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Issue in Focus:
Why the Individual is the

Fundamental Unit of a Just Society

From Meriam-Webster online:

fundamental: "serving as an original or generating source: primary[;]… serving as a basis supporting existence or determining essential structure or function: basic[;]… of or relating to essential structure, function, or facts[;]… of central importance: principal[;]… synonym see essential"

unit: "the first and least natural number: one[;]… a single quantity regarded as a whole in calculation[;]… a single thing, person, or group that is a constituent of a whole"

Summary: America was founded on the belief that respect for individuals, apart from family and other associations, is paramount to a just and virtuous society. In recent decades, this belief has given way to a "more civil," group-centered, "soft communism" doctrine that places individuals on unequal grounds before the law.

This philosophical shift will, if allowed to continue, result in the abandonment of justice and common sense, and lead toward the complete Balkanization and ruin of America. House Joint Resolution 2, "Family Impact Statement on Legislation," the recently-passed Constitutional Amendment 3, and thought crimes legislation are discussed as examples of this degradation.



1. Our Creator Granted Rights to Individuals, Not Groups

2. Groups Are Beneficial to Increase the Natural Rights of Each Member

3. Where Did "Group Rights" Originate?

4. Individuals are the Building Blocks of Families & Communities

5. Is it Selfish to Focus on the Individual?

    A Growing Dichotomy within Christianity

    So-Called Conservatives & Homosexuals Beg for Group Rights

6. Can Heterosexual Relationships Survive?

Conclusion: Pick One Philosophy & Stick With It

1. Our Creator Granted Rights to Individuals, Not Groups

In 1776, the Declaration of Independence shook the halls of kings and tyrants throughout the world with the bold claim that,

"…All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights."

Three years after this declaration, a similar sentiment resounded from the National Assembly of France, in Article VI of, "The Declaration of the Rights of Man."

"Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents."

American revolutionary conspirator and president Thomas Jefferson reinforced these sentiments in his first inaugural speech, calling for, "equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion" and that if we ever departed from this principle "in moments of error or alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety."

Jefferson and freedom advocates of his day asserted that the rights of the individual, "of whatever state or persuasion" are pre-eminent and should be vigorously defended without prejudice. Consistent with this thinking, traditionally, Lady Justice (Justicia) has stood guard outside American courtrooms. She dons a blindfold to represent impartiality, or blindness toward prejudice, and the upraised scales in her hand represent generality and uniformity.

Infused with this kind of morality, early Americans came to share a generally common belief that justice involved treating each person with an equal hand — devoid of prejudice or favoritism. Though America’s history is replete with examples of where this morality was partially or wholly abandoned, unlike most other nations, there has been a long, turbulent struggle in the attempt to achieve these worthy ideals.

Many American revolutionaries struggled fiercely to promote these concepts because they recognized that the equal status of each individual was essential to collective liberty. It was essential that each individual stood before the law and his fellow man as many believe each individual will stand before his Creator: alone and without any extra baggage that might impact the delivery of justice and mercy.

In addition to granting rights to the individual, it stands to reason that our Creator also placed responsibilities, laws, and consequences attendant to these rights. Each of us, for instance, was given an individual, rather than a collective, conscience (i.e. a sense of what constitutes justice and injustice, or right and wrong). While consequences may impact more than the individual, still the gift of conscience is granted to each individual; suggesting that our Creator does likewise focus accountability on each individual endowed with such a gift.

Even according to many Christian churches (Catholicism and some others excluded), God will not hold men accountable for the transgressions of the first man, Adam. This teaching implies that our Creator will judge each individual based upon his or her actions only, and not the actions of others — which concept is generally embraced as common sense.

Why, then, would a just Creator bother to judge each of us individually if the family or some other group constituted the pre-eminent unit of his scrutiny on earth? If our Creator has bequeathed mighty concepts such as freedom, laws, and responsibility upon the individual unit, then upon what basis is some other "unit," or conglomeration of "units", more fundamental?

