View Poll Results: Does "bottom-up development" equal individualism?

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Thread: Is Individualism the Greatest Example of "Bottom-Up Development?"

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    Is Individualism the Greatest Example of "Bottom-Up Development?"

    I may have asked this question before, and if I have I apologize.

    Do you think that the best representation of "bottom-up development" is individualism?

    By individualism, I specifically mean a decentralized approach where the greatest amount of power is bestowed upon the individual.

    I frankly would have to argue that giving the highest amount of power to the lowest level of society- the individual, IS the greatest representation of "bottom-up development."

    Those of you who know me well enough understand that I pick battles mostly with individuals on the left side of the political spectrum, for mainly personal reasons (which I'm willing to discuss if anyone wishes to inquire).

    So, here's another battle.

    I'm witnessing that the democrat party is a big champion of something they call "grassroots" initiatives. They like it when local people get together to fight for their right to do X, Y, and Z. They call any republican attempts to do the same thing as "astroturf." I'm not arguing whether or not the tea party movement is a legitimate grassroots initiative or astroturf, but rather whether or not the democrat party is a real champion of "bottom-up development" (I use bottom-up development to mean the same thing as grassroots initiative).

    If democrats, in general, support a greater centralized federal government where more power is concentrated at the top, rather than with the individual, I can't help but wonder if they're truly in support of "bottom-up development." I don't think they are, because if they were, they would have more confidence in letting the individual decide his or her own future. Instead, democrats (and republicans for that matter) generally believe that people are too stupid to invest in their retirement, too stupid to ensure their own safety, too greedy to remain charitable, too violent to possess arms, and so forth. So, rather than empowering the individual, they instead facilitate and maintain a top-heavy political structure.

    Any thoughts?

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    Re: Is Individualism the Greatest Example of "Bottom-Up Development?"

    The question is far more complex than you may imagine. Bestowing maximum power on the individual does not necessarily result in that power sustaining itself, so "individualism" is typically not a consequence of overly individualistic policy. If one visits places associated with "rugged individualism," they paradoxically tend to be monocultural - conformity rigorously or even violently enforced, albeit by private social standards rather than governments. This is not to say that the opposite extreme produces better results: Rigorous collectivism yields sclerotic societies because it takes too long for external perspectives to affect attitudes. Rather, places with maximum diversity of thought tend to be those that balance individual and group imperatives. Healthy, democratic societies depend on such a balance, because human beings are both one and many. E Pluribus Unum is a fact, not merely an ideal.

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    Re: Is Individualism the Greatest Example of "Bottom-Up Development?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Troubadour View Post
    The question is far more complex than you may imagine. Bestowing maximum power on the individual does not necessarily result in that power sustaining itself, so "individualism" is typically not a consequence of overly individualistic policy. If one visits places associated with "rugged individualism," they paradoxically tend to be monocultural - conformity rigorously or even violently enforced, albeit by private social standards rather than governments. This is not to say that the opposite extreme produces better results: Rigorous collectivism yields sclerotic societies because it takes too long for external perspectives to affect attitudes. Rather, places with maximum diversity of thought tend to be those that balance individual and group imperatives. Healthy, democratic societies depend on such a balance, because human beings are both one and many. E Pluribus Unum is a fact, not merely an ideal.
    I like the idea of balancing individualism and collectivism, but only to a point. I don't believe we can ever have a system that is 50% individualistic and 50% collectivism. Instead, our society will lean one way or the other. For the two major political parties, it usually leans towards the collective good while libertarianism tends to lean in the opposite direction. Therefore, if bigger government is a manifestation of collectivism, then it is apparently not a representation of bottom-up development.

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    Re: Is Individualism the Greatest Example of "Bottom-Up Development?"

    Quote Originally Posted by ElijahGalt View Post
    I don't believe we can ever have a system that is 50% individualistic and 50% collectivism. Instead, our society will lean one way or the other.
    Seeing it as a point on a one-dimensional scale obscures the complex reality of the relationship. Is an individual who chooses to act on altruistic impulses against the current of a culture that emphasizes selfishness acting individualistically? Is one who conforms by being selfish acting collectively? I may be treading into excessively philosophical territory, but it's worth saying that it boils down to arbitrary lines in an otherwise fluid system. Even the term "individual" is basically incorrect - a single person is very much "dividual," consisting of conflicting impulses and complex motives. The whole issue is only circumstantially meaningful, and only definable by the fact that a single person is the atomic unit of our political system. In ancient societies, the atomic unit was more often the family - the eldest male was considered sovereign. This is just speculation, but in the far future politics may be defined by units even smaller than single human beings.

