The Transcendental Argument for Collectivism

Philosophical discussion and syllogisms are mostly absent from political discussions. Of course, that is to be expected : making one’s reasoning clear implies clear thought and clear principles, something that most people do not have when they talk about politics (and yes, I include many libertarians in that category also, although to a lesser extent).

The main strength of philosophy is in forcing us to expose our hidden assumptions, which are usually false. Most arguments that people use in political discussions are implicit. In this way, the libertarian can uproot his own falsities, and those of others, by demonstrating and exposing their deductive origin.

Of course we must always follow rational principles, such as :

* Looking at the evidence, how conclusive it is, and the conclusions it points to.
* Being free to accept any truth, however inconvenient.
* Opting for the most parsimonious explanations.
* Making all our premises clear and evaluating them as we would any other proposition.

And so on and so forth. By looking at the root of a falsehood, we usually find a “generally accepted” bromide that is actually false. For instance, people used to believe in tabula rasa, the notion that people were born with a clean slate, and therefore believed in all kinds of absurd things.

Now that evolution and evolutionary psychology have given us the tools to study the human mind, we can reject the hidden premise of tabula rasa and put genetics and instincts in their proper place as explanatory processes of human behaviour.

A hidden premise underlies a great deal of people’s beliefs about collectivism. That is to say, people support collectivism because they think it is the only way society can organize itself and bring about general welfare. Here is what collectivists would say on the topic :

(1) Either we live in a free society, or a controlled society.
(2) I want to live in a controlled society because I wish to live in a secure, prosperous, fair society.

This line of reasoning has a hidden premise. When someone speaks to you in this manner, point out to them that they are banking on a highly dubious hidden premise, as such :

(1) Either we live in a free society, or a controlled society.
(1b) Only a controlled society can best bring about social goods (such as security, prosperous, fairness).
(2) I want to live in a controlled society because I wish to live in a secure, prosperous, fair society.

In essence, when the collectivist tells you that capitalism or civil liberties are not conductive to his interests, we must first ask : what interests are those ? And secondly, what evidence do you have that freedom is not conductive to those interests ?

In some cases, you will find that the interest in question is a moot point, because it is rooted in a misunderstanding of economics or sociology. Here is an example, with a proper libertarian objection :

(1) Either we permit monopolies to exist, or we don’t.
(2) I want to live in a society where monopolies are illegal, because it leads to more prosperity and fairness.

(O) Monopolies only arise in three types of situations :

* Due to the complexity of the product, or lack of expertise, only one company is favored by the customers.
* Demand or supply of resources are too low, reducing the market’s size. The market becomes too small for more than one company.
* The government puts barriers to entry or uses the law to favour one side over another (sometimes even making entire markets illegal), permitting a company to rise to the fore.

The first two are conductive to prosperity and fairness. The third is a major corporatist problem, which would not exist in a libertarian system.

Here is another example :

(1) Either we help the poor, or we don’t.
(2) I want to live in a society where we are forced to help the poor, because there is no other way to help them.

(O) As long as there is a desire to help the poor, there will be people ready to devote resources to this help. Private systems, being more efficient and accountable, are better in resolving the problem. Furthermore, it’s been demonstrated that charity is reduced when people are already forced to pay for it. The government deals with poverty with its own interests in mind : such interests have nothing to do with solving the problem on the long-term, but rather to maintain the votes of the poor when this does not infringe on the desires of other people. This cannot lead to effective solutions, and has never lead to them. Finally, divorcing the government from the economy would lead to an increase in employment, job quality and general prosperity, which would help eradicate poverty.

(HP) People in and of themselves cannot assemble in order to give charity. We need to force people to do so.
This assertion is easily disproven by the fact that our societies had charity before the government took control of it, and the inefficiency and political purposes of government charity.

Here is a last example :

(1) Either the government censors the media for “inappropriate content”, or it does not.
(2) I want to live in a society where censorship is used, so that my children can be safe from evil content.

