Despite repeated criticisms, the political ideal of individual rights--to life, liberty, and property--is very relevant in our time. Although officially affirmed only a couple of centuries ago, the idea has ancient roots and continues to deserve support. It is morally sound and makes possible the most peaceful and prosperous community life for human beings anywhere.
Yet the view that government ought first and foremost protect our right to freedom is under constant attack, belittlement, and ridicule among many intellectuals, politicians, and the even members of the general population. Despite the miserable failure of collectivist alternatives, many still cling to the vain hope that some version of collectivism--communitarianism, market socialism, economic democracy, and so on--will solve all our problems.
This essay argues against this misplaced hope and suggests that it is more promising for us to work out the implications of the individualist alternative than to stick to utopian collectivist dreams. Indeed, this is borne out by the fact that many who attack individualism seem to need to distort it first to make their attack carry some measure of plausibility. But such a tactic is duplicitous and should be resisted.