Rugged Individualism versus Community Outreach: Competing Philosophies in America

This is the tenth Blog on leadership in America. As I’ve stated in my book, Leadership DNA, there are two fundamentally different philosophies existing in America that shape how we approach life in general and government in particular. The first philosophy is rugged individualism and dates back to the first settlers who started communities alone in the New World. These were strong-willed individuals who valued their freedom and independence and for the most part were against invasive governments and laws. They faced terrible hardships as they settled along the eastern coast and then journeyed west as they went from colonists to pioneers. They learned that if they were going to survive, they had to depend on themselves and a close-knit family. Theodore Roosevelt summed up rugged individualism when he said, “The first requisite of a good citizen in this republic of ours is that he shall be able to pull his own weight.” Community outreach is the other philosophy and it formed around a broader sense of communal kinship and cooperation for group protection and survival. As towns and cities sprang up, there was a growing need for more government, social structure, and recognition of a moral requirement to provide some degree of public assistance to the less fortunate members of society. Generally, the Republican Party has inherited the rugged individualism and a small government ideology while the Democratic Party has assumed the community outreach viewpoint of more social safety-net programs and an expanded role for government.
These two often conflicting philosophies or “personalities” of Americans have clashed over how we should deal with a wide range of local and national issues. We can readily see how the political positions taken and proposals offered reflect these competing philosophies that have manifested themselves throughout our history. Both have their particular strengths and weaknesses and when either is taken to an extreme, then gridlock occurs with the protagonists willing to fight to their political deaths for their respective ideologies. Our collective schizophrenia must be first recognized and then constrained through the use of compromise and an appeal to all to put the best interests of the nation above philosophical differences and ideological lines drawn in the sand.

This entry was posted in Business, Government, Leadership, Leadership DNA, Management, Paul Okum, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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