(O) By letting the government censor, we enforce social warfare, because people will always disagree on what is acceptable and what is not. Censorship crowds out diversity, and gives the government power over communications, our window to the world. Censorship represses knowledge in the name of emotion.

(HP) People in and of themselves cannot assemble in order to keep their children safe. We need to force the media to do so in our name.
This assertion is easily disproven by the private censorship tools we have today, for the internet and television. Furthermore, parents are free to restrict their children’s freedom or thought as much as they want without punishment.
Of course, the impulse to shield children from reality is also highly debatable, if not unethical, but that is not part of the specific argument.

The hidden premise is that we need a transcendent, central authority to have anything. This is why I call the line of reasoning “Transcendent Argument for Collectivism”.

The transcendent argument in theology is used to argue that a transcendent being is necessary to explain human understanding – that it cannot arise from the interaction of material parts. This transcendental reasoning applied to politics also claims that government is necessary for us to get benefit from society, and that the interaction of individuals is not sufficient.

Indeed, an atrocious Humanist document states that “altruism is the basis for civilization”.

What a horrible lie ! Civilization did not arise so man could control his fellow and make him suffer in the name of his pet ideals. On the contrary, civilization began so that man could be protected from his fellows : so that man could trade with man without coercion, so that the strongest and the most numerous do not beat you the weak and the few, and the smallest group of all, the individual.

But we observe the reverse today. The individual is forced, indeed encouraged, to submit to democracy – which is nothing more than the tyranny of the many against the few and the one. Corporations fighting against each other, corporations fighting against their customers, people fighting against each other, the rich against the poor, the Christians against the atheists, the government against anyone who is unpopular or does not have political pressure.

The result of democracy is social warfare, classism, the persecution of the voiceless – the children, the poor, the disenfranchised, the elimination of individualism from politics, institutions, and ultimately culture.

Society is meant for man to deal with man as an equal. In a free society, we all share a common harmony of values. Not being forced to fight each other for political power, we all have an equal playing field. Regardless of our creed, beliefs, religion, political position, we all seek to benefit our own lives and the lives of those we care about. Our values are harmonious.

We can work together, not because we are forced, but because we want to. In a corporation, we all have the common goal of working with our co-workers to trade with customers, because we all reap the benefit of such trade. In a social organization, we all have the common goal of that organization, our of ideological commonality and desire to improve society. In our own family or friend environment, we share values and a desire for social and personal recognition.

To blow up the hidden premise of collectivism, expose the hidden premise that control is the best way to bring about benefit, and then use Ravensberg Pivot to restore proper understanding of the issue.

Your opponent may argue that collectivism is superior because it is about “people motive” instead of “profit motive”. This is another, although less common, code-word. Use the same general argument to blow up these premises :

* “Profit motive” is “people motive”, when a proper government protects everyone’s rights, leaving us all free to pursue our own benefit and happiness.

* The government does not have a “people motive”. Like everyone else in the world, politicians and bureaucrats protect their own interests first, and have a “political motive”. This is not a bad thing in itself, but the presence of political power gives this motive the power to hurt society.

The guiding principle of libertarianism is that everyone should be free to pursue his own happiness without government interference, or coercion from anyone else. If one still desires to live in a coercive way, he is free to do so, as long as he respects other people’s right not to participate. We accept the freedom of collectivists to participate in collectivist institutions and groups, so why do they refuse us the freedom to do the same ?

Of course, we already know part of the answer. Collectivists know that their ideals would never survive a free market. Control does not work. power does not work, in the long run. But collectivists should still be free to run their own systems, alongside with the private system, if they so desire. Why won’t they take the opportunity to open freedom to everyone ?

The answer is, I think, obvious : as long as democracy exists, the majority will seek to take more and more freedom from the minority. And since everyone is in a minority of some sort, we will all lose in the long run. Only the rule of law can restore freedom to this world. Nothing else !