Untrue Things People Believe


This is the eleventh article addressing those things most people believe that are not true introduced in the article, "Most Of What You Believe Is Not True." To see all the articles, or any other one, please see the Index.

"Independence is the only gauge of human virtue and value. What a man is and makes of himself; not what he has or hasn't done for others. There is no substitute for personal dignity. There is no standard of personal dignity except independence." [Ayn Rand, "For the New Intellectual—The Fountainhead," "The Soul Of An Individualist"]

Most people believe the opposite of this. They believe human virtue and value are determined in some collective sense, by what one has, "contributed to society," or what they mean to other people, or by what they are associated with. There is in most people a belief they must be associated with something to have any real value or purpose, and this belief becomes an emotional need to, "belong." There a many specific reasons why people join organizations but the overwhelming one is the "need" to be accepted and recognized.

The Nature of Organizations

An organization is some number of individuals identified collectively as an "entity" with goals and purposes of its own. The individuals that make up the organization are called members, and in terms of the organization, their only importance is their membership in the organization and their contribution to the organization's goals and purposes.

A group of people who freely choose to do something together, which they are all interested in, is not an organization. An organization requires one to formerly join and pledge (formerly or informally) support to the organization's purpose which usually requires subordinating some of an individual's own interests to the interests of the organization. For example, when one joins a discussion forum or a club for making bulk purchases, they may be called members, but they are not really considered "part of the organization" and do not have to subordinate any of their interests to it. When someone joins an organization with some charitable, social, or political objective that requires their money, or time, or effort or other support to remain a member, they are members of an organization.

Kinds of Organizations

There are political organizations, labor unions, religious organizations (denominations), charitable organizations, scientific and technical organizations, academic organizations, organizations of specific disciplines: philosophy, literature, language, history, economics, etc.), ethnic organization, nationality organizations, fraternal organizations, military organizations, ex-military organizations, medical organization, survivalist organizations, intellectual organizations, sports organizations, as well as organizations for just about every interest and perversion that can be imagined.

Why People Join Organizations

The essential reason people join any organization is because they believe they gain something as a member of the organization which they would not have on their own. That something they gain might be some kind of economic advantage, prestige, glory, opportunity, privilege, power, righteousness (moral virtue), a sense of "doing something worthwhile," and always because they will be accepted and recognized.

In some cases one joins an organization because they believe it will give them access to like-minded individuals with similar interests, goals, and values, people one would enjoy being with and interacting with. There is nothing wrong with that kind of, "organization," so long as it has no agenda beyond the mutual enjoyment of the members. It is not really an organization so much as a, "club," which exists solely for the enjoyment of the members who contribute as much or as little as they choose.

All Organizations Are Collectivist

An organization is by its very nature collectivist. I don't mean collectivist in the political sense, although some political organizations certainly promote collectivism. By collectivist I mean two things: 1. some aspect of an individual's personal interests are subordinated to the purposes of the organization, and 2. some aspect of a members identity is determined by membership in the organization, often expressed by phrases like, "I'm a proud member of ... [their organization or group].

What Is Wrong With Organizations

Most people join organizations, and even if they do not formerly join organizations they feel a kinship with certain groups or classes of people and almost everyone identifies with some group or another. I do not believe such people could possibly be convinced that collective view is wrong, and I have no intention of discouraging anyone who thinks they find value in organizations from joining anything they like. My personal view is that they would be more successful as an individual without joining anything, but what others choose to do is really none of my business. But some independent individuals will have misgivings about joining things but know they will be misunderstood for their independence and looked at as misfits, anti-social, or worse. Here are some reasons to not join anything.

  • To desire or seek what one does not earn by their own effort, to seek to gain some "advantage" that is not merited by what one actually achieves, even to desire some recognition or "honor" simply because one is associated with something is immoral. It gives one a sense of superiority or value that is neither deserved or warranted morally.

  • Anyone who derives there sense of meaning, purpose, of self-value from some association with a thing is self-deceived. What one is has to be earned and developed by one's own effort.

  • What a person is, their true identity, is whatever they have made of themselves, what they have produced and achieved by their own initiative and effort. No matter what one is a member of, and what "position" they hold, what they actually are is whatever they have made of themselves. If the president of a prestigious organization is a bum, he is a bum. If an individual is a man of great personal integrity and productive genius, he is a great man even if everyone else believes he is a bum.

  • The "team" fallacy is often used by organizations, which demonstrates their collective nature. The team concept is a form of collectivism and its purpose is actually anti-individualism. Notice that members of a team are replaceable. In fact every single member of a team may be replaced and it will still be considered the same team, because the members, individual human beings and their purposes, do not matter to a team.

    Both individual responsibility and individual merit are obscured by the team concept. One will receive neither credit or reward for their individual effort or achievement, and those who do not achieve will be rewarded equally with those who do as members of the team. Even if a team, "fails," no individual is held responsible for the failure, but all will bear it, even if only one individual's failure is the reason for the team's failure.

  • Anything that cannot be accomplished by an individual, as an individual, is immoral to achieve by means of a gang. This does not mean things that are accomplished by voluntary cooperation, like a Quaker barn raising. It means any of those kind of organizations, like unions, who use their collective actions as a threat to gain from others, not what has been earned by the individual members, but what has been gained for them by means of threats of failing to be productive (strikes) or even of violence.

  • Many organizations with seeming noble causes are actually very harmful and destructive. Examples are environmentalist organizations (Sierra Club, Greenpeace), animal rights organizations, and so-called charitable organizations.

  • No organization will actually provide moral individuals with anything of value they could not achieve or acquire better on their own. The individualist is not likely to join an organization looking for what most people look for from the organizations they join, like recognition, prestige, a sense of purpose, or importance. In most cases, an organization will consume time and energy the individualist would otherwise use to achieve his own purposes.

Organization Is Anti-individualism

One cannot be an individualist and a member of an organization too. An individualist is a member of only one thing, the human race, and an individual only identifies others as human beings and judges them only on the basis of who and what they are as individuals, not what they are or are not members of.

Joining an organization is an admission of ones incompetence or (non)self-confidence to achieve and accomplish what they need to achieve on their own, their need of others, their help, their approval, their encouragement, their agreement.... There is nothing wrong with accepting other's help (so long as it's not charity), though an individualist will not accept it except under extreme conditions, nor is there anything wrong with others approval and agreement, though the individualist never needs or seeks either.

Political Movements, Organizations, and Programs

All political movements meant to restore or bring freedom to society as a whole, The United States, or some smaller community will fail. I've written two articles addressing this issue: "No Political Solution" and "Free Society, The Unrealizable Ideal". The primary reason no freedom movement will work is because, in order for it to work, it would require changing people, because most people do not want freedom. ... There is another reason why none of the freedom movements will work; they all depend on some form of organization to put over their programs, in other words a collective effort.

"Individualists have always been reluctant to form any sort of organization. The best, the most independent, the hardest working, the most productive members of society have always lived and worked alone. But the incompetent and the unscrupulous have organized." [Emphasis mine.] [The Letters of Ayn Rand, July 20, 1941, to Channing Pollock.]

All political and social activism is by its very nature, "organized." The independent individualist is too busy being a creative productive individual to waste his abilities, time, and effort on the organized efforts of others. Organized efforts are for, "the incompetent and the unscrupulous." The independent individualist wants no part of them.