founded is one of existential equality, the premise that every individual is sacrosanct and none born higher than another as far as the Creator is concerned. It is not some kind of egoistic solipsism that would countenance deliberately coughing on someone, as she suggests. The person being coughed upon is sacrosanct as well. Our ethos of existential equality made it possible to abolish slavery, achieve universal suffrage, and guarantee Ms. Miranda’s right to express herself.

Moreover, the tradition of barn-raising that she cites with contrasting approval requires that American conception of individualism. The joy of neighbors helping one another is only possible when individuals can associate freely. The need to do so is only clear when we are relying on ourselves, with no government office to come build our barns for us.

Besides, if you think coughing on someone in the name of individualism is bad, you should see what has been done in the name of collectivism: millions, perhaps billions murdered in collectivist projects ranging from fascism to communism and much else besides. Individualism has to have a very bad day to catch up to the toxicity of a good day for collectivism.


Franklin Einspruch, Boston, MA

Ms. Miranda’s essay has all the political insight of a towel, but to get into it more deeply than the above would be to violate RuPaul’s admonition against educating people. I post this to preserve the letter, and to frame the announcement that Miranda will be delivering the AICA-USA 2020 Distinguished Critic Lecture tomorrow: the outcome of this or that election matters not at all if wide swaths of the citizenry fail to understand why their country is fundamentally good, and fail to uphold the promise of Enlightenment humanism, seduced as they are by Utopian nostrums that reliably deliver impoverishment and death. If you watch her talk, let me know how it goes—I’ve heard all I need to this week from toxic collectivists.



Brian Curtis

November 10, 2020, 7:39 PM

Whether in art or politics or the politics of art these days there is certainly an avalanche of sloppy thinking. Your reprimand of the LA maven of political correctness was well stated and well deserved. I would be curious, however, to hear your thoughts on whether American individualism is effectively contributing to the common good.



November 11, 2020, 10:02 AM

Individualism holds that the individual is the atomic unit of any moral consideration. An action is only ethical on the presumption of individual choice. Remove that and you're reduced to majoritarianism, and the situation in which two wolves and a sheep are voting on what's for dinner.

A good is only truly common by way of existential equality. Fundamentally we do not differ from one another, though in mind and body we may differ strikingly. The individual caters to the common good by creating value for other people and offering it to them. This is better than the collectivist way, which is to propose high-sounding abstractions, or command specific outcomes without accounting for inputs, and force the collective to support them. The respective track records speak for themselves.



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