≡ Menu


Here’s a letter that I sent to the Gray Lady:

Roger Cohen accuses persons who oppose further government involvement in health-care of being atomized, shallow, and “solipsistic screen-gazing” individuals who callously disregard their obligations to the community (“The Narcissus Society,” Feb. 23).  Obamacare, Mr. Cohen waxes, “would involve 300 million people linking arms.”  Rejection of it, however, means that we “turn away from each other and, like Narcissus, perish in the contemplation of our own reflections.”

An excellent response to tired tropes such as this one comes from Richard Epstein – this from pages 321-322 of his marvelous 1995 book Simple Rules for a Complex World: “Cries like this are familiar.  Indeed, as Stephen Holmes has pointed out, these criticisms of individualism predate the modern communitarians and were part of the standard stock in trade of many of the ‘enlightened’ fascist theories of an earlier day.  One does not have to impute terrible motives to [these critics of individualism] to sound at least a note of caution about arguments that have traveled in such dubious company.  The attack on individual atomism is more than an attack on isolated individuals.  It is also an attack on any form of voluntary association that is not validated by reference to some higher social end.”

Donald J. Boudreaux