The Collective Giveth, the Collective Taketh Away

“Society supplies the context for individual life. Individual wealth is only possible because of the structures and protection afforded by the other taxpayers. Therefore, society has the moral authority to regulate the individual.”

This is the Left’s worldview. It is what their social engineers recite to themselves in that inner dialogue with the conscience.

It is a secular version of the book of Job: the Collective giveth, the Collective taketh away. But the parallel is deeper than surface narrative — this the moral plot of the Book, lifted wholesale, with the Collective playing the Yahweh role. Job’s loss of everything, including his superficial dermis, does not produce a legitimate indictment of God, precisely because it all had come from God, originally. The Divine can legitimately seize what He grants. The Book of Job is a simple, straightforward assertion of the Creator’s property rights over the human person.

Therefore, the boils on Job’s skin are an important part of the narrative and a logical extension of the moral argument: even your person, Job, is my property. Your skin does not constitute a property line.

I’d like to retain, thank you, the implication that no-one else can make this claim over me.

It only sounds benign in one of those post-Thanksgiving dinner discussions, when you’re lounging in warm soft chairs arguing with your harmless brother. “Society supplies the context…” sounds so academic and non-violent. But what it means is you are the property of the Collective. And if this is true, what is the definition of tyranny? In Job, Jehovah can’t be a tyrant, because He has the standing to dominate. When Job articulates the logical conclusion — “Even if He slay me, still I will praise Him” — he is only making sense. He is owned.

In real life, in the hands of cheerful wonks with graduate degrees and a vision of the just society, it always turns homicidal from top to bottom, because there is always someone else down the road with a more vivid vision of the perfect hive burned onto his retinae. The political activist of today, who manages to procure for the collective one more degree of power, and would voluntarily stop, will be despised by his heir as a dabbler.

If you’ve been in one of these debates, you know you end up arguing “original intent” before it is over. You argue the intent of the Constitution was to secure individual liberties, which means minimizing State regulation. Any use of the document to extend the regulatory State is a manifest perversion. The details are casuistry.

Ah, the 18th century: how quaint, says your opponent’s twinkling eyes. Well, when the Founders thought and wrote the word “citizen” they meant “white male landowners”. Since they got that wrong, we get to re-write the whole document. And what they mean by “re-write” is something like “ignore”. For after all, the Constitution is simply an obstacle to the progressive program of extending the State’s control over all of life, and any argument will do. The one they need to make, for a while, is that the Founders really intended the document the way the collectivists read it. It’s just taken this long to eke it out.

But my point is: skip all the steps of the argument. If they are right, we would not even need a Constitution, since there would be no need or moral justification to constrain the collective. Law is in essence a constraint on the collective. If there is no reason to constrain the collective, there is no need to consult precedent or any other form of legal foundation. As the collective loses its power, law develops. As the collective increases in power, law is extraneous. The very existence of a charter of law argues that the movement of history at the time was away from the collective.

Which is why arguing about the particulars of original intent with the left is a red herring. They actually have no use for the particulars. The self-aware leftists know this; they know that particular debate is just the verbal patter of the stage magician– its function is to occupy the audience while the real work is going on off to the side.

To be sure, “original intent” often mutates into a discussion of the proper definition of this word or that word, a bottom-up exercise. This is what exegesis always means, or it means nothing. But exegesis is what you do with fellow believers. Word for word analytical work is what you do to make a text useful. You sharpen granular exegetical bricks in order to make sure you and your fellow builders are not getting off the plumb line. This is not what you do with people who want to blow down the whole house.

Original intent, in a roomful of leftists, must be transformed into a top-down question, rather than a bottom-up question: in the larger effort of the Revolutionary War and the Constitutional Congress to create a nation, were they trying to constrain the collective, or empower the collective? Was it a battle between two collectives — the British one against the American one — or was it also an attempt to create a space for the individual over against all collectives? Is this relationship between the individual and the state, that you on the Left are giving your lives to create, is it the one the Founders were after when they wrote the whole damn document? Did they really put their necks into a British noose so the new government could tell us what light bulbs to use? Really?

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About the evolution of law…though law is a constraint on the collective, there is a deceptive historical pattern, in that the appearance of Big Brother correlates with more law, not less. In fact, the common complaint of we conservatives is that the left emanates statutes like frogs laying eggs. This is a temporary and pragmatic stage of the Left’s ascendancy. Eventually, the collective overwhelms. There is a tipping-point; the brain in the cloud becomes self-aware. The laws no longer matter.

So the stages are: 1. no law 2. foundational and simple law 3. Complicated and invasive law 4. no law

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Politics is always disguised metaphysics. It’s always about the problem of the One and the Many, isn’t it?

In the leftist mind, these entities exist distinctly: Person, and Collective. But the American experiment was a step in the long historical process of desacralizing all intangibles, including collectives and gods. They spoke of “We, the people” because it was not practical or safe to issue statements as individuals. But, thinking metaphysically, the statements issued by the “People” had the purpose of carving out a prior and inviolate metaphysical space for the individual. This a priori metaphysical link is between the Creator and the person (“…endowed….”), and it sits in the space traditionally reserved for the sacred. It judges all subsequent political acts and may morally execute any collective, in pre-emptive self-defense. (I take your point that “Creator” was an intangible they did not desacralize. And that’s another discussion.)

Isn’t it odd, that these people who so often mock intangible deities construct a worldview whose key element is an intangible collective?

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