The individual is under attack from all directions. Students are instructed to work in groups. Businesses urge employees to be good team players. Politicians lecture us to serve our country, give back to our communities, and be our brother’s keeper. The media has discovered so many victim groups it’s hard not to identify with at least one.
Despite the abject failure of communism and the welfare state, our once free society is becoming increasingly collectivist. We are told that we must consume less, have fewer children, and pay higher taxes—all for the common good. I can’t help but notice, however, that the politicians who are most adamant about citizens’ duty to give are themselves often on the receiving end, living like billionaires at taxpayers’ expense.
Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against cooperation or charity. I simply reject the charge that when we do things for ourselves we are being malicious.
Collectivists just don’t get it. In the pursuit of their own ambitions, individuals often do more for society than the most devoted altruists. It’s often the renegades who make the great discoveries and produce the great inventions. When Harvey Feigenbaum began writing about the use of ultrasound to examine the heart, none of the established medical journals would publish his papers. Nor would the journals publish Willem Kolff’s articles about implantable artificial organs. Society told them they were wrong—they knew they were right.
In future posts I’ll profile some of the greatest individualists and how they bucked the trend in education, science, business, and the arts.