6.2.2 Individualism

Individualists believe that freedom of the individual is of the highest importance: they want to make their own choices.  They differ in their views about the role of government – with those who are referred to as ‘libertarians’ wanting to have little or no government.

Individualists also want to have control over the money that they have earned.  Property rights, though, cannot just be assumed to exist.  There are exceptions: there is no private property under pure communism, and land is held in common in countries inhabited by nomadic tribes.

Many pragmatic individualists recognise that rights and duties have to be negotiated with the community, recognising that some agreements might be disadvantageous to them personally but be of benefit to the society in which they live and therefore be in their best interests in a wider sense.  As A.C. Grayling said, in a paper entitled Social evils and social good:

“‘cooperation and mutuality’ are not ‘conformity and uniformity’; individualism is the rejection of the latter, not the former.”

Individualists see it as a duty to argue for minimising the role of the State, to prevent it from becoming bloated or oppressive, but many concede that government does play an important role.

The following sub-sections examine different degrees of individual liberty (, the benefits of individualism (, and the drawbacks of its most extreme form: libertarianism (



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