State of Mankind

A New Way Of Thinking

The Community Of Interests

Why can’t we all just work together? Aren’t we stronger collectively than individually? These are questions often posed by those supportive of greater government control in our lives. I believe the answer to these questions is yes. Yes, we can all work together. Yes, we are stronger and able to accomplish more collectively than individually. Today, we will look at how collective effort is accomplished in individualist, free society, an idea called the “Community of Interests.”

Wikipedia defines a community of interest as a community of people who share a common interest or passion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_of_interest. The Community of Interests refers to the nineteenth century belief that if people were left free to associate and determine their own lives, that they would naturally form communities of interest. These interests would naturally adjust to the needs of society as a whole, and society could freely function by eveyone seeking their own desires and following their own morals, essentially being agents unto themselves, without the coercive power of government. The Western world functioned quite well by this theory. In fact, the people of the nineteenth century were extremely optimistic. Quigley explained in his book Tragedy & Hope:

“Closely related to the idea of the “community of interests” were two other beliefs of the nineteenth century: the belief in progress and in democracy. The average man of 1880 was convinced that he was the culmination of a long process of inevitable progress which had been going on for untold millennia and which would continue indefinitely into the future. This belief in progress was so fixed that it tended to regard progress as both inevitable and automatic.” (Page 26)

Functionally, what is the community of interests? This would include churches, clubs, community organizations of one sort or another, hobby groups, basically any group of people that someone might join because of a desire to be with that group or an agreement in principle with that group. Even this blog is a community of interest in its own, small way. Because of the bond people have within such a community, helping each other comes natural. Working together for a common good is easy and normal because they agree on the common good and support it voluntarily, according to their own belief and conscience. Many groups simply seek to do good for others, donating time, talents and money for the cause. Many Christian churches send missionaries throughout the world to help relieve poverty, train people in skills, and teach what they feel to be true. Often groups within the Community of Interests work together to solve problems larger in scale than one group alone can do. The churches, Boy Scouts, and many other groups often work together with food banks to provide food for those in need. Even people who don’t necessarily agree with a church will often work with that entity toward this end.

The Community of Interests, however, has diminished in influence, much due to the influence of the government. Quigley explains the change which is taking place:

“…The community of interests which would appear if men were merely left to pursue their own desires has been replaced by the idea of the welfare community, which must be created by conscious organizing action. The belief in progress has been replaced by the fear of social retrogression or even human annihilation. The old march of democracy now yields to the insidious advance of authoritarianism, and the individual capitalism of the profit motive seems about to be replaced by the state capitalism of the welfare economy.” (Tragedy & Hope, page 28)

The Community of Interests does have an advantage on government in solving problems. This lies in that private organizations can ask for sacrifices from members without a need to repay and fairness is in the conscience of the individual. A working class member of a church may give a large donation to help build a building, where his upper-middle class peer may decide to give much less. The working class member, however, will feel blessed to have been able to contribute the amount he decided to. There is no need to decide what was fair and what wasn’t because each leaves such a judgement to their own faith and the Lord. Also, as an organization works with people, it can ask for return actions or even work to build faith in that individual. In this way, the charitable organization can work to both “give a man a fish” to feed him today, and “teach him to fish” to feed him in the future.

The effect of a larger Community of Interests and smaller government in the world, is that rather than have priorities set by planners and leaders, the priorities of the world are set by individuals and the groups they freely support. In this way, this combination reduces the power of a ruling elite and increases the power of the individual. An individual with a good idea in his or her organization can gain the support of the organization(s) which can cause great actions regardless of the individual’s social standing or economic class. By contrast, a priority set by a government planner will be influenced by mainly the politically strong and connected. All people will be required to support it through their taxes, whether they believe it to be the correct priority or not, or even if it goes against their conscience.

The story is told of Henry David Thoreau being thrown in prison for refusing to pay taxes because the United States was fighting what he felt was an unjustified war. Ralph Waldo Emerson, his mentor, came to him asking, “What are you doing in there?” Thoreau responded, “What are you doing out there?”

The Community of Interests has been on the decline in our society for the last one hundred years and the government has been on the increase. However, I have to ask, why do we accept this? Think of the possibilities of Communities of Interests with the internet, Facebook, and social media in general. With communication opening up world wide, could this not be the greatest time for such organizations? There could be literally no end to the good that could be done as we learn of the situations and challenges of friends and associates world-wide. A true New World Order could be born. Not one of the political elite running some coercive, redistributive, and lucrative (for them) world government, but one of love and brotherhood, of people working together of their own free will and choice to solve each other’s problems. What stands in our way?

