Do you belong to yourself or do you belong to the state? Individualism focuses on personal benefits/rewards and encourages people to set personal objectives and goals. While collectivism focuses entirely on a group or society’s goals, prioritizing the community’s needs over the individual. Both of these concepts are addressed in the novels; Macbeth by Shakespeare, Anthem by Ayn Rand and countless times in history. While some may think that an individualistic society is too independent and ineffective, its not, and a limited individualistic society leads to happiness and innovation.
It is often argued that individualistic ideas lead to people being antisocial, selfish and overly competitive. Some people say that individualists are unable to be social since they have isolated themselves from relationships in order to pursue their ambitions. However, individualists can still learn from other people, they can still share what they have learned and they can also do that in groups, but the individual should always make that choice, no one can decide that for him. In Anthem, after finding out the forbidden word, Equality 7-2521 said “I am neither foe nor friend to my brothers, but such as each of them shall deserve of me. And to earn my love, my brothers must do more than to have been born” (Rand 96). Equality is willing to have relationships with others, he is willing to love others but they need to earn it. He won’t force a relationship with someone just because society demands so, he cherishes his freedom to make that choice. He is a prime example of an individualist who has freedom but isn’t lonely. Some people say that individualists are generally selfish and will do anything for their own interests. However, an individualist isn’t selfish since they regard every man as an independent person entitled with rights to his own life, so they do care for others but always prioritize their own needs. While as a selfish person completely undermines other people’s feelings and is willing to impose on another’s rights for personal gain. The founding fathers of the US stated that all men are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence. The word ‘liberty’ is clearly mentioned alongside ‘life” among the inalienable right of all individuals, meaning that even back then, they believed that every person is given freedom at birth, and allowed to live life as they please, as long as it doesn’t impose on the lives of others, which is anything but selfish. Some people say that individualists are overly competitive which they imply is a negative trait, but this trait of competitiveness isn’t bad. Competition to succeed motivates people to try their hardest and more competition encourages creativity and innovation. America’s economy has debatably become one of the best in the world because of this competition. In this economy, companies are faced with never-ending competition and are continually pressed to become more productive and efficient. For instance, many green houses or plant stores sell similar plants. However, consumers may pick one over the other, because they sell the plants at a lower price. This would encourage the losing plant stores to make their prices even lower, and the opposition would do the same, leading to a never ending cycle. Competition results in goods and services being given at the best prices, or in the highest quality/quantity. The companies do whatever is necessary in order to individuate themselves from other producers. The innovations produced from this economy can lead to the overall well being of society, which is why competition isn’t bad. Individualism helps both our economy and the individual’s in our society, which collectivism fails to do.
Limited Individualism leads to happiness as is shown by Macbeth, Equality 7-2521, and America’s culture since it allows individuals to act autonomously and choose their relationships freely. Limited Individualism is the notion of allowing an individual to have freedom as long as it doesn’t impose on the safety and freedom of others. With limited individualism, societies can prioritize the individual’s ambitions while not letting them go overboard, and this balance is what truly leads to happiness. Near the beginning of Macbeth, the novel portrayed Macbeth as a loyal soldier, who had worked his way up through the ranks with sheer effort. After fighting in the battle with the Norwegians, Macbeth heard of a few prophecies regarding him from the witches. One of them had surprisingly come true after Ross tells Macbeth that Duncan had bestowed him with the title of Thane of Cawdor due to his valiant effort and ability on the battlefield. Shortly after, Macbeth said “Two truths are told./ As happy prologues to the swelling act of the imperial theme./ -I thank you, gentlemen” (1.3.140-142). Although this happiness was only temporary, Macbeth was truly happy. He had chosen to work that hard for himself and chose to stand out from the rest. He is happy not only because he is now higher in the social hierarchy, but also because his efforts were paid back in due respect. However, his happiness was only temporary because his ambition was kept unchecked, his desire to grow better started turning into greed, and became excessive, which is why freedom should be allowed to a certain extent. Equality had escaped with Liberty from his collectivist society, and had sworn to live his life by his own standards. After encountering a house outside the forest, they seek shelter in it, and find it to be a remnant of the unspeakable times. All of the books stored there used the word I which until recently had been an unfamiliar word to equality. However, after learning it, he said “My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose” (Rand 95). She is saying that every person should live for their own purpose, not that of anyone else. Happiness can be found in the happiness of others, doing benevolent acts or even in your family, but our own personal motives should be the driving force. Never succumb to the orders of another, unless its done willingly. Our acknowledgment of this strength of ours is what enables us to pick our path in life, and succeed hereafter.
