|Chapter 35 - Individualism|
|“I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."|
|Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged 1|
Individualism requires treating each person as an individual, not as a member of a group. To some individualists this means that no conclusions can be drawn about any person based on his natural physical appearance (excluding makeup, tattoos, and clothing) and all racial traits must be ignored as they tell you nothing about a person’s character. (“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Martin Luther King, Aug. 28, 1963). Treating people according to the content of their character and not according to their race, however, assumes that race provides no useful information about a person’s character, which is not true. Even race extortionist Jesse Jackson said, “I hate to admit it, but I have reached a stage in my life that if I am walking down a dark street late at night and I see that the person behind me is white, I subconsciously feel relieved.” And, obviously, he could have omitted the word, “subconsciously.”
Perhaps every time Rev. Jackson encountered a person on a dark street, white or black, he could somehow instantaneously obtain a complete dossier on that person, then use only the facts in that dossier to determine whether or not to run for his life. But, no, like the rest of us, the Reverend uses race instead. It is unfair to the other person for the Reverend to rely on a stereotype – that blacks are dangerous – but, in this instance, he prefers living to fairness.
Although individualism clearly implies anti-racism, it also implies respect for the choices each individual makes, since a person is not being treated as an individual if he is required to make, or is prohibited from making, particular choices. 2 Thus, it is not consistent with individualism to require a person to contract with (sell, rent, buy, hire) someone he does not wish to, even if his reasons are racial. In other words, the Civil Rights Laws, which require non-discrimination in public accommodations, are not consistent with individualism. 3 A consistent individualist must advocate both treating everyone as an individual and respecting the choices an individual makes, even if one does not approve of those choices. Egalitarians, however, endorse individualism when it means treating people according to “the content of their character” but reject it when it is used to defend freedom of choice, making individualism not an end in itself, but only another weapon to attack racism.
If people are to be treated as individuals, and their choices are to be respected, then it cannot be unethical for them to act as individuals and to make their own choices, even if those choices benefit only themselves and not others. In other words, individualism also (subtly) implies that it is ethical for people to act in their own interest, as individuals, not as though they were part of a race, class, the “American people,” or other type of collective; that also does not sit well with those on the left, who are collectivists. Ayn Rand takes this implication the farthest, suggesting that it is even a virtue to act in one’s own interests (Rand, 1961); she condemns altruism, sacrificing one’s own interests for the benefit of others, even if it is voluntary. This she does on the basis that people are not “things,” here to serve others, but autonomous beings who have the right to survive and live for themselves. 4
To Rand, however, whether an act is or is not commendable “acting in one’s own interest” or condemnable “altruism” depends on the values one chooses, not on biology. An act is laudable only if one expects to receive something one values more than what one gave up. Acting for the benefit of one’s own family, for example, is acceptable to Rand due to the reciprocal benefits received from one’s family, and giving to charity is acceptable if the giving brings status or recognition, but she would have condemned acting for the benefit of a stranger for no reason other than that you shared more alleles with him. Thus, Rand advocates individualism because it gives an individual the freedom he needs to live his life so as achieve his values, and further argues that it is not only ethical for him to live that way, but unethical if he does not.
She implicitly assumes, however, that he will either choose values that will result in his survival and the survival of his lineage or she does not care if his lineage goes extinct. In either case, her philosophy is not consistent with what nature requires of her creations – that they pass on their own unique collection of alleles – because, consistent with Rand’s philosophy, individuals could (and many do), enjoy dining out and the theater, having lovely clothes and apartments or homes, and interesting, successful careers, but not children. Nature’s requirements guarantee, as much as possible, the continuation of the lineage; Rand’s philosophy does not, unless that just happens to be what someone wants.
Philosophies, including Rand’s, are created by people, not by nature. It is people, not nature, who decide that some philosophies are worthy and others are not. There is only a single criterion that nature uses to evaluate any philosophy and that is whether or not it enhances the chances of the adherent’s lineage continuing. If you choose a philosophy that leads to the end of your lineage, nature has no objection, and cares not a whit. But if you decide that the survival of yourself and your descendants is a worthy end, then any philosophy that, if followed, imperils that end, can not be an acceptable philosophy.
