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
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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…"
Collected Writings, Library of America, 1995, p. 368 (ISBN:
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
"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
"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.
Back to Topics
4. Individuals are the Building Blocks of Families &
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?
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.
Back to Topics
5. Is it Selfish to Focus on the Individual?
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
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
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
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,
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
A Growing Dichotomy within
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
"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
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.
"How does this legislation
strengthen the stability of the family and especially the
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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.
Back to Topics
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
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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