The notion of the collective and the cooperative are not the same thing, and it is essential that those who value individual rights and liberty know the difference. The collective does not exist outside the mind of man, but the cooperative does. The collective exists for the benefit of the central authority which directs it, whereas, the collective exists for the benefit of every individual within it. The collective enslaves everyone within it, often including those who are in the power structure governing the collective, whereas the cooperative relies on the continued free will of every individual within it to survive. Membership in the collective is imposed: while in the cooperative, it is voluntary. If a member of a collective wish to leave the collective, it is likely that individual will need the permission of the central authority to do so. However, should an individual in a cooperative wish to leave, that person is free to do so without any necessity to seek permission from anyone. So, by definition, the collective rests on the trampling of free will while the cooperative depends upon it. Thus, the collective is a clear violation of Natural Rights and Natural Law, while the cooperative is the epitome of both in action.
Take the notion of the collective:
1: denoting a number of persons or things considered as one group or whole <flock is a collective word>
3a : of, relating to, or being a group of individuals
b : involving all members of a group as distinct from its individuals <a collective action>
4: marked by similarity among or with the members of a group
6: shared or assumed by all members of the group <collective responsibility>
The point of the collective is to treat a group of individuals as a single entity. However, as it is impossible for more than two individuals to think with one mind, the collective requires a command authority to “think” for the group as a whole. The primary focus of the group’s efforts then becomes what the central authority determines to be “in the best interest” of the group. Thus, the needs and desires of the individuals within that group – collective – become subordinate to the needs and desires of the group (i.e. central authority). This is a trampling of free will, as well as a form of slavery.
NOTE: while the collective often comes about through a process that bears the appearance of the Social Contract, it is impossible for a Social Contract to be created that allows the construction of a collective. Remember, the Social Contract rests on the restraints of Natural Law, and one of those restraints is that the individuals within a community cannot give any authority to the government that the individual does not himself possess. As no one possesses the Natural Right to force another to act against their will, the members of a collective would not have the Natural Right to construct a community where that authority is given to the central power. This is the fundamental flaw in Thomas Hobbes’ assertions in Leviathan: that our rights come from the government and that, once a part of a government, the individual has no claim to leave it.
Now contrast the collective with the cooperative:
cooperative noun (Concise Encyclopedia)
Organization owned by and operated for the benefit of those using its services. Cooperatives have been successful in such fields as the processing and marketing of farm products and the purchasing of other kinds of equipment and raw materials, and in the wholesaling, retailing, electric power, credit and banking, and housing industries. The modern consumer cooperative traces its roots to Britain’s Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers (1844); the movement spread quickly in northern Europe. In the U.S., agricultural marketing cooperatives developed in rural areas in the 19th century; other contemporary examples include consumer and housing cooperatives. See also credit union.
As we can see, the cooperative actually exists in nature because it is just a collection of individuals who willingly agree to work together toward a common goal, for the common good. Essentially, the cooperative is nothing more than an example of a Social Contract. It conforms to all the restrictions of Natural Law; thus, the Natural Rights of every individual subject to the terms of the contract are preserved and protected. The rights and responsibilities of very individual within the cooperative are stated, and, should a member wish to leave, they retain the Natural Right to do so without need of permission from the rest of the cooperative. The cooperative has no central authority other than the written terms of the contract: every member of a cooperative is equal in their rights. The cooperative does not force its will on its members as it has no will of its own: it depends on the willing and continued participation of each of its members in order to survive. Thus, the cooperative is in total accord with individual rights and liberty.
NOTE: in Colonial times, communities set themselves up in this manner – as cooperatives. This is what a commonwealth is all about: a willing participation in a group effort for the mutual and equal benefit of every member in that community:
2: a nation, state, or other political unit: as
a : one founded on law and united by compact or tacit agreement of the people for the common good
b : one in which supreme authority is vested in the people
c : republic
4: a state of the United States —used officially of Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia
5capitalized : a federal union of constituent states —used officially of Australia
6often capitalized : an association of self-governing autonomous states more or less loosely associated in a common allegiance (as to the British crown)
7often capitalized : a political unit having local autonomy but voluntarily united with the United States —used officially of Puerto Rico and of the Northern Mariana Islands
[NOTE: The threat of collectivism is often coupled with that of an unconstrained view of human nature. Most of the regimes in the 20th Century that committed real atrocities were the result of a coupling of these two ideologies. The individual who would understand the principles of liberty and seek to protect and preserve individual rights must be aware of these facts as they constitute his/her principal opponent.]