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2. Groups Are Beneficial to Increase the Natural Rights of Each Member

Groups, be they families or societies, derive their powers from the rights of the individual. There is not an instance in neighbor/neighbor, parent/parent, parent/child, or child/child relationships where the rights of the individuals involved are not factors in the moral outcome of a given communication or action.

Thomas Paine explained this concept in a letter to Thomas Jefferson in 1788:

"Suppose 20 persons, strangers to each other, to meet in a Country not before inhabited. Each would be a sovereign in his own natural right. His will would be his Law, but his power, in many cases, inadequate to his right, and the consequence would be that each might be exposed, not only to each other, but to the other nineteen.

"It would then occur to them that their condition would be much improved, if a way could be devised to exchange that quantity of danger into so much protection, so that each individual should possess the strength of the whole number.

"As all their rights, in the first case, are natural rights, and the exercise of those rights supported only by their own natural individual power, they would begin by distinguishing between these rights they could individually exercise fully and perfectly and those they could not.

"Of the first kind are the rights of thinking, speaking, forming and giving opinions, and perhaps all those which can be fully exercised by the individual without the aid of exterior assistance, or in other words, rights of personal competency. Of the second kind are those of personal protection of acquiring and possessing property, in the exercise of which the individual natural power is less than the natural right…"
Source: Paine: Collected Writings, Library of America, 1995, p. 368 (ISBN: 1-883011-03-5).

Individuals band together not to increase their natural rights, but to enhance and secure their ability to exercise the natural rights they each possess independently of the group — constrained only by the rights of others in their group and also by the dictates of their individual sense of morality. Groups that go beyond the natural rights and will of the individuals who comprise their group (or those outside their group for that matter), go beyond the authority given them from both God and man, and may be termed mobs or forms of tyranny.

As James Madison put it:

"Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own."
Source: Essay on Property, March 29, 1792 (see The Founders’ Almanac, by Matthew Spalding, The Heritage Foundation, 2002, p. 188)

And as James Wilson, signer of the Declaration of Independence and one of the first Supreme Court Justices, put it:

"Government, in my humble opinion, should be formed to secure and to enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government, which has not this in view, as its principal object, is not a government of the legitimate kind."
Source: Lectures on Law, 1791 (see The Founders’ Almanac, by Matthew Spalding, The Heritage Foundation, 2002, p. 196)

As near as we can tell from our collective studies, the founders of America focused their attention on the rights of the individual. Even those, like Alexander Hamilton, who arguably advocated for an elitist, privileged class to govern the masses, did not wholly abandon the focus on the individual. We can find no serious defense by any founder for group rights (to include the notion that the family is the fundamental unit of society as discussed later), and the founding documents of our nation provide no reasonable defense of this concept.

The term fundamental, as it applies to society, finds its meaning in the individual, who, as defined by Meriam-Webster is: "serving as an original or generating source: primary[;]… serving as a basis supporting existence or determining essential structure or function : basic[;]… of or relating to essential structure, function, or facts[;]… of central importance: principal[;]… synonym see essential".

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3. Where Did "Group Rights" Originate?

The menacing philosophy of group rights is not new, and is perhaps best advocated by Karl Marx, of Communist Manifesto infamy. Marx constructed distinct, hierarchical groups in an attempt to build a moral, philosophical foundation for the political system of communism, or socialism.

Marx assigned different values to individuals based upon their "class", or affiliation, in society. He then pitted these classes against each other, calling for the "working class" to rise up, overthrow the elite class, and establish a communal system that would force all members to contribute their energies, rights, and property to the group.

Under Marx's philosophy, the group became an entity unto itself; greater than the individual. Sub-groups and individuality were to be neatly assimilated — in Borg-like fashion — for the good of the collective. In George Orwell's classic, 1984, this mentality was termed "groupthink." Unfortunately, Marx's groupthink philosophies have been stubbornly replicated around the globe, resulting in human destruction, death, and misery.

