It has come to my attention that the belief in a spontaneous solidarity between individuals is fading in modern society. What strikes me most about this realization is the decline of a belief in spontaneous solidarity among some young classical liberals. I read this as a sign that our society has become too dependent on a strong government that redistributes wealth. It is a signal that our society is slowly losing the ability to imagine that solidarity is not dependent on enforcement by a big government. This, I find, is a dark prospect and it is time for change, before it’s too late!
I would like to explain my thoughts on spontaneous solidarity using an old – and, for some, controversial – example: the forced participation in social security such as unemployment benefits. This is a form of “forced solidarity” as I like to refer to it, forced upon us by the government, the electoral majority. Installing a system that implements certain securities for the less fortunate isn’t wrong, and I don’t detest solidarity as a concept. I do believe, however, that every individual should be free to choose if they are willing to participate and to what extent. I cannot accept the idea that this has to be forced by a government.
Let me explain what happened when I spoke about these ideas at a convention of young classical liberals in Flanders. During a discussion on pensions, I tried to convey the idea that people should be allowed to indicate how they would like to participate and how much of their resources could be used for solidarity with their fellow men. The reactions this idea received were shocking to me, knowing they came from people who claimed to believe in liberty: “But then nobody will share anything!” “It’ll only work in a utopia,” etc.
The above event forced me to face the following question: “Why do people think this way?” My answer is directly linked to the current state of our society, and its link to the ever-expanding implementation of forced solidarity measures. It is quite obvious that, in a society in which people are forced to share their belongings with the less fortunate, an individual is not going to be willing to do it on his own. This is because he can claim the following reason not to: “I have already done my fair share by paying my taxes, it is the government’s responsibility to redistribute those in the best way possible.” This is the problem; our society is instilled with a mentality that is causing forced solidarity to expand. Knowing that the system of forced solidarity is showing cracks does not lessen the impact of this mentality.
The solution to this problem can only be found if one is brave enough to think outside the box in which our society has been trapped for too long; the solution is only to be found when one ignores the emotional propaganda used to support social security measures and their expansion. It is my strong belief that we are in dire need of a society based upon the idea that people will not hesitate to help others that are less fortunate. Such a society can only exist, however, when one is free from taxes, which are understood to free one of these moral duties. Without high taxation one would keep more of one’s earnings and thus be free to spend them. Having more freedom to do so and the lack of a system that automatically takes care of the moral duty of solidarity would, in my belief, cause one to help his brothers and sisters in need. That is spontaneous solidarity!
These ideas are not radical or weird; the moment we all realize this will be the moment we will move towards a more social, prosperous, and free society.
Bob van der Vleuten is originally from Turnhout, Belgium. He is studying Computer Science at Hasselt University. He is the Vice President of LVSV Hasselt, a Flemish classical liberal student organisation. Bob also keeps a blog with opinion pieces in Dutch. (firstname.lastname@example.org)