    Quote Originally Posted by ElijahGalt View Post
    For the two major political parties, it usually leans towards the collective good while libertarianism tends to lean in the opposite direction
    Therein lies the problem - libertarianism defines the two as opposites, when multi-person collectives are simply emergent properties of individual existence. You cannot separate them or treat them antagonistically. There has to be a systemic understanding of the complex relationship to benefit either of them. We can choose to say that groups exist to serve individual constituents, but the degree to which a minority of individuals is entitled to veto group decisions cannot be too extreme without negating the existence of the group and denying others the benefits of collective action.
    Last edited by Troubadour; 11-24-10 at 09:56 PM.

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    Re: Is Individualism the Greatest Example of "Bottom-Up Development?"

    I'm thinking of the difference between the tea party (I know there are many different tea party orgs and a few others unrelated) and the dems "grass roots" There's consist of many varied origanizations, from the NAACP, Teachers Unions, SEIU, Communist Party USA......remember the rally they had, had over 400 separate organizations.
    So I think the Right is more about individualism and bottom up, than the Left
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    Re: Is Individualism the Greatest Example of "Bottom-Up Development?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Troubadour View Post
    Seeing it as a point on a one-dimensional scale obscures the complex reality of the relationship. Is an individual who chooses to act on altruistic impulses against the current of a culture that emphasizes selfishness acting individualistically? Is one who conforms by being selfish acting collectively? I may be treading into excessively philosophical territory, but it's worth saying that it boils down to arbitrary lines in an otherwise fluid system. Even the term "individual" is basically incorrect - a single person is very much "dividual," consisting of conflicting impulses and complex motives. The whole issue is only circumstantially meaningful, and only definable by the fact that a single person is the atomic unit of our political system. In ancient societies, the atomic unit was more often the family - the eldest male was considered sovereign. This is just speculation, but in the far future politics may be defined by units even smaller than single human beings.
    I think you are pulling this thread a part way too much. The OP asked quite a simple question in which you've responded with complication in order to reach for some metaphysical meaning. Though it may have left you with the impression that I believe it should all be one or the other, the OP brings into question the integrity of the alliance between progressivism (or liberalism or socialism or whatever term you wish to associate with leftist thinking) and grassroots initiative. Certainly the acts of many to fight for the right to live free and vote, own property and integrate is grassroots initiative and the progressives have generally supported these localized movements in the late 20th century and beyond. However, in terms of economic development and the role of government, my original argument claims that liberals are not, on a general basis, supportive of bottom-up development. They'll teach history from the bottom-up and they'll protest with others locally against grievances, but they generally support a much larger role for centralized government which ultimately means taking more freedom and responsibility away from the individual level. In other words, they support a top-heavy political structure with central planners dictating how daily life for individuals will be maintained. I call that trickle-down economics. :-)


    Therein lies the problem - libertarianism defines the two as opposites, when multi-person collectives are simply emergent properties of individual existence. You cannot separate them or treat them antagonistically. There has to be a systemic understanding of the complex relationship to benefit either of them. We can choose to say that groups exist to serve individual constituents, but the degree to which a minority of individuals is entitled to veto group decisions cannot be too extreme without negating the existence of the group and denying others the benefits of collective action.
    Of course there is a difference between collectivism and individualism. There's a major distinction and they most certainly could be argued as being opposite. The thread was not originally intended that way, and in no way do I support ending contract agreements between large groups of people. I support a minimal government, with more power imbued at the individual level. Is that really so physically impossible?

    Would anyone else here like to support Troubadour's claim that individualism is not the opposite of collectivism. If speaking in strictly political (not social as you have brought up with the above examples) terms, collectivism is the support of a larger central state structure and individualism is the support of a decentralized and simplified structure. Is central the opposte of decentral? I'm seriously asking that question. Since you're willing to go deep into the allegory of the cave, I can't say I'm willing to spend the energy to go that far in this discussion.

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    Re: Is Individualism the Greatest Example of "Bottom-Up Development?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Barbbtx View Post
    I'm thinking of the difference between the tea party (I know there are many different tea party orgs and a few others unrelated) and the dems "grass roots" There's consist of many varied origanizations, from the NAACP, Teachers Unions, SEIU, Communist Party USA......remember the rally they had, had over 400 separate organizations.
    So I think the Right is more about individualism and bottom up, than the Left
    I can't say I agree with you. The more either party stays in power, the more freedom is etched away from our society. They just scratch away at different liberties.

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    Re: Is Individualism the Greatest Example of "Bottom-Up Development?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Barbbtx View Post
    So I think the Right is more about individualism and bottom up, than the Left
    Your comment is Newspeak. The "tea parties" are top-down coordinated, corporate-funded farces, and the organizations you cite as "the Left" consist of average people working together in their own communities just to get by.

