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Grouping of individuals interacting with each other

A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same geographical or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. Societies are characterized by patterns of relationships (social relations) between individuals who share a distinctive culture and institutions; a given society may be described as the sum total of such relationships among its constituent of members. In the social sciences, a larger society often exhibits stratification or dominance patterns in subgroups.


Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand, by Edmund A. Opitz, The Freeman, Jun 1976
Explains mercantilism, the rationales for political power, government's proper role, Smith's "invisible hand" metaphor, his concept of "equality, liberty and justice" and how a free society allocates economic goods; from a lecture given 17 Feb 1976
One of the large questions which every society has to face and resolve is: How shall the economic rewards be allocated? ... Every one of us in a free society is rewarded in the marketplace by his peers, according to the value willing buyers attach to the goods and services he offers for exchange. This marketplace assessment is made by consumers who are ignorant, venal, biased, stupid; in short, by people very much like us! This does seem to be a clumsy way of deciding how much or how little of this world's goods shall be put at this or that man's disposal, and so people of every age look for an alternative.
America's Overprotective Sexual Harassment Law, by Joan Kennedy Taylor, Investor's Business Daily, 6 Apr 2000
Discusses how sexual harassment legislation in workplaces is not an appropriate solution and suggest of dealing with the actual problems
The workplace and society are changing. The American workforce is becoming more diverse and our work is less dependent on physical strength. Women are now needed in jobs for which, just a few decades ago, they had to struggle to be considered. The problem is not one of sexism. It is one of expectation and communication, and of misinformation given to workers of both genders ... the solution is not legal remedy. Instead, the solution is to increase all workers' knowledge and to facilitate communication. We need a different attitude and a different kind of employee training.
Related Topics: Law, Freedom of Speech
Bad Partisanship Drives Out Good, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 30 Nov 2007
Differentiates between superficial and profound partisanship (loyalty to a party vs. to a set of principles) and discusses the goals of the group Unity08 that during the 2008 U.S. presidential elections was seeking candidates that could "reunite America"
The great question of our age—of any age—is whether essential decision-making should be vested in society or in the state. By "society," of course, I mean the network of interactions founded on consent (not necessarily involving money) ... That's the partisan debate we should be having—and not just at election time. In my view, there can't be too much profound partisanship. Superficial partisanship distracts us from what we really should be arguing about. The proper question is not "Who should lead?" but rather, "What makes us think any political leader can make things better than people interacting freely can?"
Bastiat, Frédéric (1801-1850), by Jörg Guido Hülsmann, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
Bastiat propounded the view that in a natural society, one based on private property, the interests of the various social groups would become harmonious. For example, although debtors and creditors seem to have conflicting interests, a more careful examination would show that in fact a debtor has an interest in the well-being of his creditor, who may be the source of further credits ... Bastiat discussed countless similar relationships, such as those between consumers and producers, workers and capitalists, landlords and tenants, and so forth.
Branden, Nathaniel (1930-2014), by Chris Matthew Sciabarra, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
For Branden, a free society cannot be sustained without certain psychological, ethical, and cultural prerequisites. Among the psychological requirements of a free society are the six pillars of self-esteem—practices essential to the achievement of human authenticity: living consciously, self-acceptance, self-responsibility, self-assertiveness, living purposefully, and personal integrity ... the struggle for a free society is a struggle for the values of the integrated individual self against groupthink and the entitlement mentality of the welfare state.
Related Topics: Nathaniel Branden, Ayn Rand
Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, 14 Feb 1776
Full title: Common Sense; Addressed to the Inhabitants of America, On the following interesting Subjects:
I. Of the Origin and Design of Government in general, with concise Remarks on the English Constitution.
II. Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession.
III. Thoughts on the present State of American Affairs.
IV. Of the present Ability of America, with some miscellaneous Reflections.
Pamphlet written by Paine in 1775 and 1776, advocating independence from Britain
Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections ... The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions ... let us suppose a small number of persons settled in some sequestered part of the earth, unconnected with the rest, they will then represent the first peopling of any country, or of the world. In this state of natural liberty, society will be their first thought.
