In a back-door fashion, I think we actually agree more than we’d like to admit. I still posit that the ‘collective’ has no rights and the ‘collective’ doesn’t make decisions. Groups of individuals come together to make decisions – at times via the state, at times via civil society and the free associations that individuals make amongst themselves. A small distinction but an important one to me.
Your whole paragraph on getting government to do your individual bidding proves my point exactly. Your political friend lobbying for personally-beneficial bills does so precisely because government is so large, that getting ahead is easier via government legislation (when you have the means/resources/connections) than fighting it out in the open market where you have to win or lose on your own. Government’s attempt to legislate each and every outcome leads directly to more and more people wanting government to do it’s bidding. (Aside – here I have to call out my Republican brethren and their support of big business. Too many Republicans are not pro-free market, they are pro-big business, and use the machinations of big government to support large incumbents to the detriment of small business job creators). Only when you shrink the size and scope of government will your political friend realize that there’s nothing to gain via lobbying and there’s higher return in competing in the free market.
Where we disagree fundamentally though is your third major paragraph. You view government and the ‘collective’ as the only thing preventing us as individuals from taking up pitchforks against our neighbors and running naked through the streets waiting for the next Robespierre to save us. I take the opposite view – government is the rate limiting factor in individual human potential. Don’t get me wrong – government has a role. Law and order, common defense, and enforcement of contracts. Those three things, when done well, provide the necessary infrastructure to curb the wild side of individualism, while allowing space for the individual to flourish. You see the individual succeeding if and only if the ‘collective’ is somehow diminished. I see releasing the individual to freedom and liberty as the only way over time to enhance the collective well-being of society. Civil society and free association are the ways in which we moderate individual relationships without government support, and the more government intrudes into that space, the more individuals will feel the need to hunker down and defend themselves. (I get the sense from this paragraph that you might not be a big 2nd Amendment fan).
I also came across the article linked here that is only tangentially related to the course our argument has taken, but one that sums up my viewpoint on this issue of government intrusion into the individual sphere.