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  1. Troy B.

     /  April 8, 2012

    Interesting thoughts my friend. As I read and contemplate your writings and questions, I am coming to the perception that, for you, government is a necessary evil that must be held in check and reduced in power so far as is possible and yet have it retain the power to serve its fundamental purpose of protecting our rights of life, liberty, and property. Giving the government power runs the risk of reducing our freedom and thereby the power to determine our lives for ourselves. Is this a fair interpretation? Also, is this your view of government as it now exists in the U.S. or just the idea of government in general?

    Furthermore, a few questions:
    1. Could we not say that the government a ‘community of interest’?
    2. How do we protect ‘one community of interest’ from another or mediate between them when their interests come into conflict?
    3. What of people who do not have the access to well-established, powerful, or influential communities of interest? How do we ensure their interests are heard and that they are not unjustly ignored and repressed?

    I like the idea of community of interests and I agree that such communities have the potential of doing much good; in fact, they can do much ‘genuine’ good. I do fear, however, that such ‘communities’ left to their own devices will invariably act much like individuals. There must be some check that can mediate between them. That check for me being the government. (How to lessen the influence of COIs on the government is a concern.)

    Reply
    • Brinton

       /  April 10, 2012

      I would make one small change to your assessment of my feelings on government. I believe government is a good thing so long as it sticks to protecting our rights of life, liberty, and property (we’ll use property, though I use it to mean pursuit of happiness as I have defined in that essay, which could also include freedom of conscience as described in the D&C). When government grows beyond these bounds, it tends to run into contradictions between these and, though necessary, begins to flirt with the evil description. I believe these principles apply very much to the Federal government in the US, as well as government in general, though I am willing to suggest that under our Federalist system, State and local governments do have power to do such things as road building, which don’t necessarily fall under the basic protections.

      We cannot say that government is a Community of Interest. The defining aspects of a Community of Interest are: 1. Voluntary association. An example would be our local church unit. Many people in the neighborhood choose not to affiliate with the church. Some non-members do choose to donate certain amounts to certain projects of the church with which they agree (generally sub-for-santa or welfare assistance). Some members give no money or small amounts, others pay full tithes as well as generous donations and give a lot of time. The individual has full freedom to decide their amount of association. And, 2. The ability of the C of I to require arbitrary things. An example would be a Bishop asking someone who is going to receive financial or food assistance to work a number of hours at a welfare assignment or work on their personal scripture study. Government can fill neither of these requirements as it has mandatory association and (correctly) cannot suggest to a person an arbitrary thing that it may feel will help them, such as developing a testimony of Christ.

      Protection of one C of I from another is the simple function of government protecting the life, liberty, and property of one group from another. Many C of Is have conflicting agendas, but rarely do they to a physical attack on another. The Mormons and another church may compete for members. Planned Parenthood (which should be a C of I, but is currently government backed) may have an agenda that conflicts with my church, but the battle generally is decided by who chooses to donate money or time to which cause. My church feels little need to physically stop them, we’ll stick to teaching what we believe. When the government taxes me and gives some of it to Planned Parenthood, however, this is a blatant violation of my freedom of conscience. I guess my point is that in a true free market there is little need for government to intervene unless there is a militant group. When the government does stick its hand in these things, it usually ends up creating more problem than it solves.

      The power or influence of a C of I, where there is true separation from the state depends fully on its ability to persuade others to support its cause. This being the case, people will generally have full access to any C of I they want to join. Not many organizations turn down donations or don’t desire members. Those that do, limit their own influence. In a free society it is up to the individual to make sure s/he is heard. My political views aren’t found in the Republicans or Democrats, so I start a website. Those that want to share my conversation have that ability. I guess I could cry about my views being generally ignored, but it’s my job to promote them and everyone else’s choice to agree and join with me or disagree and argue or support someone else.

      Left to their own devices, a C of I will act like an individual, but there is a natural check and balance. So long as they are good in the eyes of their supporters, they will continue to receive support. If they turn bad, they will lose support. The only check government needs to have is to make sure they don’t injure others. Right now, C of Is have a great influence on the government, because we have chosen to allow government far beyond its mandated purposes. The best way to lessen their influence on government is to put government in its proper role of protecting civil rights. When a group (elitists, greens, a C of I, the poor, the rich, a certain race, businesses, etc.) has ever gained control of a government that had wide ranging powers (such as ours), bad things have always happened. If we make government more powerful than any C of I and give it any power other than protection of basic rights and liberties, it will be taken over and used to force that group’s views on the whole of society. See the posting on eco-fascism for one current example.

      Reply

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