E D I T O R I A L: POWER TO THE PERSON
Investor's Business Daily - 2/11/02
Responsibility: The cult of the collective continues to gnaw away the
concept of the individual, and with it withers the promise of our future.
The threat isn't obvious. The most influential proponents of the
collective movement tend not to be subversives, but respected people and
institutions. Theirs is a subtle, yet deeply harmful, message.
When Sen. Ted Kennedy, for instance, read a statement last week into the
Congressional Record honoring New England's Super Bowl victory, he ripped
brick from the individualist foundation on which our nation was built.
"At a time when our entire
country is banding together and facing down individulism, the
Patriots set a wonderful example, showing us all what is possible when we
work together, believe in each other and sacrifice for the greater
good," said Kennedy.
Facing down individualism? Thomas Paine should have been faced down?
Lincoln? Thomas Edison? Edward Kennedy? His ill-considered words belie the
strength and courage of all Americans. Would
he embrace the collective if he had to be one of its humble members,
rather than order it from the comfort of his Senate office?
Now maybe the Massachusetts senator's respectability in our society can be
genuinely debated. Few, though, would argue with the reverence accorded to
the Smithsonian Institution. Surely nothing so American as the Smithsonian
would join in Kennedy's battle to "face down individualism."
Yet a $38 million pledge to the museum from businesswoman and
philanthropist Catherine Reynolds has been lost, due to a dispute over the
worth of the individual. Reynolds wanted the money used for an exhibit
featuring a Hall of Achievers that
celebrated the impact of individuals on history.
The museum staff, though, wasn't comfortable with that sort of deference
to the individual.
"Apparently the basic philosophy for the exhibit - the power of the
individual to make a difference - is the antithesis of that espoused by
many within the Smithsonian bureaucracy," wrote Reynolds, who
withdrew the pledge.
With the demise of the concept of
the individual comes the erosion of individual responsibility.. The
recent resignation of a Kansas teacher clearly illustrates the dangers of
Christine Pelton's decision to flunk 28 students who plagiarized from the
Internet for a semester biology project was overturned by the local school
board. By asking the teacher to give the plagiarists partial credit, the
school board in essence rewarded cheating and crippled her authority in
the classroom. What's even more troubling is that the school board made
this decision only after several of the affected students' parents
That sort of winking at responsibility has become widespread across the
country, and it's a threat to the health of our society.
Individual responsibility still lives, though. For every Enron and Global
Crossing executive who thought someone else should save the dying company,
there are millions tirelessly doing their jobs.
With his faith-based initiative for providing social services, President
Bush is trying to wean a dependent populace off the collective. There is a
solid core of Americans in all institutions who still know what America is
about; these folks are willing to fight for principle.
So, too, still lives - and grows - the cult of the collective. Despite its
subtle nature, its threat is real - and must be opposed.