What kind of nation are we? A nation of “I” stressing freedom for the individual, or a nation of “We” focused on cooperation and community?
In the last half century, the U.S. has slowly become a libertarian nation of “I,” an Ayn Rand ideology, me-first society celebrating the freedom of the individual to take an assault rifle almost anywhere, or to drive a gas guzzling vehicle that poisons the air gratuitously with little or no concern for neighbors or the community.
The “I” culture claims a commitment to democracy yet the nation’s laws, taxes and economic order now consistently benefit the few at the expense of the majority, a shrinking middle class. Ours is a country where the top 1% owns 20% of the nation’s wealth and the bottom 20% are trapped in poverty with little or no chance for social mobility and improvement.
Democracy demands a balanced system of freedom, justice and equal opportunity in which justice supports freedom but also promotes equality. All three elements should reinforce each other, and all three should honor and respect their limits. Libertarianism, the mindset of an “I” society, is inherently non-democratic for excessive freedom diminishes justice and equality. It is a freedom that often threatens lives and rewards power and even corruption.
A nation of “We” works to level the playing field and encourage social mobility. It celebrates a freedom regulated by justice which fosters equal opportunity for all. Clearly, democracy is a “We” form of government with sensible regulation of individual freedom, allowing everyone to benefit and prosper. Freedom and wealth for the few is the product of the current anti-government “I” agenda while the community of ‘We” insists on honest government and is committed to sharing the nation’s bounty, caring for the less fortunate, restoring the middle class and saving the planet for future generations.
Again, the question: What kind of a nation do we want? Shall we restrict the right to vote, the aim of the “I” dominated party, or protect the voting right of every citizen?
Do we want an angry and fearful citizenry driven by unfounded conspiracies or those who trust reason and science and have a plan for the future?
A nation of gun violence, polluted air and waters, or one with reasonable regulations that guarantee a safer and healthier environment for ourselves and future generations?
A “trickle-down” economy that slows economic growth or an economy that enables all who are willing and able to participate?
Do we revere Charles Koch and his obsession with wealth and power or Bill Gates’ efforts to improve lives?
People convinced government can’t be trusted or those committed to a dynamic democracy?
Self-appointed “patriots” armed and crazed attacking the Capitol, or the National Guard, a well-organized militia, defending core institutions?
“I” leads to corruption; “We” celebrates sharing.
“I” threatens the planet; only “We” can save it.
Ron Molen has been a Salt Lake City architect by profession and is an ardent progressive citizen of Utah and the United States.