university of technology sydney

Democracy In America: Individual Liberty Vs. Social Equality


The United States of America is proud of its legacy of freedom. This freedom has not always been available to all of its citizens in equal measure although efforts have been made to correct that. Still, there are times when there seems to be a clear struggle between the rights of the individual and those of the society as a whole.

American individualism is most clearly visible in the parenting methods that are most often promoted. Children are encouraged to feel superior just for being who they are, their tantrums are endured or even given in to and their mistakes are indirectly rewarded. This was not always the case but the children who were raised with this mindset often grow up with a sense of entitlement. They believe that wanting something is a good enough reason for them to deserve it whether they have worked for it or not.

This idea of the individual’s happiness being more important than that of the group is consistent with the capitalist ideology. The idea behind that is that the factors of production are to be decided by the market and everyone should get exactly what they have worked for, no more no less. In a strictly capitalist society, there would be no welfare and the fire department would ask for your credit card number before extinguishing your house so there are capitalist aspects to the system. They are consistently fought by conservatives however.

Another casualty of a system based on individualism is the ability to recognize the struggles of people who are different from the majority. Bullying is very common not only among children but adults as well. It can be observed through online ‘flame wars’ where people who may have been tormented by one group go on to bully members of that group as soon as they have the chance. People who have non binary genders, are ethnic minorities or have disabilities may find themselves sidelined because the people who make the decisions cannot empathize with their struggles.

There is much to be admired in the American story. The country rose from colony to the status of world power in only a few centuries. Unfortunately many groups have been left behind by that progress. To right some of these wrongs in the centuries to come, perhaps a more socialist model should be embraced by the country as a whole.