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On Individualism

"What, then, are the essential characteristics of true individualism? The first thing that should be said is that it is primarily a theory of society, an attempt to understand the forces which determine the social life of man, and only in the second instance a set of political maxims derived from this view of society. This fact should by itself be sufficient to refute the silliest of the common misunderstandings: the belief that individualism postulates (or bases its arguments on the assumption of) the existence of isolated or self-contained individuals, instead of starting from men whose whole nature and character is determined by the existence of society." 

Hayek, F. A. Individualism and Economic Order. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1948 (paperback edition, 1980), p. 6. 

 “Economics is all about how people make choices; sociology is all about how they don’t have any choices to make.” 

Duesenberry, J.  Comment on "An Economic Analysis of Fertility." Universities-National Bureau Committee for Economic Research. Demographic and Economic Change in Developed Countries.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1960, p. 33.

On Individualism in Metaeconomics

  • Acknowledges the individual's unique existence within the community and society

  • About how people make choices, while recognizing the social, sociological influence on that individual economic choice

  • Sees the shared other-interest as a major part of one's whole nature and character arising out of communities and society

  • Proposes starting from the proposition that individuals  simultaneously  have a self-interest and an other-interest, albeit self-interest is generally more primal

  • Empirical testing used to test the dual interest proposition, and, if dual interests are at work, to measure the balance 

  • Posits individuals as the source and well-spring of action 

  • Posits that individuals with sufficient will and self-discipline,  take command over individual choices, with other-interest working, through self-control, to influence the more primal self-interest

  • Suggests that groups do not take action: Rather it is individuals taking action within the group(s)

  • Recognizes the potential for synergy generated by individuals choosing, deciding:  Sum can be and often is greater than the sum of the parts

  • Offers that individuals hold the potential to rise to a higher plane beyond  self-interest,  through self-control bringing the shared other-interest into the choice process (or, it can go the other direction, have an extremely negative influence on what can be gained, if the shared other-interest is not a good, moral interest)

  • Posits that individuals need to be engaged... through overlapping memberships in organizations, clubs, groups... in evolving a moral community which works for achieving positive and pragmatic outcomes for the entire economy, for all Travelers on this Spaceship Earth


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