First, it is important to point out that American ideals are the embodiment of merit based achievement. That is not to say we have not strayed far from that ideal. The American dream is a story based on merit. The idea that anyone, regardless of class, can rise to unlimited levels. To say that we have strayed from those ideals is also not to say that they are dead. They are very much alive but the understanding and appreciation of such a concept shrinks daily.
It is why Sarah Palin resonates with so many Americans. It is also why, though under false pretenses, the story line of Barack Obama resonated. Our current list of who's who is replete with examples of meritocracy, ranging from political figures, to sports figures to software moguls. The limits, as it goes, are only caused by your ability, intellect, ambition, belief in self, spirit or some combination of them. This is unique in human history where class structures were regularly fixed and individuality was scorned.
However, we need only to look to contemporary societies to see how collectivism is the antithesis to merit based achievement. In a collectivist society, the highest ideal is agreement with the system and whoever is holding the reins of power at any given time. The survivors and achievers are the chameleons as they were called in Mao's China. Patronage is rife and success, whether individual or at the corporate level, is more or less ensured by never questioning the party line and following it to the letter.
What are the casualties in such a system? Obviously the truth becomes distorted and twisted. A perfect example of this would be the state of our scientific community and the global warming hoax. Careers and reputations have been destroyed. Mediocrity and dishonesty have proven to be invaluable traits for professional survival. Again, no where was this illustrated better than in Mao's China. The favored patrons of the party were the mind numbed robots, those unable to independently think and devoid of conscience but able to maintain the party's ever changing position in the turbulent campaigns. The result was an undeniable change in the value system of the Chinese society.
We see this group think mentality in our own shackled by political correctness society. Young adults, who obviously grew up in very amoral, peer-dominated environments are ripe for such systems. Many parents feel absolutely unable to set down any moral or ethical guidelines for their kids. Of course, this may be because they have none themselves but also because they have been seeped in moral relativism. Often times, they too hold confusion on such issues. Many of them have turned their child rearing over to the “pack. It is no wonder so many of these kids live in a sort of Lord of the Flies world and scorn traditional American values.
Individuality, personal freedom and truth. These are the costs of collectivism. Coincidentally, they are three important features that differentiate the American spirt from the rest of the world.