Survival requires not only the will to survive and pass on your alleles, but knowledge, true knowledge, of reality, at least as much knowledge as can be acquired without imperiling survival. Included in that knowledge is knowledge of ourselves. We cannot survive for long believing that we don’t have a racist bone in our bodies, when we do. The reason we have those racist bones is that they aid in our survival, so denying we have them eviscerates a vital instinct. “Know thyself,” said Socrates, as the beginning of wisdom. Knowing thyself implies not burying our racist bones deep in our unconscious and denying that they, and other urges our genes gave us, are there.
A philosophy that is adaptive and does not lead to our extinction will not require us to deny any reality, especially the reality of what we are. If a philosophy requires us to deny our nature or the nature of the environment we live in, it is poison. Surely, there must be an error somewhere in any philosophy that is in conflict with reality. Does individualism conflict with reality, just as egalitarianism does (previous chapter)?
To the extent that individualism requires individuals to choose certain values, such as treating everyone according to the content of his character and therefore without regard to his race, it condemns individual choice and becomes a form of collectivism as it is an attempt to limit our choices to the choices that the Equality Police approve of, to say nothing of placing us in great danger from people of other races. To the extent that it favors maladaptive choices and condemns adaptive choices it conflicts with the reality that we either succeed in placing our alleles in the next generation or our lineage dies out. These possible complaints against individualism are easily cured, however, if individualism does not advocate any particular choices, but only the freedom to choose.
Nature has, however, given us at least two inborn urges that may conflict with individualism. The first is the urge of men to control the sexuality of women. 5 As far as nature is concerned, the purpose of a man is primarily to impregnate women with his own sperm and secondarily to help those women and his children by them to survive. Every man has a natural interest in trying to limit the sexual relations of women, especially those women who carry more of his alleles, to men who are likely to increase the number of his alleles in future generations, either because those men already have many of his alleles or because they have the money or power to increase the fitness of those future generations. This natural interest, if it involves the coercion of women or others, is certainly anti-individualism.
A second inborn urge that we have is to form groups, identify with them, and advance the interests of our own group over the interests of other groups. We have this urge for the same reason that we have the first urge – it has increased our reproductive success. It is stronger in men than women because it involves competing with other groups, and physical conflict is more suited to men. A dramatic manifestation of this urge is the “madness of crowds,” 6 where a group of people acts as though it had a single mind, doing violent and criminal activities that the people in the group would never do if they were acting as individuals. Each person in the group feels that his actions are not only morally legitimate, but also uplifting and empowering, freeing him from artificial social constraints on his innate urges.
Man is clearly a group animal (Chap. 4), as evidenced by his highly developed language and the large amount of his brain devoted to speech and social complexities. He is that way because individuals who had alleles for group-orientated behavior were more reproductively successful than individuals who lacked those alleles. The “selfishness” that Rand demands may reduce the gains in reproductive success that man derives from living in groups, turning Randians into “free riders,” who receive the benefits of group membership without contributing to the success of the group. 7 Although one can argue the doubtful proposition that today group solidarity no longer enhances reproductive success, it will nevertheless remain part of man’s psyche until those who lack the alleles for it out-reproduce those who have them which, despite the narcissism of individualists, is unlikely. Man may be an intellectual individualist, but emotionally he is, at least in part, a collectivist.
Although the violation of the natural rights of individuals would not be consistent with individualism, it may be possible to satisfy our natural urges to control the sexuality of others and to act as a group without violating those rights. For example, a man and a woman could be permitted to make an enforceable contract that would, among other things, require support by the man only if the woman had sex and children only with him. Also, the contract could provide that he is obligated to support only his biological children and, after they reach puberty, only if they do not have sexual relations with anyone without his permission. 8
The parents may also argue that they have the right to control their children’s sexuality because they own the genetic information that is in their eggs and sperm, much as a writer obtains a copyright on his books. When a person voluntarily relinquishes control over his property, he abandons it and ownership of it can be acquired by another person. To the extent that a man relinquishes control over his sperm, he abandons them and, to the (much lesser) extent that a woman abandons control over her eggs, she abandons them as well.