    Quote Originally Posted by ElijahGalt View Post
    Though it may have left you with the impression that I believe it should all be one or the other, the OP brings into question the integrity of the alliance between progressivism (or liberalism or socialism or whatever term you wish to associate with leftist thinking) and grassroots initiative.
    Grassroots initiative has always been multipolar - e.g., the Ku Klux Klan was every bit as "bottom-up" as the Civil Rights movement. The operative difference was that the grassroots motives of the KKK were superficial - reactionary tribalism - while its most powerful motivations came from the privileged elite: Protecting the Southern social order. While the Civil Rights movement had a lot of support from Northern elites, its basic animus came from the daily lives of Southern black people: Individuals attempting to assert basic human rights and American freedoms through collective action.

    Whether you wish to acknowledge it or not, the bulk of the animus behind small-government politics is not individuals like yourself who are advocating a philosophy - it comes from an incoherent alliance of paranoiac, xenophobic, bigoted social elements and economic elites who all have an axe to grind with a government that forces them to respect other people's rights. They want that government weaker until they can, as Grover Norquist fantasized, "drown it in a bathtub." The liberal movement, contrarily, has a minority proportion of support among the economic elites, but its animus comes from people pursuing obvious self-interest: People who deal every day with the ugly, neo-manorial reality of a poorly-regulated market, and see no resemblance between the claims of libertarianism and the facts of their experience. And I think most of the energy behind conservatism/libertarianism proves this by how little account it gives to the vast majority of people: Its rhetoric is 100% founded on appealing to the sensibilities and assumptions of people who are already wealthy. In other words, it is a power play, not a grassroots movement for change.

    Quote Originally Posted by ElijahGalt View Post
    They'll teach history from the bottom-up and they'll protest with others locally against grievances, but they generally support a much larger role for centralized government
    Here we encounter a fundamental disagreement, because liberals do not agree that an elected government responding to the will of the people is engaging in "top-down" politics. Quite the opposite.

    Quote Originally Posted by ElijahGalt View Post
    which ultimately means taking more freedom and responsibility away from the individual level.
    There may be an argument about responsibility, but the idea that government involvement inherently removes freedom is a canard I completely reject. Would you be "free" in an unpopulated desert where there are no people to "interfere" in your decisions, no one to help you do anything, and no resources for you to use? Going from that environment to a densely populated city full of options and possibilities, would you be "oppressed" because those possibilities only exist as a result of regulations? Good, intelligent government creates a lot more freedom than it limits.

    Quote Originally Posted by ElijahGalt View Post
    In other words, they support a top-heavy political structure with central planners dictating how daily life for individuals will be maintained.
    Simply not true. Progressivism, true to its name, evolves - people on the left generally recognize the limitations of central planning, and seek to apply it only in designing the basic structures of self-correcting systems. In other words, in configuring the market to make it work for people rather than making people work for it. We also recognize that some functions are simply not suited to markets, and these we would keep fully in the political realm. Unfortunately, conservatism/libertarianism does not evolve its policies, it merely evolves the ways in which it sells policies that have failed repeatedly. The mistakes behind the recent mortgage crisis were identical to some of those made in the Great Depression - namely failing to stop banks from bundling, rating, and selling their own mortgages on the open market. It occurred in the Hoover administration by default, because the federal government had simply never intervened in such matters before, but this time around it was a matter of deliberate ignorance. The right simply did not care. Whatever the market does, the right labels it correct or rationalizes some way to blame government for it somehow. There is no instrumental recognition that government and markets are tools - means to human ends - not entities in themselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by ElijahGalt View Post
    I support a minimal government, with more power imbued at the individual level. Is that really so physically impossible?
    Of course not - it just wouldn't work as a government system in a 21st-century urbanized civilization. This is not the 18th century - Americans do not live miles apart from each other on huge swaths of family property from which they derive their living. They are employed by faceless, increasingly lawless transnational corporations who see their "human resources" as no different from inanimate material inputs: A cost to be minimized. People live surrounded by each other, in each other's faces all day. Their basic foodstuffs are shipped in from distant places, often from other continents. You could sooner repair a 747 by flying it into a tornado than you could design a minimal government scenario in the 21st century where the majority of people are not starving to death within a decade.
    Last edited by Troubadour; 11-25-10 at 12:45 AM.

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    Re: Is Individualism the Greatest Example of "Bottom-Up Development?"

    from galt

    By individualism, I specifically mean a decentralized approach where the greatest amount of power is bestowed upon the individual.
    please add ..
    "in balance with the rights of other people in society and as members of a democratic republic with a Constitution and a system of laws."
    Otherwise all I have to do is to say - 'sure, and that is what we now have'.
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    Re: Is Individualism the Greatest Example of "Bottom-Up Development?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Troubadour View Post
    Your comment is Newspeak. The "tea parties" are top-down coordinated, corporate-funded farces, and the organizations you cite as "the Left" consist of average people working together in their own communities just to get by.

    .
    Yep.

    There would be no tea party were it not for the massive organizing efforts by the radio pundits coordinated in their efforts, and obviously serving a specific function. The problem here, is that as long as the followers are TOLD they are grass roots, they see their own following as something spontaneous.
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