You’re saying the Trump supporters (roughly a third of the US) love a myth of their country, one that puts them (white, rural people) back on top, like in the 1950s when the US dominated after WWII. And they’re like the child who is such a poor loser (like their mascot, Trump, arguably the worst loser in history), they refuse to play ball if they’re no longer equipped to win. Not only that, they’ll tear the place down to prevent anyone else from winning. They don’t understand that their country thrives on immigration and assimilation. They love only the “real Americans” who are echoes of themselves.

Is that supposed to make them respectable rather than contemptible? Sorry, I see them as virtually seditious, terroristic, and treasonous. Trump, their symbol, is very likely guilty of treason with Russia. He was certainly Putin’s useful idiot. Giving him the proper penalty for his crimes would, of course, tear the country apart, revealing the full scope of its internal divisions that go back to the Civil War.

Sometimes the national myths can do more harm than good, especially if the country needs new myths.

The idea of the social contract, from Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Rawls, and other political philosophers is part of a transcendental argument to explain the formation of society. So it would include the principles that went into writing the US constitution.

I’m less interested in entitlements or in political policies than in the big picture. The question for me isn’t how exactly a country should spend its taxes, but what the difference is between a collectivistic country (e.g. a Scandinavian social democracy) and an individualistic one like the US? Is the latter doomed to fall apart in tribal rivalries? Is the US really united? And not just the US, since there are populist uprisings in other democracies, including the UK.

You call them handouts. I’d call a social safety net or the creation of a functioning civil society evidence that the population sees itself as cooperating in a common cause. But that’s not how individualism works, is it?

You speak of my cause, but you seem to be generalizing based on just this one article plus my comments on it. I’ve written hundreds and hundreds of articles on my blog and on Medium, going back to 2011. I’m not a liberal, a socialist, or a progressive. I think more about big picture, philosophical issues, not so much about policy. And I’m overall pretty pessimistic. It’s takes great optimism (and perhaps youth or stubbornness) to be a socialist or a progressive.

Specifically, I take it as axiomatic that the concentration of power over others is almost always corrupting. For me, it’s a conflict not so much between left and right, but between nature and our creative potential to transcend animality. The natural default social order is the dominance hierarchy, which is roughly what the conservative fights for, in terms of the effect of her policies. The rest is experimentation to transcend the natural form of oppression. The corrosiveness of power is like a force that drags us back to the default state. (See the links below.)

You talk of self-reliance and I think you mean independence. We ought to be independent, and of course I agree if the alternative is slavery or infantilizing dependence on the government or on some other authority (like a mythical god). Indeed, I write that our existential goal is the Promethean, Luciferian, or transhuman one of becoming independent from nature and the wilderness. But that would be a common goal that would have collective implications.

In the libertarian’s atomistic picture, we’re each self-sufficient and independent from each other. Thomas Hobbes imagined that scenario as the war of all against all, which would make for our natural, default state and for a life that’s nasty, brutish, and short. Tribalism is an outgrowth of individualism.

I’m surprised by your bold statements that there’s no moral reason for taking money from the wealthy, and that even the wealth concentration in the Gilded Age was fair. I agree that forced equalization of outcomes is unjust, but I doubt there’s a single great fortune that’s ever been accumulated in all human history without the benefit of a great crime. The robber barons committed all kinds of crimes and immoral acts to grow and sustain their fortunes. There’s no single person who’s worked so hard or been of such central and exclusive importance that that person deserves billions and billions of dollars whereas ninety percent of humanity has earned only a pittance by comparison.

We’re not that unequal, so that natural, amoral distribution of wealth is certainly unjust. The factor of luck alone makes that kind of distribution unmerited. Then there’s the social contract which the wealthy exploit and refuse to pay for, since they hide much of their earnings overseas to avoid paying taxes. The wealthy enjoy many, many intangible benefits from the social contract, from the myths that make a country something other than a chaotic kleptocracy or Third World failed state. Taxes sustain that peaceful cooperation, so when the wealthy hire armies of lawyers and accountants to hide their money offshore, that’s a kind of financial terrorism and organized criminality.

Bottom line: I agree that we should aspire to be independent, but not to the point of being myopic in our pride. We shouldn’t be deluded about our common existential predicament of being clever mammals struggling to transcend from the forces of an amoral, godless, and absurd wilderness. That’s our collective cause and it’s the source of an enlightened reverence even for the losers in life. It’s also why the conservative’s and the libertarian’s tribal individualism is inhuman.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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