The idea that we can choose to be "individualists" in our economy and we don't need collective thinking is part of the “free-market” capitalist, bourgeois ideology. This ideology is a tool of the Republicans and conservatives, in and outside of this country, to coopt or dupe workers into supporting their agenda. And that agenda is the pro-capitalist, pro-business and anti-worker policies we get today from the Republican Party. But why do workers support this? Do they really want to be fired at any time without any warnings? Do they really want to cut out all benefits from the work place including health care? Quite often we are told that conservative workers see themselves as individualist who opposes any kind of collectivism.
To put it clearly R.J. Saulnier said:
“What Republicans stand for derives from their adherence to individualism, the philosophy that perceives of the individual as a self-disciplined, basically self-reliant person who has rights and freedoms that it is the duty of government to respect and protect, who respects the rights and freedoms of others, and who feels an obligation to attend so far as possible to his/her own individual and family welfare. It is this embrace of individualism that sets Republicans apart from those who favor government that is big, centralized, intrusive, and increasingly paternalistic. What Republicans stand for is precisely the opposite–government that is limited, noninterventionist and decentralized.”
When he said “self-reliant person” what does that really mean? Do they make their own clothes? Do they build their own cars from scratch? Do they grow their own food? Chances are they consume products every day that requires a work force to make. Even a small business person has to acknowledge that. Each business creates a piece of the economy and the only people in the country who don’t buy and consume those goods are the hermits that live off in caves and never see another human being. But that’s not what we have here in Kansas or anywhere else.
There is little doubt that by “self-disciplined” Saulnier does not mean the people on welfare or other government assistance. The American worker has learned to hate those people as un-disciplined people who they believe are just lazy and lacking in moral character. Some Republicans have a tendency to insult supporters of the Democratic Party by insisting they are all on government assistance waiting for handouts.
Most people on assistance have paid some taxes at one time or another. Most have worked at least some time in their lives. Many people on assistance, such as food stamps, are working and they are earning minimum wage. Few people are on assistance their whole lives, especially with all the new rules both national and state-wide, that place limits on welfare.
Welfare recipients and those on assistance also spend money which gives back to the government in the form of sales tax and they add to the economy. Working people have to make the products that those on assistance buy. Without consumers such work provides products which can’t be purchased.
In this way we are all interconnected. Most Republican workers will accept un-employment if they are fired or laid off. In this modern economy few “individualist” conservative workers can afford not to take unemployment.
What this all means is that economic “individualism” is just a myth. Perhaps a person can be an individualist in arts or culture but not economically. Anyone has the right to be responsible for him/her self, but that does not have anything to do with economic individualism. We are all dependent on those who provide the things we buy with our money. If we are sick we go to a doctor. Trying to cure yourself because of your individualism is foolish and can lead to death. Almost no one can really claim to be completely free of anyone else’s help. We need others to survive and that is fact. Whether we always work or whether we get our income another way, we all depend on each other.
It is time to expose the “individualism” myth.
Pix by www.traviskelly.com.