Rugged individualism

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Asked for comment, the ghost of Horatio Alger said he found Paul’s economic ideas “a bit of a stretch.”
—Marty Kelley[1] on Rand Paul

Rugged individualism was the phrase used often by Herbert Hoover during his time as president. It refers to the idea that each individual should be able to help themselves out, and that the government does not need to involve itself in people's economic lives nor in national economics in general. It is often associated with Social Darwinism or an "up-by-the-bootstraps" philosophy.

Hoover emphasized that rugged individualism was not laissez-faire, though many modern rugged individualists have ignored that. His idea of "rugged individualism" reflected his idea of how the federal government should not interfere with the American people during the Great Depression. Providing large-scale humanitarian efforts, Hoover feared, would injure "the initiative and enterprise of the American people."[2] Post-World War I, rugged individualism appealed to fiscal conservatives who were dismayed by the regulatory bureaucracy built up by the Wilson administration. As Calvin CoolidgeWikipedia said, "After all, the chief business of the American people is business."[3]

When the Depression started, Hoover insisted that the market would right itself. However, further into his term, Hoover felt that he was forced into action by the dire circumstances of the Depression, but still believed that the government should play a limited role in the American economy. (In other words, "Do something, but not too much!") Unfortunately, when he did intervene, it either made things worseWikipedia or was so ineffective as to be the equivalent of doing nothing.Wikipedia[4]

Americans vs. Europeans[edit]

According to the World Values Survey, a significant majority of Americans believe the poor could become rich if they tried hard enough, whereas a significant proportion of Europeans disagree.[5] In a 2014 Pew survey, a majority of Americans disagreed that “success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control,” whereas a majority of non-Americans concurred.[6] “Americans believe that poverty is due to bad choices or lack of effort; Europeans view poverty as a trap from which it is hard to escape,” argue the economists Alberto Alesina of Harvard and George-Marios Angeletos of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Americans perceive wealth and success as the outcome of individual talent, effort, and entrepreneurship; Europeans attribute a larger role to luck, corruption, and connections.”[7] Ironically, however, social mobility in Europe is, on average, higher than in US.[8]

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