Enter modern family-centrists, who recently rallied around "The Natural Family: A Manifesto," authored by Alan Carlson of the Howard Center and Paul Mero of Utah's Sutherland Institute. This "manifesto" derives more than its name from Marxian philosophy, and proclaims a new twist to the old groupthink mindset:

"Even a nation 'is nothing but the aggregate of the families within its borders.' States exist to protect families and to encourage family growth and integrity… We look to nation-states that hold the protection of the natural family to be their first responsibility." (pp. 5 & 14)

The family groupthink movement is the latest in "soft communism," espoused by the same caliber of university "intellectuals" produced by the Marxist movement of the 1960s (which, ironically, the "manifesto" decries). Rather than ending government subsidy schemes, these Marxian disciples would:

"Transform social insurance, welfare, and housing programs to reinforce marriage, especially the marriage of young adults." (p. 19)

This "transformation" includes:

  • "…Public campaigns to… improve family health" (p. 20)

  • "…Generous tax deductions, exemptions, and credits that are tied to marriage and the number of children." (p.20)

  • "…Credits against payroll taxes that reward the birth of children and that build true family patrimonies. We will end existing social insurance incentives toward childlessness." (p.20)

  • "…Tax benefits to businesses that provide 'natal gifts' and 'child allowances' to their employees." (p.20)

  • "End all discriminations against stay-at-home parents." (p.21)

  • "Give real control of state schools to small communities so that their focus might turn toward home and family." [Based upon Sutherland Institute reports published during Paul Mero's tenure, this means continued taxation and government subsidies to fund these commune-like schools.] (p.22)

Family groupthink is a textbook-driven utopia that may appear pretty on paper, but is inevitably driven by a longing for extreme and terrible government force. Rather than slay the beast of big government, these "intellectuals" would attempt to saddle and ride the beast toward their own imagined sunset.

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4. Individuals are the Building Blocks of Families & Communities

Let us examine in more detail this groupthink model: Family as the fundamental unit of society. The aforementioned "manifesto" specifically asserts that,

"the natural family, not the individual, is the fundamental unit of society." (p. 15)

If a family is a fundamental unit of society, what of two families? Are not two families more fundamental and important than one? And if two families are more fundamental, what of a city of families?

These questions are not mocking or trite, but expose the inability for any serious debate of the family-centered doctrine of society. There is no convincing rationale that can explain why one set of parents and children are more fundamental than two sets of the same, or the individuals who make up these sets.

Many of the founders of our nation understood clearly that there is only one group that has any significance of all: the entire family of mankind. If any group is to be respected, it is the entire human race, without regard to any sub-group or sub-class. Put another way, the fact that we are all related to one another, and therefore to our Creator, should provide additional incentive to attempt to treat each individual as though he or she were uniquely fundamental to our society.

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5. Is it Selfish to Focus on the Individual?

Group-centrists, and family-centrists in particular, might pose this question in another manner: Can society focus on the rights of the individual and still prosper? They might claim that we inevitably lose sight of societal progress by focusing too much attention on individuals. Notice that, however the question is posed, it always involves an inherently selfish objective: the prosperity of society and of the individuals (including those who ask the question) who comprise it.

The irony is striking. If complete selflessness is so ideal, one might, for instance, wonder why modern Christianity would focus so much attention on concepts like rewards and punishments — both here and in the hereafter? After all, would not a truly selfless person act without thought for reward, or without fear of punishment? The selfless ideal would theoretically not require such incentives.
Note: Modern Christianity, as a whole, is the largest, most active proponent of the family-centric philosophy. While small factions of theological groups such as Budhists, Muslims, athiests, or agnostics might pursue the family-centric doctrine, they do not as a community. Therefore, modern Christianity provides excellent insights for this position piece.

Many modern Christian architects, for example, have no problem promoting the view that governments should sanction and license marriage in order for couples to be legitimate before their Creator. They also see no problem granting tax breaks to government-sanctioned couples under the rationale that these incentives encourage marriage, responsibility, and lifelong couplings.