We know there is an intent to abandon property when a person no longer tries to control the use of his property. The mother certainly tries to retain control over her developing egg and the resulting child for many years after it is born. The father may also try to retain control over the genetic material he contributed to that developing egg. For example, if either parent demands a say in whom their child dates and marries, we know that they did not abandon his control over the use of his genetic material, now embodied in the child. Thus, it may be possible to resolve conflicts between individualism and controlling the sexuality of certain other people without violating their natural rights.
In addition to individual genetic interests that may conflict with individualism, a population also has genetic interests, and they, too, may conflict with individualism. 9 The usual argument made in opposition to miscegenation, for example, is that the parties have the right to decide for themselves with whom they will mate. But rights, like philosophies, are creations of man, not nature. The implementation of a system of rights in a population is adaptive when the rights increase the fitness of the population as a whole and is maladaptive when they do not. (Chapter 27 of Fuerle, 2003). Since miscegenation is maladaptive (Chapter 29), implementing a system of rights that permits it is also maladaptive.
Individualism assumes that there are only individual interests and that there are no legitimate group interests. But biologically that has never been true of man. Man has always survived in groups – it is part of his nature. The immense tax burden we all bear today is good evidence that there are group interests. This is not to say that man is wholly a group animal, 10 as the socialists would have it, but he is certainly a mixture of individual and group genetic interests.
Those group interests are, of course, the survival of the group, i.e., the people in the group, their territory, culture, and genome. The question is, “Can our group interests be preserved within individualism?” and the answer is probably “yes.” There have always been individuals who, for one reason or another, have been a liability to their group. The penalty was removal from the group, which may or may not have been consistent with individualism. Certainly, removal by killing or incarceration for a minor offense would be inconsistent, but expulsion from the group’s territory may not be. Even without physical removal, a person can be removed socially by ostracism – others in the group can simply refuse to have anything to do with him; the greatest fear of a group animal is that he will be expelled from the group. 11 Refusing to socialize or trade with a person is completely consistent with individualism.
Ostracism is a severe penalty – Socrates drank hemlock rather than leave Athens – but it is a penalty that is within the rights of the other individuals in the group and does not violate the natural rights of the person being ostracized. After all, an individual who acts against the interests of his group betrays not only others within his group, but all his ancestors who sacrificed and died to enable him to exist. Ostracism by individuals is a common occurrence as we all distance ourselves from those we don’t like or trust. Ostracism by a group of people requires only that they act in concert for the interests they share. Today, however, we have “civil rights laws” that violate our natural right to associate with whomever we wish to, preventing many effective forms of ostracism, such as refusing to deal with persons based on their race, religion, etc. 12
For a group to ostracize or expel one or more of its members weakens the group by decreasing its numbers, but strengthens the group by removing those who are likely to weaken the group more than they strengthen it, and by warning others of the consequences of such behavior, which can be a net gain to the group’s fitness. Those who refuse to contribute to the welfare of the group (a “free rider”) or, worse, knowingly work against the interests of the group (a traitor), are hardly assets for the remainder of the group. 13 Thus, individualism does not necessarily conflict with the interests of the group.
But a further consideration must be kept in mind. Individualism is an ideology and, like rights and philosophies, ideologies are concocted by man – they are not to be found anywhere in nature. Group interests are not an ideology, but a behavior deeply ingrained in our genes because they are crucial to our survival and, when push comes to shove, biology will trump ideology, like it or not. Any group that sacrifices its genetic interests for an ideology, be it a religion, a political system, or a social dogma, cannot successfully compete against a group that puts its genetic interests first. Let the reader ponder this: If the vast majority of women decide they do not wish to be “breeders” and refuse to become pregnant, so that the only alternatives are to allow humanity to go extinct or force pregnancy upon women, which would he choose?
