Front Page Titles (by Subject) Individualism vs. Collectivism? - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3
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Individualism vs. Collectivism? - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Individualism vs. Collectivism?
“Individualism Versus Collectivism in Nineteenth Century Britain: A False Antithesis.” Journal of British Studies 17 (Fall 1977): 105–118.
The contrast between individualism and collectivism as themes of social reform and economic thought in nineteenth century Britain is a myth. The contrast was formulated by the great Victorian liberal A.V. Dicey in his influential lectures Law and Opinion (1905). He distinguished three stages in attitudes toward social reform: the period of Old Toryism, lasting to 1825 or 1830; the period of Benthamism or Individualism, from 1830 to about 1870; and the post-1870 period of Collectivism. Dicey stressed the role of ideas in accounting for the change from one period to another. Sir William Blackstone was the most influential thinker in the first period, and Jeremy Bentham in the second. Dicey did not single out a singel dominant thinker for the Collectivist period.
Dicey's scheme has been criticized by the so-called Tory or organic school of British institutional history, whose members include Oliver MacDonagh and G. Kitson Clark. They emphasize that reform measures proceeded largely according to the day-to-day activities of persons holding governmental office., not according to the carrying out of ideological aims. Both Dicey and the organic school are wrong: ideology was important, although not all important.
The real mistake of Dicey is to postulate a rigid antithesis between individualism and collectivism. Individualism meant that everyone should be able to pursue his own interests. As such, it was not viewed by most nineteenth-century thinkers as inconsistent with action by the state to protect individuals from exploitation. Specifically, acceptable forms of state intervention included: (1) the prevention of moral nuisances; (2) the enforcement of minimum standards of provision of certain services by some individuals to others (e.g., payment of wages in cash); (3) state financing for the private provision of certain services; (4) direct state provision of a service for part of the population; (5) public provision of a service, on a voluntary basis, for the whole of a population; and (6) the monopoly of essential services by the state (e.g., the telegraph system).
A great gulf stood between these types of collectivism, which most nineteenth-century writers accepted, and the nationalization of the means of production. Few favored this at all. Thus, for all but a few radicals, laissez-fairists, and socialists, there is no real opposition between individualism and collectivism in nineteenth-century Britain.