The answer as to whether individual-centered philosophies are inherently selfish ultimately depends on one’s perspective. An individual who believes that the individual is the fundamental unit of society can focus on the needs and wants of the others. There is no mutual exclusivity. The intelligent individual recognizes that his rights and happiness do not exist in a vacuum and are inexplicably tied in with the rights and happiness of others, and with his compliance with moral, natural laws.

The wise individual realizes that his happiness and peace increase as others are benefited. Armed with this understanding, common men like Thomas Paine stepped forward to risk their lives for the benefit of others. The vision of future individuals, empowered with their right to be individuals, became sufficient motivation and reward to make personal "sacrifices".

A Growing Dichotomy within Christianity

Finally, let us turn the tables and examine family-centered theories in the same lens of selfishness and even bigotry. Is the childless widow, who no longer enjoys the benefits of a familial association, not as fundamental to society as are families? What of the orphan, the disabled, and those who have never had the privilege of a family of their own?

Again, according to even Christian philosophy, the very purpose of the religion revolves around attending to the needs of the fatherless and widows:

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." — James 1:27, New Testament

If attending to the needs of those who do not have families equates to the epitome of living a moral life, how can these "units" be any less important than families?

So-Called Conservatives & Homosexuals Beg for Group Rights

As an example of just how widows and the fatherless are lost in the family-centric political vision, consider the original version of House Joint Resolution 2 (HJR 2), "Family Impact Statement on Legislation," sponsored by representative Peggy Wallace — and pursued by Paul Mero (one of the authors of the aforementioned family "manifesto") of Utah's Sutherland Institute and Gayle Ruzicka of the Utah Eagle Forum. This resolution would have required legislative research to attach a family impact statement to each piece of legislation. Questions include:

  • "How does this legislation strengthen the stability of the family and especially the marital commitment?"

  • "Does this legislation assist the family to perform its function or does it substitute government activity for the function? How?"

  • "What specific services would this legislation provide to families?" and

  • "By what amount does this bill increase or decrease family earnings for a family of five in Utah making $55,000 per year?"

Are these families more important than widows who make far less each year? Is the stability of a family of more import than that of an orphan? What about the disabled, the ugly, and any other group of persons who, because of their status or disability, never had the privilege of being married into, or part of, HJR 2's definition of "the family"? Why were they left out of the equation?

Again, by defining families as "fundamental", it follows that families are "of central importance," "principal," a synonym of "essential", consistent with the meaning of the word. Any unit (defined as "one," or "a single thing, person, or group that is a constituent of a whole") smaller than the family is simply not as relevant. As the family manifesto trumpets:

"…Marriage creates a new family, a home, the first and fundamental unit of human society." (page 2)

Those who exist in less "ideal" states of being are fortunate to even receive lip service acknowledgement:

"We affirm that the natural family is the ideal, optimal, true family system. While we acknowledge varied living situations caused by circumstance or dysfunction, all other 'family forms' are incomplete or are fabrications of the state…" (p. 15)

For in reality, when it comes to family-centric legislation such as HJR 2, those less "ideal" Untermenschen who live among us are commanded to take a seat in the back of the societal bus. HJR 2, along with the family-centrists who wrote it, encapsulate the political statement in George Orwell's Animal Farm, "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others."

We could attempt to rectify this inequality by adding additional groups to this legislation. But in order to be just and fair, we would eventually be forced to list enough groups to cover everyone in our society. Without acknowledging it, we would end up right back where we started: viewing each and every individual as equal before the law. Only, in the process we would add a Pandora's box of government intrusion, and create a myriad of opportunities for our new statute to be only selectively applied against those who are deemed politically incorrect.

