Archive | November 2012

On Individuality

To be an individual is to have irreducible complexity.

What do I mean by that? When people are viewed as groups, details about the individuals within the group get lost or ignored. Those details, those individuals, matter. They’re what define us as ourselves and what we derive meaning from.

Being an individual doesn’t preclude being a part of society; that would go against a fundamental part of being human. But to be at once an individual and also a part of society is a challenge. How does one interact with the people around us, themselves individuals, while remaining full in the nuances of who we are? It’s easy to think in terms of groups; to aggregate people loses those details of who they are, and doesn’t force us to contend with information about those people that would possibly go against our assumptions. Our minds see a pattern as it wants it see it, instead of seeing someone as themselves, a full individual. It is the individual within those groups that has value, not the group per se.

There are many terms that characterize me: Christian, male, introvert, depressive realist, artistic, etc., but no single one of them is me. I am a sum of all of those things, and more, more than I could even find words for. Furthermore, just as no one trait of mine could be considered “me”, to remove one would be to artificially reduce the complexity that encompasses my individuality. I am a whole person, however broken in an eternal perspective. “I”, is irreducible.

But if “I” is irreducible, how does one function in a group, or society at large? Groups are based on several characteristics that its members share, which defines the group from others that don’t share those characteristics. Groups, by their nature, minimize the individual by seeking to place value on those characteristics, rather than the people within them. They attempt to reduce the irreducible complexity of the individual, of “I”, and homogenize the individuals within them, replacing the “I” with “We”.

“We” is not a substitute for “I”. “We” is where individuality is lost, experience is lost, and truth is lost. “We” is unthinking, the poor replacement for the discernment of “I”. “We” does not have value apart from “I”.

“I” has irreducible complexity. “I” has value.

I am an individual.


Quote Of The Day

This selection comes from Fredrich Hayek, The Fatal Conceit:

Nothing is more misleading, then, than the conventional formulae of historians who represent the achievement of a powerful state as the culmination of cultural evolution: it as often marked its end. In this respect students of early history were overly impressed and greatly misled by monuments and documents left by the holders of political power, whereas the true builders of the extended order, who as often as not created the wealth that made the monuments possible, left less tangible and ostentatious testimonies to their achievement.


Quote Of The Day

This comes from Alexis de Tocqueville:

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”


A wonderful post by Kevin Burgess.

Quote Of The Day

This one is from Paul Krugman, whom I’m not usually a fan of, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day!

Social Security is structured from the point of view of the recipients as if it were an ordinary retirement plan: what you get out depends on what you put in. So it does not look like a redistributionist scheme. In practice it has turned out to be strongly redistributionist, but only because of its Ponzi game aspect, in which each generation takes more out than it put in. Well, the Ponzi game will soon be over, thanks to changing demographics, so that the typical recipient henceforth will get only about as much as he or she put in (and today’s young may well get less than they put in).

He wrote this in 1997. My generation, here in 2012, is most certainly going to get less than we put in, and that’s in nominal terms, not real terms! From the linked article:

Indeed, the entire premise of the Social Security system is that Americans will continue to innovate and the economy will grow so that the current generation of workers will be able to fund current retirees’ benefits. But because of shifting demographics and the added stress of the recession, when the baby boomers begin to retire in 2016, the benefits being paid out will start to exceed the amount being taken in. After the trust fund is depleted in 2037, beneficiaries will be able to receive only what current workers are paying in, which will be about three quarters of the scheduled benefits, unless changes are made.

Great, so I will get $.75 for every $1.00 I put into it? What a deal! I love knowing that I’m making a negative interest loan to the federal government!