The recent debate over whether people build businesses on their own, or if they are products of the environment has sparked a deeper philosophical debate between Individualism and Collectivism. The specific debate that I refer to between Romney and Obama is a bit of a joke when you look at it closely. A typical political debate of distorted and out of context comments designed not to accomplish greater understanding, but to paint their opponents as out of touch with the common American person. But if there truly is a bifurcation, I would like to ask the business owner who thinks that all of their accomplishments stem directly from their own talents, what then does the president, the government, or the economy have to do with your business that you built all by yourself? If you are on your own why are you so concerned about the direction of the government, the country or anything outside of your minuscule, isolated world? Why can't you just innovate around it? The answer is that you can't because we are all subjected to the greater flow of economics and government policy. Our little worlds are microcosms of a larger one. To the Collectivists that would say successful business has nothing to do with individual talent and innovativeness, I would say to you: You are a bitter and sore loser that has never met a successful small business owner. Starting a business requires an incredible investment of time and energy; knowledge and skill; talent and creativity; luck and environment are part of the equation, but only a part. Individual prowess is the true spark. Very rarely are people handed success. If they are then they must work hard to maintain it or it will quickly disappear.
The truth is: this dichotomy of individualism versus collectivism doesn't exist. It is a lie perpetuated by hard-liners, Marxists and Randists; a narrative that seeks to divide our personal world-views into neat little boxes for political and economic motivations. How can we not be individuals when we are each unique and different organisms? How can we not be a collective when we are all products of our environment? The answer of course is that we are both. We are individuals but we also exist within a collective. What implication does this have? If you claim that your success is strictly due to your own tenacity and talent then you must also claim your failures for the same reasons. Yet, most often the capitalist will say that "I succeeded through my own hard work" but when failure comes, "I failed because of the economy" Why not acknowledge that both factors exist and are at play? Why not recognize that if not for a little luck and some community support, no amount of hard work will be enough to succeed, or that people are capable of doing great things on their own through diligence and determination. The idea that we control our own destiny is only partially true. We do not choose our parents. We do not choose our genetic predispositions. We do not choose the neighborhood that we are brought up in, the role models that come into our lives, the propaganda we are bombarded with, the actions of others that may affect us... We do not choose the circumstances or events in our life that either foster our talents or our weaknesses. We can only control our reactions to these variables of life. But we cannot control the world. The world moves and we are just a small part of it.That doesn't eliminate the hope that we can do something great as an individual. We are all unique and possess special gifts and talents. It is up to us to discover those gifts, harness and nurture them, and then use them to make a positive impact in our community or to further our own success as individuals.
The sooner that collectivists acknowledge that many personal liberties should not be given up for the sake of the state, that innovative individuals are the spark of progress in our economy, and the sooner that individualists acknowledge that there are things that we can do as a society to enhance the freedom and opportunities of individuals, the sooner we can come together and create solutions to problems rather than just criticizing our perceived opponents.