Related Topics: England, Government
Complex Societies Need Simple Laws, by John Stossel, 15 Mar 2012
Reflects on the "uncountable" number of laws and regulations in the United States as well as Britain, and elicits the views of Lǎozǐ, Hayek, Buchanan and Mises in favor of ending "the orgy of rule-making"
Big-government advocates will say that as society grows more complex, laws must multiply to keep up ... It is precisely because society is unfathomably complex that laws must be kept simple. No legislature can possibly prescribe rules for the complex network of uncountable transactions and acts of cooperation that take place every day. Not only is the knowledge that would be required to make such a regulatory regime work unavailable to the planners, it doesn't actually exist ... Any attempt to manage a modern society is more like a bull in a darkened china shop than a finely tuned machine.
Conscience on the Battlefield, by Leonard E. Read, 1981
Pamphlet written in 1951, during the Korean War, revised edition in 1981; Read recalls the 1918 incident when the troopship he was on was sunk by a German submarine and wonders about his thoughts if he were dying (in 1951) on a Korean battlefield
Man, in spite of his individuality, lives with others. And having chosen to live with others, he cannot escape an accountability for his part of any collective action of society in which he participates. As part of the warp and woof of society, he is committed to some responsibility for its collective misdeeds, either by commission or omission ... The best one can do, then, finding some such action inescapable ..., is to mitigate his sin. While bearing his share of society's sins he can at least refuse to be a sponsor of them; indeed, he can use suasion to spread the truth as he sees it.
Dialectics and Liberty, by Chris Matthew Sciabarra, The Freeman, Sep 2005
Written ten years after publication of the first two of Sciabarra's "Dialectic and Liberty" trilogy, discusses Hayek's and Rand's dialectical analysis approaches and suggests that such context-keeping analysis is important in radical libertarian theory
In social theory, the object of our inquiry is society: social relations, institutions, and processes. Society is not some ineffable organism; it is a complex nexus of interrelated institutions and processes, of volitionally conscious, purposeful, interacting individuals—and the unintended consequences they generate. A dialectical approach to social theory is one that recognizes that any given social problem will often entail an investigation of related social problems ... Understanding the complexities at work within any given society is a prerequisite for changing it.
Don't Look for Grown-Ups in Government, by Sheldon Richman, 16 Oct 2013
Responds to pundits demanding adult, i.e., responsible, behavior from politicians, in particular with regard to lifting the debt ceiling (which kept the U.S. government partially closed in early Oct 2013)
Politicians also fail to operate at a responsible adult level to the extent they believe society can be molded according to their whims. Societies aren't made of clay. They are complex networks of interaction among individuals using their particular knowledge in pursuit of their personal goals. Social engineering is people manipulation backed by force, which requires a level of hubris that no mature person would possess. Yet politicians engage in it every day, free of responsibility for the consequences that come from disrupting people's lives.
Related Topics: Children, Economics, Voting
The Fable of the Bees Tells the Story of Society, by Richard Ebeling, 15 Nov 2016
Discusses the "moral" of Mandeville's work The Fable of the Bees, that "prosperous, wealthy and great societies only arise from men's self-interested desires"
One of the major turning points in social and economic understanding emerged in the 1700s with the theory of social order without human design. Before the eighteenth century, most social theory presumed ... that human society had its origin and sustainability in the creation of social institutions through either "divine" intervention, or by human will and plan. But in the 1700s, the idea of society as a spontaneous order that emerged out of the actions and interactions of multitudes of individuals, each pursuing their own self-interest, began to develop into a systematic ... theory ...
Related Topics: Economics, Bernard Mandeville
Ferguson, Adam (1723-1816), by Ronald Hamowy, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
[Ferguson] offers a conjectural history of social institutions, maintaining that societies naturally evolved from savagery to barbarism to civilization. Of these stages ..., the first, Ferguson maintained, was both prepolitical and lacked any real notion of private property. In barbaric societies, in contrast, property had ceased to remain communal, and private wealth, most often in the form of agricultural products and animal herds, had developed. Despite the existence of unequal possessions, however, a formal institutionalized system of laws regarding property had to await the development of civilized society.