Table of Contents
1. Abraham Lincoln expressed a similar sentiment: “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.” (Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Vol. 2, p. 532). Back
2. Here, I am referring to choices that do not violate the natural rights of other persons. Exactly what those rights are is beyond the subject of this book, but is discussed in (Fuerle, 2003). Back
3. These laws were, and are, sold to the public with the argument that prohibiting discrimination ensures that the best person is hired, promoted, admitted to college, etc. However, it can be mathematically proved that if two groups have different means on the test given to determine eligibility, then the test scores of persons from those two groups must be adjusted towards the mean of their own group in order to select the best qualified person. In other words, prohibiting racial discrimination, guarantees that best qualified person will not be hired, promoted, admitted to college, etc. (Miller, 1994b; Jensen, 1980, p. 94). Back
4. "Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means." (Kant, I. Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals). Ironically, Rand despised Kant. Back
5. Men, of course, do not want their mates to have sex with other men as that directly reduces their fitness. They may also want to limit the sexual activity of their sisters and daughters as their virginity increases their value as mates and therefore increases the likelihood that they will obtain a better quality man so their father will have more surviving grandchildren. For that same reason, it is in a woman’s interest to limit her sexual activity, or at least keep it secret. (Barkow, 1991, p. 337). Back
6. (Chaplin, J.P., Rumor, Fear and the Madness of Crowds, 1959). “Madness is rare in individuals - but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule.” (Nietzsche). Back
7. “But for animals that live in groups, selfishness must be strictly curbed or there will be no advantage to social living.” (Wade, N. “Is ‘Do Unto Others’ Written Into Our Genes?” New York Times, Sept. 17, 2007). Individuals of all species will tend to evolve into group animals whenever that strategy results in more reproductive success than acting independently. A group strategy, however, necessarily means that individuals must sacrifice some of their individual fitness for the fitness of the group, and this, in turn, means that some individuals will be sacrificing more than others and/or receiving fewer of the benefits. That loss of fitness is overcome, however, when the more fortunate members of the group carry most of the same alleles as the less fortunate; the success of a group strategy therefore requires the members of the group to be more genetically-related to each other than to those outside the group. Back
8. If his sons have children, he passes his alleles on to his grandchildren and, since his sons can have a large number of children, he usually benefits genetically from their promiscuity. (But, if the sons impregnate females who are genetically distant, the sons are creating hybrids who may be enemies of his group, thus damaging his genetic interests.) His daughters, however, can have only a limited number of children, so their quality and genetic distance from him are more important. Back
9. Individualism, for example, seems to be associated with a higher percentage of sociopaths. (Stout, 2005, p.136). Back
10. Indeed, socialists may see the entire group as a single biological entity to be governed by a single mind, i.e., theirs. Back
11. Edward Everett Hale's short story, The Man Without a Country, poignantly describes the painful alienation that results from ostracism from one’s group. Dog trainer Victoria Stilwell (“It’s Me or the Dog,” on the Animal Planet Channel) trains dogs, another social animal, by turning away and ignoring them when they misbehave, i.e., she ostracizes them. Whites already practice severe ostracism, but against those who do not genuflect to the Equality Police. Ostracism is a form of rejection. To a normal person, rejection brings on a feeling of depression and a display of submission, which will often get them back into the group. But psychopaths lack the capacity for empathy, and therefore cannot see themselves as others see them. Thus, they cannot feel the disapproval of others, which the rest of us feel as depression. Since the goal of a psychopath is to win, rejection is seen as a frustrating defeat. As in normal people, frustrations create intense anger and hatred in the psychopath against the frustrating person but, unlike normal people, they feel no depression to dampen those aggressive feelings. That is why women are most likely to be murdered after they reject a male (Buss, 2005) and why psychopaths within the Allied leadership, e.g., Morganthau, had millions of Germans murdered after WWII was over. (Keeling, 1947; Irving, 1996) Back
12. E.g., a person who owns an apartment building, movie theater, or store, even if he is black, cannot refuse to rent to or admit blacks, even for the reason that they are likely to vandalize, steal, or drive other customers away. Back
13. That is the source of “the Jewish Problem.” The Jews survive as a distinct ethny by being strongly cohesive, but that creates distinct Jewish interests that inevitably conflict with the interests of the host population in which they are imbedded. Back