Nazism, Fascism, Socialism and Communism are simply different “isms” based on the philosophy of collectivism. The so-called “debate” that rages today between conservatives and liberals, right vs. left, Democrat and Republican, is simply a distraction which feeds off of these labels and their emotional associations. In reality, all differences stem from two different philosophies: collectivism and individualism.
Collectivism, as stated above, has manifested itself in totalitarian regimes. It is the idea that the group is more important than the individual. And, if necessary, the individual should be sacrificed for the “greater good.”
In contrast, individualism stresses independence and self-reliance while opposing most external forces on one’s choices, whether by society, or any other group or institution. Individualists, such as myself, do not believe in the force or coercion that collectivism proscribes. Instead, we hope to “shape” society by persuading and appealing to the intellect of others — having faith in their reason and charity.
An example of this is seatbelt law. While the collectivist uses the force of law to protect others, the individualist allows for the free choice of the individual — having faith in her reason.
Affirmative action is another example. While the well-meaning collectivist, once again, uses force to create a fair work environment, the individualist allows for the free choice and charity of the employer. The individualist believes only true charity is voluntary and that a free society creates such charity.
While individualists and collectivists may be at odds over how to best shape society by moral means, they are alike in their intent. For both collectivists and individualists care deeply about themselves, their families, their friends, their communities, their country and human kind as a whole.
Sometimes, a collectivist will tend to view the “rugged individualist” as callous and elitist, caring only for herself. In reality, this is the case with objectivism, as touted by Ayn Rand. Objectivism is at odds with altruism (the unselfish regard for others). Individualism is not. Just as there may be collectivists who are self-absorbed, so may there be individualists who are self-absorbed.
I am an individualist because I am an altruist. For me personally, the two are inseparable.