American ideologies have shaped our country for centuries. One that stands out, in particular, is the concept of rugged individualism. The term conjures up images of the maverick, the independent, and the non-conformist who will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. However, what does rugged individualism imply about our country?
Firstly, for those unfamiliar with the term, rugged individualism is the idea that supports the individual who sets out in pursuit of a goal, often one that is laden with risks and difficult to achieve. Herbert Hoover used the term often during his presidency. The idea is that the government isn’t responsible for a person’s economic success; instead, it’s up to every individual to find it on their own, no matter how difficult or dangerous. For example, in the Gold Rush of 1849, many risked their lives traveling west and partaking in life-threatening measures to try and strike gold; few actually found it.
An example that is more applicable to the life of an everyday college student would be fighting against your instructor to curve your exam score. Let’s say that you got the highest score on the test, an 89, and you feel as though only your score should be curved up to a 100, while everyone else’s test should remain their original score. Let’s also say that your instructor refuses to help, so instead, so you take a risk, and you hack into the system and change the score yourself. You might end up with a perfect GPA and a dream job; you also might end up expelled from school.
As a lone ranger in the midst of a lecture hall full of students, you may seem to be courageous for demanding a score that will boost your GPA. If the classroom is a microcosm of America, then your instructor is the government, and your classmates are your fellow citizens. As a rugged individualist, it is up to you to take what you believe you deserve without the help of your instructor.
However, what are the real implications of your actions?
Although the idea of rugged individualism seems nice, it’s a romanticized fallacy with dangerous flaws in its logos. Hard work comes with risk; risk comes with reward; therefore, all hard work comes with a reward. However, there is a glaring flaw in this syllogism because we all know that the latter statement is not true, and often, risky ventures can fail.
A real life example concerns the American economy. For example, the logic implies that the American economy would be better if everyone took matters into their own hands. If everyone strikes rich, America will be even more prosperous. However, in effect, it is oppressive towards the American society as a whole. Rugged individualism relies on the concept that one has to put their self-interest and needs before others. How will society become innovative and progressive if we are all focused on ourselves, and not on how we can benefit the economic, social, and political well beings of others? The logic, again, is flawed.
Herbert Hoover’s rugged individualism supports the idea that the government does not need to help its citizens achieve success. The flaw in this reasoning is that the government needs to give citizens a platform for success for our society to function at all. We need access to health care and free public education; by ourselves, we can’t all find a cure for our diseases, and we can’t all learn how to read and write if there is no one there to teach us.
Therefore, rugged individualism is a flawed concept. In reality, your time would be better spent and more beneficial for your own good if you seek to help society and those around you in general to progress. Ask your professor yourself; he or she would most likely have agreed to curve the scores of the entire class, not just giving you a 100 for having the least number of problems wrong. Instead of ending up with a 100, along with the improvement of the rest of the classroom, the rugged individualist is left an 89 and at a loss. Rugged individualism isn't admirable; it's risky, selfish, and flawed in its logic.
To better understand the danger of rugged individualism on our American belief system, check out this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dimitri-hamlin/is-that-all-there-is-rugg_b_1292037.html
For more information on the fallacies of rugged individualism that Trump has confused with American Patriotism, click here: http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/02/01/we-must-reclaim-american-patriotism-from-leftists-and-from-trump/