Liberals Must Abolish the ‘Cult of the Individual’

The early history of America shows that there was a battle between the individual and the community — the collective. We see this in Jamestown (1607) and Plymouth Plantation (1620). Early in their colonial history, the collective was deemed to be more important than the individual. As a result, the people literally starved to death.

Private property, the right of ownership, the freedom to buy and sell and price goods without government restriction, and the rule of law (“Thou shalt not steal,” either by government decree or majority vote) are the foundational principles that result in economic and political liberty and a prosperous society. The community benefits if and only when individuals benefit.

Consider what happened at Jamestown:

Under collectivism, less than half of every shipload of settlers survived the first 12 months at Jamestown. Most of the work was done by only one-fifth of the men, to whom the socialist system gave the same rations as to the others. During the winter of 1609–10, called “The Starving Time,” the population fell from 500 to 60.

But when Jamestown converted to a free market, there was “plenty of food, which every man by his own industry may easily and doth procure,” wrote the colony secretary Ralph Hamor in 1614. Under the previous system, he said, “we reaped not so much corn from the labors of thirty men as three men have done for themselves now.”

A similar thing happened at Plymouth. The same collective worldview was implemented with similar “starving time” results. The salvation of the colony came when “the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest among them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular [use], and in that regard trust to themselves. . . . And so assigned to every family a parcel of land . . . for that end.  . .”

The result, as Governor William Bradford describes it in his journal Of Plymouth Plantation,

“This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”1

Two weeks ago our company led a tour through Provincetown and Plymouth. The majority of the people on the tour had never heard the history of Plymouth and the “starving time.” The liberal establishment doesn’t want the collective to know the truth about how individualism is the foundation of true liberty. In order to maintain the collective, the “cult of the individual” must be destroyed.

They are in good, or should I say bad company:

  • There is the great, silent, continuous struggle: the struggle between the State and the Individual; between the State, which demands, and the individual, who attempts to evade such demands.” — Fascist Dictator Benito Mussolini
  • “The main plank in the National Socialist program is to abolish the liberalistic concept of the individual and the Marxist concept of humanity and to substitute for them the folk community, rooted in the soil and bound together by the bond of its common blood.”
  • “Comrades! We must abolish the cult of the individual decisively, once and for all.” — Nikita Khrushchev, February 25, 1956, 20th Congress of the Communist Party.
  • “We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society.” — Hillary Clinton, 1993
  • We can’t be so fixated on our desire to preserve the rights of ordinary Americans.” — President Bill Clinton, USA Today, March 11, 1993, 2A
  • “The government is the only thing we all belong to.” — From a video extolling the collectivist agenda of the late Edward “Ted” Kennedy

And the most collectivist anti-individual statement of them all: “You didn’t build that.” The collective did.

  1. William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation (New York: Knopf, 1952), 120–21. []