Columbia says, in his “True and False Democracy”:
“We must not lose sight of the fact that the
corporate or collective responsibility which it (socialism)
would substitute for individual initiative is only
such corporate or collective responsibility as a group
of these very same individuals could exercise.
Therefore, socialism is primarily an attempt to overcome
man’s individual imperfections by adding them
together, in the hope that they will cancel each other.”
But what is all organization but an attempt, not to
overcome man’s individual imperfections by adding
them together, so much as to make use of many men’s
varying individual abilities by giving each a sufficient
sphere of exercise? While all men are imperfect,
they are not all imperfect to the same extent.
Some have more courage, more ability, more insight,
and more training than others; and an efficient organization
can accomplish more than can a mere collection of
individuals, precisely because it may represent a standard
of performance far above that of the average individual.
Its merit is simply that of putting the collective
power of the group at the service of its ablest members;
and the ablest members of the group will never attain
to an individual responsibility commensurate with their
powers, until they are enabled to work efficiently
towards the redemption of the collective responsibility.
The nation gives individuality an increased scope
and meaning by offering individuals a chance for effective
service, such as they could never attain under a system
of collective irresponsibility. Thus under a
system of collective responsibility the process of
social improvement is absolutely identified with that
of individual improvement. The antithesis is
not between nationalism and individualism, but between
an individualism which is indiscriminate, and an individualism
which is selective.
CONDITIONS OF INDIVIDUAL EMANCIPATION
It is, then, essential to recognize that the individual
American will never obtain a sufficiently complete
chance of self-expression, until the American nation
has earnestly undertaken and measurably achieved the
realization of its collective purpose. As we shall
see presently, the cure for this individual sterility
lies partly with the individual himself or rather
with the man who proposes to become an individual;
and under any plan of economic or social organization,
the man who proposes to become an individual is a
condition of national as well as individual improvement.
It is none the less true that any success in the achievement
of the national purpose will contribute positively
to the liberation of the individual, both by diminishing
his temptations, improving his opportunities, and
by enveloping him in an invigorating rather than an
enervating moral and intellectual atmosphere.