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Collectivism can be good | LETTER TO THE EDITOR
To the editor:
What is the Dark Force in our nation?
I am writing in response to Mr. Jon Berg’s letter earlier this month titled “Limited government needed.”
Mr. Berg quotes James Madison, from the Federalist No. 10 in saying “The first object of government” is “the protection of the different and unequal faculties of acquiring property.” This, of course, is one sentence among many which I think needs further clarification.
In his essay, James Madison was laying out arguments in favor of ratifying our constitution. One of his strongest points was that the new nation must have a strong “federal” government to survive, and not just be a loose confederacy of independent states.
He also felt that one of the strongest challenges to face a new nation would be from “factions,” what we now refer to as special interest. At that time in history very few people in Europe or throughout the world owned property or homes, but lived, instead, on the lands of nobility and the rich.
Madison felt, therefore, that the landless “masses” should have the opportunity to own property, not just as a high ideal, but in part to weaken them as a “faction” that could, in turn, weaken the nation.
Mr. Berg goes on to say that “the doctrine of collectivism” is a dark (negative) force in our land. I’m a bit baffled by this, mainly because I don’t know what he means by collectivism, but I assume that this is a reference to socialism or communism.
Based on that, I have a few points: first, the idea of different forms of collectivism, or collective action, have been with us since the beginning of our nation. Consider the collective actions of the early colonists which were necessary for their survival, or of agricultural co-ops where farmers pool their resources to be better able to market their goods.
Second, though our country has generally been adverse to the ideas of socialism and communism, they are not outlawed or even really talked about in our Declaration of Independence, Constitution or Bill of Rights.
In fact, at the birth of our nation the coming together of militias from different colonies to fight could be seen as a necessary form of collectivism that the colonists engaged in. In this light, collectivism is as American as rugged individualism or apple pie.
How much power our federal government should have is an idea that was debated by our founding fathers since before we formed a nation. I don’t believe we can now say that any of the early patriots were more or less right or patriotic because of their opinions.
And though some now say they know the intentions of the founding fathers, I believe it is impossible for us to know what they would think of the current state of our nation or what we must do to fix it.
It could be that if James Madison were alive today he would be a proponent of an even stronger federal authority to battle what he would see as the “dark” factions destroying our country.
And, further, he might identify these factions — not as collectivism — but instead as the runaway influence of wealth, of large corporations and of all forms of religious intolerance.
In fact, he might applaud the Occupy Wall Street movement for its stance against special interest. And I could even imagine him doing a bit of protesting of his own.