13. Rugged Individualism
13. Rugged Individualism
1. Herbert Hoover -- Rugged Individualism Speech
-- Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover, "Rugged Individualism Speech" (October 22, 1928)
“I intend... to discuss some of those more fundamental principles upon which I believe the government of the United States should be conducted....
During one hundred and fifty years we have built up a form of self government and a social system which is peculiarly our own. It differs essentially from all others in the world. It is the American system.... It is founded upon the conception that only through ordered liberty, freedom and equal opportunity to the individual will his initiative and enterprise spur on the march of progress. And in our insistence upon equality of opportunity has our system advanced beyond all the world.
During [World War I] we necessarily turned to the government to solve every difficult economic problem. The government having absorbed every energy of our people for war, there was no other solution. For the preservation of the state the Federal Government became a centralized despotism which undertook unprecedented responsibilities, assumed autocratic powers, and took over the business of citizens. To a large degree, we regimented our whole people temporally into a socialistic state. However justified in war time, if continued in peace-time it would destroy not only our American system but with it our progress and freedom as well.
When the war closed, the most vital of issues both in our own country and around the world was whether government should continue their wartime ownership and operation of many [instruments] of production and distribution. We were challenged with a... choice between the American system of rugged individualism and a European philosophy of diametrically opposed doctrines,¬ doctrines of paternalism and state socialism. The acceptance of these ideas would have meant the destruction of self-government through centralization... [and] the undermining of the individual initiative and enterprise through which our people have grown to unparalleled greatness.”
Herbert Hoover correctly theorized that the best way to keep the United States economy growing was to keep the people free and the Federal Government small. He, like our Founding Fathers believed that the proper role of government is to protect equal rights, not provide equal things. A government that is big enough to provide everything to everyone is big enough to take away everything from everyone. A government that provides for a society makes for a lazy society.
Herbert Hoover and our Founders held the concept of “Freedom to Prosper”. This concept is based on the belief that man’s instinctive will to succeed in a free society would result in the whole people prospering. The poor could even lift themselves out of poverty through education and individual initiative to become independent and self-sufficient.
In a free society, some would prosper more than others. That is inevitable as long as there is liberty. There are many reasons people would prosper; talent, good fortune and inheritance are a few. However, most people would prosper because of hard work. People work harder when they work for themselves and not for the collective. When the government is small and requires the people to be more self reliant and the people are allowed to keep more of what they work for, this creates the atmosphere for rugged individualism and self sufficiency. Rugged individualism was the backbone of prosperity in the early days of the United States of America. Rugged individualism is needed now more than ever to bring back prosperity and growth to our great nation.