Individualism leads to innovation as was shown by Elon Musk, Equality 7-2521, and statistics since it encourages the individual to try to be unique which consequently leads to creative thinking. The prohibition of free-thinking, which is promoted by collectivism creates a technologically backward society since their coerced minds are told what to do, but not allowed to be creative. This creativity is vital for entrepreneurs to find new ideas and turn them into innovative solutions. Elon Musk was a South African-born American who was often known as an introverted kid. He had a rough childhood but it developed him into an extraordinary man since he has now made Tesla and SpaceX, two remarkably big companies. During an interview with The Guardian, Musk said ‘People work better when they know what the goal is and why. It is important that people look forward to coming to work in the morning and enjoy working’ (Elon). Elon says that people need to be able to know what their goal is, they can’t just blindly follow orders since it won’t lead to innovation or happiness. As implied by Elon, goals help keep you on track and force you to come up with creative ways in achieving them. Happiness in the workplace improves cognitive thinking which makes you more productive while working. This mindset is the same as Elon’s since he knew what he wanted to achieve, and he also knew of the rewards (profit and status) given to people for their achievements in an individualist society. Elon had brought new innovative ideas to life, which made the lives of others better, and also generated him lots of profit. Equality 7-2521 had found an underground railway station that held many items from the past including electrical wires and lightbulbs. These items were unknown to him, but they also made him curious. He started experimenting with all of the things found there and was able to make a lightbulb, which if exposed would help make countless people’s lives better. Shortly after, he said “We could not conceive of that which we had created. We had touched no flint, made no fire. Yet here was light, light that came from nowhere, light from the heart of metal” (Rand 59). Equality had come to the realization that he himself had created something that no other person in his time had. He had found light through unconventional methods and became proud of this invention. In the tunnel, he was isolated from his collectivist society and was only focusing on himself, which is the main reason why he had discovered something like this now, and never earlier. His society didn’t value uniqueness, so people never brought forth unique ideas, which led to their technologically backward society. Individualistic societies are objectively very innovative and have high levels of productivity. In a 2012 study, Georgia Institute of Technology and George Washington University analyzed the correlation between individualism and Innovation lasting two decades and spanning 62 countries. The data was conducted based off the gdp per capita/person, productivity of each individual, and the growth of entrepreneurship throughout the country. They concluded that “most measures of individualism have a strong, significant, and positive effect on innovation, even when controlling for major policy variables” (Taylor). Individualism had a direct correlation with innovation, leading to economic growth which consequently improved the lives of the people. As I explained earlier, innovation is good for our society, because the consumers are provided with the best price and quality. An individualist culture not only provides the individual with a monetary incentive, but also allows for them to move up the social ladder through effort. These factors encourage the individual to allocate more time and labor to his innovative activities. Despite what the opposition says, evidence has time and again confirmed that individualism has helped the individual, the society and the economy far more than collectivism ever can.
It is often argued that individualistic ideas make people antisocial, selfish, and overly competitive, but evidence shows that this is not entirely true and is mainly rhetoric. Limited Individualism leads to happiness since it allows individuals to act autonomously and choose their relationships freely. Individualism also leads to innovation since it encourages the individual to try to be unique which consequently leads to creative thinking. A limited individualistic society leads to happiness and innovation, evidence proves its effectiveness and it doesn’t encourage individualists to be too independent. Contrary to what collectivists believe, human beings aren’t metaphysically attached or dependent on others; each human directs his own body and uses his own mind; no one else can do either for him.