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Introduction to Cooperative Individualism



Welcome to the School of Cooperative Individualism. The School was established in January 1997 as a place where thoughtful persons would find meaningful -- and sometimes new -- insights into the long and tireless search for a socio-political philosphy that, if implemented, would nurture the development of just societies.

I thank those of you who have visited and continue to return to the School, and I particularly appreciate the comments and recommendations received over these many years. I will continue to add important material to the School's library and will strive to provide links to other websites that contribute to the expansion of our knowledge and understanding.

The School offers visitors what I believe is a unique opportunity to explore the quest for first principles begun by the ancients and elevated to the realm of scientific investigation by the classical political economists of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Cooperative individualism is an activist philosophy, a set of principles upon which to base activism, and many of the classical political economists were activists in their own times. The one person who most fully serves as the architect of Cooperative Individualism is Thomas Paine, although he never referred to his principles and proposals by this term. The first consistent use of the term I have found is by one of the founders of an experimental community called Fairhope, in Alabama. E.B. Gaston's essay on cooperative individualism is included in the School's libary.

Thomas Paine had both an extraordinary intellect and a deep conviction to truth and justice. His writings and his deeds speak of someone never afraid to challenge conventional wisdom when observation and reason directed him to do so. Although Paine never used the term cooperative individualism to describe the socio-political philosophy to which he subscribed, this term is quite appropriate as the basis for just relations between individuals, between individuals within groups, and between groups. Paine was also an activist. He fought to end privilege, despotism and monopolistic behavior.

After Paine's death early in the nineteenth century, the torch of cooperative individualism fell to the ground, its fire nearly dying out until the emergence of Henry George in the final quarter of the nineteenth century to relight the flame and carry the torch into the global political arena.

In the twentieth century, the princples of cooperative individualism were gradually overwhelmed by the conflicts -- often violent -- between those who desired to remake the world order and those who fought to defend the status quo. In that environment, the philosopher Mortimer J. Adler fought to preserve scientific methods and the objective pursuit of truth. His writings materially contribute to the preservation of the principles of cooperative individualism.

Today, as in Paine's own time, constructive change requires two things, essentially: an educated citizenry and a core of teachers able to distinguish between true and false moral principles. Change will then flow naturally and, on the whole, peacefully. This is the mission of The School of Cooperative Individualism.