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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.

"Humans have minds, beliefs, and motivations in ways that other species do not, but the functionality of human societies is still a matter of society-level selection … Preferences and abilities of the Homo sapiens variety, rather than the Homo economicus variety, evolved by virtue of causing some groups to survive and reproduce better than other groups."

 Wilson, D. S. Does Altruism Exist? Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others (Foundational Questions in Science). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition, 2015, p. 107.

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 (and sometimes needed control) 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

  • Sees multilevel selection (evolutionary biology) at play, in forming the shared other-interest (also coming out of cultural evolution, as in biology & culture), and giving rise to both the individual & society being able to remain viable and continue evolving

  • Continues the empirical testing pertaining to empathy-based altruism as an evolved --- both biologically and culturally --- characteristic of Homo sapiens (Humans), transcending the ego-based self-interest of Homo economicus (Econs)

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

  • Empirical testing used to test the dual interest proposition, and, if dual interest is 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), albeit groups play a key role in giving context (that which reasoned individuals can go along with) to individual choice

  • 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 at least virtually if not physically ... in evolving a moral and ethical community which works for achieving positive and pragmatic outcomes (based on sufficient reason, facts (scientific-method sourced) & ethics, for the entire economy, for all Travelers on the Spaceship Earth


Return/Go to Metaeconomics Overview

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