Many people have tried to explain the confessed killer’s actions after last week’s shooting in Los Angeles. Most of these explanations are glaringly inadequate, but even the best of them fail to identify the deeper philosophy behind this vicious crime, largely because to do so would be to admit complicity with Buford Furrow’s ideology.

Those who have pointed to Furrow’s history of anti-Semitism and involvement with white supremacist groups have identified an important, but superficial evil. It is easy to compare Furrow’s motives to Hitler’s. Disturbingly few people are prepared to admit that each represents the same ideas that have rationalized other widespread forms of racism, from Johnnie Cochran, to the vicious black racism of Louis Farrakhan, and to the officially sanctioned racism of Affirmative Action legislation.

But even racism is a relatively superficial observation. Racism is merely the lowest form of a more fundamental evil: collectivism. Deeper than Furrow’s connection to Hitler and Farrakhan are his connections to Stalin and Clinton: the belief that the group is primary unit of value, and anyone may be sacrificed for the sake of the whole. That is the essential common denominator of Stalin’s purges, Clinton’s Volunteer programs, and Furrow’s attempted murder of innocent Jewish children as a “wake-up call” to white America.

Holding one’s racial or ethnic group as the standard of value is merely a derivation of holding the group per se as a moral standard. Racism can only be unleashed by first embracing the ideas of group worship, of group warfare, of group identity. Note that racism had been on a steady decline from America’s birth, as America’s philosophy of reason, individualism and capitalism exposed its errors and impracticality. Even as the last bastions of segregation were being torn down in this century, however, the philosophy of collectivism was reaching out from the Ivory Tower to resuscitate it. Note that the alleged solutions to these shootings, from gun control and censorship to multicultural tolerance, all share the collectivist premise, that an individual’s rights (to own a gun, to watch television, to hold a viewpoint in defiance of the politically correct one) may be sacrificed for the safety of the public good.

Be it class warfare, the battle of the sexes, ethnic pride, the Americans with Disability Act, or the Generation Gap, collectivism is the evil that rationalizes the literal sacrifice of individual. Once collectivism, and its attendant morality of altruism have taken over, it’s no longer a question of whether people will die, but only of which people, when, and how many. The solution to the shootings America has witnessed in recent years is not more collectivism, but a rediscovery of America’s founding principles, and an intransigent defense of individual rights.

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Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.