This is, for example, precisely what thought crimes proponents pursue each legislative session (see the Thought Crimes section of our Issues & Alerts page). Some legislators have resisted thought crimes legislation in years past because it obviously grants special rights and status to only certain groups, such as homosexuals. Unfortunately, even supposed thought crimes opponents, such as senator Chris Buttars, have publicly intimated in the past that they would wholly support thought crimes legislation if language were inserted to cover all groups of people. They haven’t quite connected the dots to see that groups never possessed rights and never will — individuals do.

Not surprisingly, senator Buttars, with fanfare from family-centric promoters (including the Utah Eagle Forum and Sutherland Institute), passed what could be termed the "homely, straight sister" to thought crimes legislation: Constitutional Amendment 3. As explained in a previous Issue in Focus, Amendment 3 establishes special rights and status for a certain class or group of people: heterosexual couples who venerate the blessing of the state. In the process, it undermines over a century of common law marriage, disrupts the certainty of all manner of civil contracts, and seeks to replace the power of our Creator and private religious institutions and belief systems with the iron fist of government.

This conservative darling, Amendment 3, was identical to the unjust homosexual leftist's dream of thought crimes legislation with one exception: Amendment 3 only listed one preferred group rather than many — the "natural family".

Machiavellian schemers have been quick to capitalize on the family-centrist stationwagon in order to continue the explosive growth of government powers over the lives of innocent individuals. Consider the name of Utah's most abhorrent abuser of innocent parents and children: The Utah Department of Child & Family Services. DCFS receives a monetary reward from the federal government for each child it successfully rips away from its parents. However, DCFS effectively incurs no punishment if it behaves unjustly, as we have amply documented.

When confronted with growing public criticism of DCFS's horrendous abuses, then-DCFS administrator for policy and planning Adam Trupp, replied,

"We strongly disagree we are not responsive to the needs of families."
Source: "Brakes on DCFS sought," Amy Joi Bryson, Deseret News, Dec. 3, 2003.

Trupp understood the game of our current political climate: Avoid mentioning the fundamental rights of individuals, and focus on groupthink — in this case "the needs of families."
Note: For information on the fruits of family-centric legislators, see our Annual Legislative Performance Reports.

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6. Can Heterosexual Relationships Survive?

Family-centrists fear that a focus on the individual will devalue long-term heterosexual relationships and destroy our society. They argue that the solution to most, if not all, of our societal ills is to empower government to put more emphasis on families than upon the individual (or upon some other group of individuals).

All the creative arguments and rationale used to assert that direct government promotion of the family is essential, ignore the possibility that perhaps the family is indeed the natural state, and therefore does not need to be propelled by government in order to exist or flourish. There may, in fact, be other factors that are responsible for modern familial dysfunction, such as:

  • Excessive government in the form of mammoth budgets and regulation;

  • The spiritless indoctrination children receive in government schools funded by forcible taxation, thus denying parental authority and responsibility in the upbringing of children; and

  • The notion that we should judge each other based upon our affiliations and social status rather than upon the merits of our own actions.

What would happen to the family if government was limited to protecting the natural rights of each individual? Accountability Utah asserts that individuals and families would fare better if freed from the obstacles of groupthink prejudices (see "mob" in Topic 2).

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Conclusion: Pick One Philosophy & Stick With It

Our nation was founded on the philosophy that each individual was created equal by our Creator, and that our government was created by the individual to serve the individual. Modern group-centrists have attempted to erode that philosophy. The result is a hodge-podge of statutes, confusion, and the decay of a justice system that was once without rival in the world.

If we are going to abandon our founding documents and philosophies, then we should have the honesty and decency to stop pretending that we hallow them. If, on the other hand, we are interested in returning to our heritage of "liberty and justice for all", then we should gather the courage to make our laws and attitudes comply with the fruits of the principles that can make this ideal a reality.

America fought a revolution against the most elite "family" of the known world: the line of King George III. Those revolutionaries understood that families and government ought to hold no special value over the individuals that comprise them. Perhaps living under the familial elitism of their day motivated them to view the world the way they did.

History truly does repeat itself.

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