Related Topics: Adam Ferguson, Property
Frédéric Bastiat: Two Hundred Years On, by Joseph R. Stromberg, 2001
Extensive survey of Bastiat's life and writings; "EH" refers to Economic Harmonies, "Sophisms" to Economic Sophisms, "Essays" to Selected Essays in Political Economy (all three from FEE, 1964)
Contrary to such writers as Montaigne and Rousseau, men were not happier when they—hypothetically—lived separately. They improve their lot in society and improve it most when their society rests on uncoerced reciprocal relations. Thus, exchange "is political economy. It is society itself, for it is impossible to conceive of society without exchange, or exchange without society". ... Without [exchange], we could hardly live at all. "If this is true, society is our natural state, since it is the only state in which we can live at all" (EH, p. 60, my emphasis).
Freedom, Virtue, and Responsibility, Part 1, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Apr 1994
Examines some of the reasons why so many believe that drug legalization is a bad idea and that the war on drugs should go on, pointing out that not even penitentaries, German concentration camps or police states are drug free
The real issue ... is: why do so many private citizens continue to support the war on drugs? ... The answer ... goes something like this: "Illicit drugs are dangerous and threatening to our society, and especially to our children. We want to see them eliminated from society ..." ... [W]e and our fellow citizens share the same end with respect to the type of society in which we wish to live ... But ... [o]ur fellow citizens believe that the way to achieve a "drug-free" society is by waging ... a war that entails searches, seizures, arrests, invasions of privacy, trials, fines, and imprisonment.
Freedom, Virtue, and Responsibility, Part 3, by Jacob G. Hornberger, Jun 1994
Explains the counterintuitive notion that in order to achieve a caring, compassionate, "good" society it is necessary to allow everyone the freedom to be irresponsible, to do anything they want as long it does not infringe on others' equal freedom
Unfortunately, the warriors ... on the left and right ... do not want to let go of their cherished wars ... But they will never achieve their aims ... the reason lies not in their intent to achieve the good society — one in which people, by and large, are virtuous and responsible, caring and compassionate ... the problem lies with the means ... If coercion cannot achieve the good society, is there an alternative? Yes. The answer lies in freedom — a way of life in which people are free to engage in any activity ... so long as it is peaceful— that is, so long as it does not infringe ... on the rights of others to do the same.
Freedom vs. Liberty, by Joseph R. Stromberg, 10 Jul 2001
Delves into the etymology and semantics of the English words "freedom" and "liberty"
Benveniste, who is very helpful on the etymologies, believed that they showed that freedom is granted by the community. As a follower of Marcel Mauss, and therefore of Durkheim, he could not have done otherwise. It makes more sense to say that "freedom" is only meaningful in society: "Freedom is a sociological concept. It is meaningless to apply it to conditions outside society: as can be well seen from the confusions prevailing everywhere in the celebrated free-will controversy" (Ludwig von Mises, Socialism [Jonathan Cape, 1936], p. 191).
Related Topics: Ama-gi, Liberty, J. R. R. Tolkien
Free-Market Socialism, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 14 Nov 2014
Counters the progressives' caricature of libertarians as hyperindividualists or atomistic and explains the benefits that could be gained from truly freed markets
[Are] libertarians ... social nonconformists on principle? Not at all ... Virtually all libertarians observe the common customs of their societies, just as they conform to language conventions if for no other reason than they wish to be understood. I don't know a libertarian who would regard this as tyranny. In fact, as one's appreciation of the libertarian philosophy deepens, so does one's understanding of the crucial behavior-shaping role played by the evolution of customs and rules—the true law—that have nothing whatever to do with the state. Indeed, these help form our very idea of society.
The Future and Its Enemies, by Richard Ebeling, Freedom Daily, May 1999
Review of The Future and Its Enemies (1998) by Virginia Postrel
Society is the evolved and cumulative outcome of multitudes of generations of human actors' pursuing their individual ends; and through their interactions with each other, they have often generated social institutions, norms, patterns, and rules that were no part of the original intentions of the respective social participants ... Each individual in his respective corner of the society comes to possess specialized and local knowledge, the full significance and usefulness of which only he may completely understand and appreciate for its successful application to various economic and social purposes.
