In reading the excerpt from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and John Kemmis’ Barn Raising, there was one crucial issue on which I feel both authors’ views are complementary rather than in opposition. The issue in question is that of communal vs. individual interest. It is important to mention that I am not only talking about communal and individual rights . Rather, I am discussing the matter of which unit should be considered fundamental in governmental decision-making. In Rand’s piece, the character Roark mentions that “the creators were not selfless” (407), meaning that a the inventor of a given benefit is concerned with his interest, not the interest of the community. This is highly indicative of Rand’s absolute insistence that any significant creation is meant to be the result of individual effort and individual effort only. I feel as though this is not a view to be spurned. However, Kemmis indicates a communal interest through quotations such as the first sentence in his piece, “In many instances in which public undertakings or community development initiatives are blocked, there is a latent public consensus that would be more satisfying to most of the participants than what finally emerges.” (120). I feel that there is no better place in which the true balance of these viewpoints could have come to fruition than in the recent healthcare debate.
In the debate over the passing of the Patient Protection and affordable Health Care Act, a crucial sticking point was the issue of required governmental health care for members of certain demographics. This is truly a clash between the stark individualism of classic liberalism and the civic republican emphasis on community protection. Many congressional Republicans felt as though citizens should hold positions that are sufficient enough to warrant health insurance from their employers. They believed that the government should not become a “nanny state” and require its citizens to obtain health insurance, a stance that reeks of classical liberal individualism. On the other side of the aisle, many congressional Democrats were concerned about the interest of the citizenry as a whole. Removing the choice of whether or not to obtain health insurance appeared to be a small price to pay for the communal protection that a health care requirement would afford. This mindset is highly reminiscent of the communitarian ethic that civic republicanism espouses as a central tenet.
While both of these positions have certain benefits, I feel as though there is a compromise that could have been reached in this situation. Individualism is essential, especially when one is considering issues of heady proportions. However, when considering governmental procedure, communitarian consideration must also be given a great amount of emphasis. In dealing with the healthcare debate of 2010, I feel as though the role of individualism should have been limited to the opinions of the congressman. As much as one would like to believe that promoting the right of an entire citizenry to decline medical insurance is the mark of an individualist, one must ask the motive for such a position. This position still appears to be a result of what the person feels is the best for the people as a whole. My point is that even though one may want to promote individual rights over communal rights, the desire is still to better the community through these rights, rather than just to better oneself. However, the opportunity for true individualism comes in the opportunity to express one’s opinion on an issue such as health care in a congressional setting. Thus, my proposal is: let the congressman be individuals in order to help the American people. If each individual congressman feels that he or she is able to express him or herself, they may be able to reach a more rapid consensus on what is best for the people. I feel that this is the ideal compromise for such a situation.