What are the 4 principles of individualism?

Individualism is one of the core political values of society, and a concept that has shaped the West into the dominant force it is today. It is a very broad concept that is made up of many principles. It is important to note what the main principles of individualism are, so we can get a better understanding of individualism as a whole. In this post I will delve into the four main principles of individualism, and give a detailed description of each principle so you get a clearer understanding of what individualism is overall. 

The four main principles of individualism are: individual freedom, economic freedom, personal responsibility and rule of law. All four principles embody the overall concept of individualism, and help us see the benefits it has for society. 

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Individual Freedom

The first principle of individualism is individual freedom. Individual freedom is the idea that the individual is free from any state imposed oppression or coercion. It brings with it many values that are crucial to the concept of individualism. These include important ideas such as freedom of speech and freedom of expression. 

Freedom of speech is paramount to individual freedom and individualism as it allows the individual to organise their thoughts and perceptions of the world, articulate their opinions and develop a greater sense of truth. The individual is free to form their own view of the world, and live their life in the way that is of most benefit to them. This is important as individual freedom is a non-negotiable principle of individualism.

The right of the individual against the state is the keystone of individualism. The individual is free in thought, free in expression and free in worship. Individual freedom is of immense value to society and cannot be overstated in how crucial it is to a functioning democracy. It allows the individual to stand up against the forces of tyranny, and fight for the rights that they deserve right from birth. 

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Economic Freedom

Moving on from individual freedom, another principle that is of equal importance to the concept of individualism is economic freedom. Economic freedom can be broken up into three categories: The free market, competition, and private ownership. The free market inherently includes the other two, and means that the economy relies heavily on decentralisation. This means that the economy is less centralised, making the state less involved. This paves the way for more privatisation, and more competition. 

Competition between businesses, industries and employees is crucial to society for a number of reasons. Firstly, it spawns more innovation, which directly benefits the individual and society. Secondly, it directly benefits the consumer as more competition either drives the prices of goods and services down, or increases the quality of said goods and services. Thirdly, it benefits the employees as a more competitive job market forces them to consistently become more skilled and competent at their given roles. This leads to higher wages and more employee satisfaction.  All three examples given here help to greatly benefit the individual, and therefore society at large. 

Private ownership is an important element of economic freedom. It means that businesses are privatised, and allows for the individual to own private property. This is important as more privatisation means the state is less involved in the affairs of business and property. The individual is in full control of what they own and don’t own, which is of critical importance to economic freedom and individualism as a whole. 

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Personal Responsibility

The third principle of individualism is personal responsibility. Personal responsibility is inherently tied to both individual freedom and economic freedom. In an individualistic society, the individual is inherently free. An inherently free individual is an individual that is exposed to risk, as freedom and risk are directly bound together.

The individual has to assess the relative risk of every decision that they make throughout their lives. This is true on the individual level as well as the economic level. On the individual level, the individual has to assess the comparative risk of things such as who they decide to associate with. Who or if they decide to marry. To practice a faith or to not practice a faith. There is an opportunity cost associated with each decision, so the individual must navigate through life making the choices that best suit them. 

On the economic level, the individual also has to take a lot of responsibility and assess the risk of each decision they make. The individual is in control of how far they want to extend their education. What career they decide to partake in. What job or role they decide to work in. To invest their capital or not, and if so in what assets. As stated before, every decision brings with it an opportunity cost. The individual must be very particular with the choices they make and the risks they decide to take on. It is up to them to make the best decisions for themselves. 

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Rule of law

The fourth and final principle of individualism is rule of law. Rule of law essentially means all citizens of a society are equal before the law. It prevents any arbitrary use of power by the state or any other entities. It ensures that there is no discrimination amongst class, race, gender, sexuality and faith. The rights are the same for every single individual, regardless of who they are and where they come from.

Rule of law is quintessential in ensuring a civilised and prosperous society. It prevents the evil of tyranny from threatening the rights of the individual. It helps eliminate any form of oppression that unfairly targets innocent members of society. It ensures the individual does not get away with anything that is of harm to other individuals, such as murder.

It is the rule of law that helps maintain all the other principles that are paramount to individualism. It ensures that the rights of the individual are met and that the state does not unjustly interfere with their livelihoods. It holds up the values of freedom and makes certain the individual is free and protected from any outside intervention. Thus, the rule of law is an essential principle of individualism. 

Photo by Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash


The four main principles of individualism are: individual freedom, economic freedom, personal responsibility and rule of law. All four principles embody the overall concept of individualism, and help us see the benefits it has for society. 

Individual freedom is a quintessential principle of individualism, as it ensures the freedom of the individual. When the individual is free, they are free in thought, expression and faith. This is important as the individual can never reach their full capacity on the individual plain if they are denied these crucial freedoms.

Economic freedom is another principle of paramount importance to individualism. It emphasises the free market. This brings with it more competition, and more privatisation. These three things allow the individual to make a living however they want, and helps boost investment and innovation. All things that benefit society. 

Personal responsibility is another crucial component to individualism, and is inherently tied to the other three principles. In an individualistic society, risk is non negotiable. It is up to the individual to assess their risk tolerance and make the decisions that are of the most benefit to them. There is an opportunity cost associated with each decision. 

Rule of law is the last of the four principles, and plays an important role in maintaining the other three. It means that every citizen is equal before the law. It helps reduce the threat of tyranny and oppression. It ensures that every individual has the ability to succeed and prosper, regardless of who they are or where they come from.

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