Herbert Spencer as an Anthropologist [PDF], by Robert L. Carneiro, The Journal of Libertarian Studies, 1981
Traces Spencer's contributions to the fields now known as anthropology and sociology and how his concept of cultural evolution was developed
Thus, when [Spencer] was ready to give his study of society a name, he chose "sociology." The word "sociology" had been introduced in its French form, sociologie, by Auguste Comte in 1839 ... [I]n the preface to Volume 1 of The Principles of Sociology, he gave his reasons for adopting the term:
For the Science of Society, the name "Sociology" was introduced by M. Comte ...
... But regardless of labels, Spencer devoted enormous thought and effort to erecting a comparative science of society of the most general kind, and his work gave a powerful impetus to the anthropology that came after him.
Herbert Spencer - Hero of the Day, by Chris Matthew Sciabarra, The Daily Objectivist, 2000
Biographical profile published by The Daily Objectivist; argues that Spencer was a pioneer of "dialectical" (context-keeping) libertarianism; based on article in Aug 1999 Liberty
Publishing long before Hayek, Spencer views society as a spontaneous "growth and not a manufacture." But, contra Marx, his focus on the "mutual dependence of parts" within a society and on the analytical "integrity of the whole" does not lead him to embrace the organic collectivism of traditional holistic approaches. He maintains that society lacks a collective brain, lacks a "corporate consciousness," and that ... each person ... retains an individual consciousness ... As a society becomes ... more integrated, there is a greater need for heterogeneity and differentiation among the individuals who compose it.
Related Topics: Aristotle, Herbert Spencer
The Idea of Liberty is Western, by Ludwig von Mises, American Affairs, Oct 1950
Argues that the "idea of liberty is and has always been peculiar to the West", beginning in ancient Greece and moving westward to Europe and America, and discusses "liberty" as viewed by Harold Laski, contrasting life under Stalin with Italy under fascism
Social cooperation under the division of labor is the ultimate and sole source of man's success in his struggle for survival and his endeavors to improve ... material conditions ... But as human nature is, society cannot exist if there is no provision for preventing unruly people from actions incompatible with community life. In order to preserve peaceful cooperation, one must be ready to resort to violent suppression of those disturbing the peace. Society cannot do without a social apparatus of coercion and compulsion, i.e., without state and government. Then a further problem emerges ...
If the State Falls, Does Society Crumble?, by Lew Rockwell, Mises Daily, 25 Jan 2007
Discusses the situation in Iraq four years after the 2003 invasion and evaluates the question of "just how integral is the state to society?"
The Bush administration had the idea that the Iraqi state was somehow artificially imposed on an otherwise stable society. The reality is otherwise. Which raises the question: just how integral is the state to society? Is it the case that we can expect every society that loses its state to fall into chaos such as Iraq is doing today? ... On the face of it, ... [t]here is no obvious reason why any society should put up with it ... The Saddam state, then, was not an organic part of society but it had managed to weave itself carefully into the political, cultural, and economic fabric of the nation–as a means of survival.
Related Topics: George W. Bush, Iraq, The State
Individual Liberty and Civil Society, by Richard Ebeling, Freedom Daily, Feb 1993
Reflects on Benjamin Constant's lecture "The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns" on what liberty meant to the ancient Greeks vs. the 19th century Europeans and Americans and about the 20th century reversion to statism
What had replaced the politicized order of the ancient world was civil society ... In civil society there is no longer a single focal point in the social order, as in the politicized society in which the state, designs, directs and imposes an agenda to which all must conform and within which all are confined. Rather, in civil society there are as many focal points as individuals, who all design, shape and direct their own lives, guided by their own interests, ideals and passions. But the society of free individuals is not a society of unconnected, isolated individuals ...
In Foreign Affairs, Not Doing Anything Is the Thing to Do, by Sheldon Richman, 24 Jul 2014
Comments on the arrogance of those who believe the President of the United States should intervene in any crisis around the world
The United States — no matter who the president is — cannot manage world conflict ... The world is complex. Specifically, individual societies are infinitely complex, historically, politically, and culturally, and thus beyond the full comprehension of any person or group. Even societies ruled and ostensibly planned by dictators have informal, hidden, and spontaneous aspects that no one can fully grasp, especially outsiders. Written laws are often irrelevant to the unwritten rules and customs actually governing a society. And each society consists of many moving parts (religious, ethnic, etc.)
