Guest Editorial
The collectivists have won the war over who owns your body

By Craig J. Cantoni | May 21, 2008 | Vol. 14 No. 21

Almost all of the myriad political philosophies can be distilled to two competing ideas:
Individualism holds that people own their bodies and the fruits of their labor, and that they can do what they want with both as long as they don’t harm anyone else. Under this idea, the purpose of government is to protect what people own from predators.

Collectivism holds that the king, emperor, alpha male, clan, tribe, state, Nancy Pelosi, or George W. Bush owns people’s bodies and the fruits of their labor. Under this idea, the purpose of government is to force people to work for other people, either through slavery, serfdom, tribalism, nationalism, communism, fascism, socialism, Jacobinism, imperialism, mercantilism, utilitarianism, progressivism, modern-day liberalism, neo-conservatism, Obama-ism, Clinton-ism, or McCain-ism.

I can complicate this with an egghead discussion of the great philosophers through the ages, but we’d just go full circle and end up with the two competing ideas. You either own your body and the fruits of your labor, or other people own them.

With the exception of voluntary communes and utopian social experiments, collectivism depends on force. Public education is an example. People who don’t use government schools are forced to subsidize those who do, including wealthy people who use them. If public schools are so great, then why do they depend on force?

The same question can be asked about nationalized healthcare.

With individualism and its sibling of capitalism, social and business relationships are voluntary, including feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and educating the poor. The other “isms’ are based on involuntary relationships.

The greatest terrors in the world have come at the hands of collectivists; yet collectivists continue to characterize individualists as mean-spirited, selfish and uncaring.

When taken to its logical conclusion, collectivism results in the absurdity of communism. But individualism would not result in absurdity if taken to its logical conclusion. There is no reductio ad absurdum of individualism.

Collectivists say that individualism leads to social Darwinism, but if individualism had prevailed around the world throughout human history, there would have been no slavery, no genocide, no mass starvation, no gulags, no Holocaust, no Jim Crow, no income gap between blacks and whites, and no constituency for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Hundreds of millions of people wouldn’t have died for someone’s collective notion.

The logical conclusion of individualism may be utopian, but it isn’t absurd.

What is absurd is that collectivism has won in the United States, which was the last hope for individualism. Collectivism’s victory has been so total that individualism is no longer even mentioned as an option by the political, media, business and education establishment.
Do you think that you own your body and the fruits of your labor? Don’t be absurd.

An author and columnist, Mr. Cantoni can be reached at