My high school political science teacher said once, that the political spectrum is not linear, but rather circular. If one go far enough toward one extreme, one circle back from the other extreme.
So it is with the polarity of Western Individualism and Eastern Collectivism. Where the West has often maintained a tradition of individualistic accomplishments and thoughts, the weight and size of Western society has forced the evolution of Western Individualism toward Western Collectivism, and the ultimate convergence of both the East and the West toward a singular form of collectivism.
The evolution of Western Collectivism is a curious one, partly due to its relatively recent signs of momentum. Even though it has been predicted for a long time now that the West would evolve into its own form of collectivistic consciousness, no one really knew how it was going to change, and no one could have predicted that the West’s own ardent worshipping of individual achievements would somehow turn into a new form of collectivism.
Amidst the continual political talks of “privatizing the Government”, (well, the reasoning of the Individualist goes, the Private individual knows better than the Collective Government), one finds that the “privatization” is a new euphemism for a new collective re-organization. In fact, what is called “private entities” in the West are no longer the bastions of Individualism, but rather new forms of Collectivism.
Ayn Rand, the famed author of Atlas Shrugged and the Fountain Head, among other authors, famously denounced the degenerative and stifling collective nature of Collectivism, Socialism, and Collectivism. They laid out the celebrations of Western Individualism as the triumph of Western Democracy. I marveled at the revival of Randian novels and Objectivism among many Western youths of the last decade, but equally marveled at the irony of Rand’s proverbial 15 minutes of fame.
The problem with Rand and her Objectivist Rationalism and Individualism is simply that she worshipped her own ideals too much. Hence, Worshipping of the Individuals became a new Religion of the West that even Rand would abhor.
What the Individualists (like Rand) hated above all else, is the bureaucratic process of collective decision making known as the Government, especially when such a process is imposed upon things that the individual “private” citizens could take care of on their own. The Individualists felt that the Government is often run by foolish irresponsible men who couldn’t hack it in the private world. Rand’s writings, specially Atlas Shrugged, celebrates the individual “great men” and mocks those who merely meekly follows the “government”. But there laid Rand’s own self-conflict and self-prophecy of doom of the Objectivist Rationalism and Individualism in the 21st century.
Rand’s Heroes are all Captains of Industries who dared to think for themselves. While superficially, that celebrates all individuals, Rand embraces a different sort of Darwinian Philosophy of “survival of the fittest.” Rand still plays politics in her stories. Her heroes do not survive by their own deeds alone, but form their own collectives of “loyal” followers. Hence, Rand would prefer a society ran by the new “collectives” of Captains of Industries, the new elites of “private enterprises”. But that’s precisely where the new Western Collectivism has evolved into.
“Privatization” in the West, is not about the Individuals, but about Business Collectives. Rand and others simply forgot that all collectives are susceptible to bureaucracies and incompetence, “private” corporations are no different. Banks can easily ruin “start-ups” with bad loans and insurances, all in the name of profit for the collective “shareholders”. Where once, Democracy is thought as the bastion of “individuals” who influence the government, now Democracy is simply carved up by the “private” corporations more and more. Submission of the individuals under the worship of the Government collective is, no worse nor better than, under the worship of the Collectives of CEO’s and Banks. Even the majority of the public in Rand’s novels simply either deferred to the Government or to the Captains of Industries.
What the West is becoming, is a new form of Socialism under the brand of “private corporations”, unless of course, the Governments stop this evolution. Today, corporations increasingly influence the governments and even run the Governments. While we still speak of privatizing Education, a notion that has increasingly gained popularity in recent years, we have not noticed that majority of top level and secret decisions are being made by private corporations employed by the Governments. While Lobby groups give money, some groups (often political and formed by influential businesses) are not-for-profit “analyst groups” that issue reports to the Governments on all forms of government policies, including national security, government spending, and technological development.
In the area of US national security, there are over 20+ “think tanks” that (access top secret intelligence data) and issue their opinions about National security policies. Some of these reports include the dubious intelligence recommendations that got US into invading Iraq for the WMD’s. What’s the significance? US has effectively privatized its “National Security” branch in the last 40 years or so, where once US relied upon bureaucratic secretive government branches like the CIA, NSA, DIA, etc., today US relies upon bureaucratic secretive “private” think tanks like the RAND corporation.
If this “privatization” has taught us any thing, it is simply that “privatization” does not make the Governments more individualistic, but makes corporations more collective. Letting the Corporations run things only makes corporations into the new governments. Rand and her Heroes will only leave behind worshippers who will meekly follow other heroes and other collectives.
And that repetition in the West will make the West more and more Eastern in Collectivism. Afterall, that is merely the prelude to the 1000’s of years of Chinese dynastic changes, where one group of heroes is replaced by another, and another, and another.