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Apr 13 2016

Social Behavior Ethics

Individualism and Collectivism are both philosophies of social and economic behavior that are often used as some form of basis for political systems. Both types of systems have advantages and drawbacks. In abstract form, both can be considered simply as weighting schemes for ethical frameworks.

In basic ethics, we describe ethical “reach” or “scope” as a series of concentric circles, with self in the innermost circle and others as well as groups of others in successively expanding circles around the center of self. In a general sense, we consider self to be a starting point. The importance of each level/circle is determined by the weighting scheme and any special values specific to a scenario being considered. Both analysis and subsequent action should flow outward from the natural center starting point. Each level/circle becomes increasing larger and complex as we move outward across the map, and each becomes successively more difficult to analyze and actions may require more energy to apply. The final goal is have a well balanced ethical “map” with great outward reach.

While it’s not a maxim, both Individualism and Collectivism, in practice, tend to over concentrate on the levels they are named after. Individualism often applies more focus to self, and neglects similar care to others and groups of others. Collectivism often applies more focus to specific levels of groups and neglects similar care to self, and even to individual “others”. This is a core reason behind most failures of political and economic systems based on these philosophies.

A weighting exaggeration on self, limits reach to outer circles and inhibits empathy and connection to others and groups. This is normally described as greed and egotism, and is a key factor in most political deterioration into tyranny, or irrational control of others. A weighting exaggeration on a group level, limits foundational development of self and possibly other circles/levels that may be considered as precursors to the specific group that is over weighted. This condition limits motivation and initiative, promotes conflict both inside and between different groups, and is normally described as being invasive to personal liberty and having a stagnation effect on economic development. It also is a key factor in political deterioration into tyranny as power becomes concentrated inside the group.

Collectivism also experiences growth in both positive and negative aspects as the size of the group increases. A larger group can pool more effort and resources, creating more power and influence for the group. But the larger the group, the larger the contrast between “central planning” and “free market exchange”. Free markets do their own ethical analysis as a “swarm” function, self organizing to find optimum performance. Central planning can work well with small groups where the wisdom of the intelligent and ethical central committee outweighs the average wisdom of the collective group. But the larger the group, the greater the potential becomes for the free market optimization and it eventually will outperform even the best central committee. This is specifically true of the protection of individual liberty.