Introductory, by John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859
Chapter I; explains the subject of the essay, namely, "the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual"
[R]eflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant ... its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts ... by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates ... or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.
The Invisible Hand Is a Gentle Hand, by Sharon Harris, 14 Sep 1998
Originally published at; defends the free market and individual liberty, quoting among others Bastiat, Thomas Jefferson, David and Milton Friedman, John Lott, Isabel Paterson, Proudhon, Adam Smith, Sowell, John Stossel and Walter Williams
A free society is a gentle society. A cooperative, compassionate, and generous society. An abundant and tolerant society ... In a free society, the most considerate prosper ... [P]eople are treated as customers or potential customers. The customer is always right—even when he's not ... A free society is ... tolerant ... [T]here's room for cranks, misfits, oddballs, outcasts. They're free to pursue their happiness in their own way ... [A]ll honest and peaceful people ... are free to make their own way, make their own contribution, and benefit from the abundance and tolerance liberty brings.
It's Not Edward Snowden Who Betrayed Us, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 14 Jun 2013
Discusses commentary from progressive and conservative apologists for the NSA surveillance disclosed by Snowden and constrasts them to writings by David Hume and Lord Acton
From what Brooks has to say, you'd think a blank check for the government is what holds society together ...
For society to function well [Brooks continued], there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures. By deciding to unilaterally leak secret N.S.A. documents, Snowden has betrayed all of these things.
Well, yes, trust and cooperation are necessary for society to function well. But that does not mean one should trust inherently untrustworthy institutions—quite the contrary. Snowden has struck a blow for trust and cooperation by exposing the spies ...
John Stuart Mill and the Three Dangers to Liberty, by Richard Ebeling, Freedom Daily, Jun 2001
Evaluates John Stuart Mills arguments in his essay "On Liberty", in particular the three forms of tyranny posited by Mill and an element (private property) not emphasized by his analysis
Mill [mentioned] a third source of tyranny over the individual in society, and this was the tyranny of custom and tradition ... They were ... shared ideas of the right and proper held by the vast majority in the society ... No matter how strong a hold custom and tradition may have over men's minds and therefore their conduct in society, an individual can still choose to go his own way and be the eccentric and outcast, if he is willing to pay the price ... The power of custom and tradition comes from social and psychological pressure and the human desire to avoid being shunned by those whose association is wanted.
Liberty Defined, by F. A. Harper, 4 Sep 1957
Speech to the Mont Pelerin Society; Harper first offers his definition of liberty, then explores "adulterated" definitions, its relation to morals, moral law and basic humans rights, ending with his hope for the cause of liberty
To begin with, liberty seems to me to be a word having to do with matters of personal conduct in relation to other persons in society. Or to put it another way, it relates to limitations of action one person may or may not suffer at the hands of another person. It is in that sense a word focused on matters of individual conduct in a social setting ... Liberty will be allowed in society only insofar as there is acceptance of the conduct of others. Acceptance may be because of either agreement with the act or tolerance in disagreement.
National Servitude, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 21 Jun 2013
Discusses calls for "national service", contrasts them to insights from Frédéric Bastiat and Adam Smith, and counters possible objections
Leaving aside any question of moral duty, the fact is that in a free society, in which aggressive force is barred and all relationships are voluntary, people naturally seek to satisfy one another's wants in order to improve their own lots in life. As the early French economists liked to say: Society is exchange, and exchange is mutually beneficial. Exchange is at the very heart of a civil society based on voluntarism ... Each individual wants ... things she wouldn't be able to make herself. In a free society, no one may compel another to work for her benefit.
On Evil Acts, by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., Mises Daily, 19 Apr 2007
Analyzes the typical mainstream ("liberal") and conservative responses to acts of violence such as the April 2007 Virginia Tech shooting
[H]ow can we as a society best deal with the problem of evil? ... [I]t does no good to turn society into a prison camp, nor does it makes sense to be naïve ... Which is the right solution? ... One-size-fits-all doesn't work any better in security provision than in clothing. With the market, there are many decisions that we as a society do not have to make collectively but instead we make them individually as buyers. We do not have to decide collectively what cars to drive, what websites to visit, or what food to eat. So it is with security. And so it is with the problem of human evil.
The Open Society and Its Worst Enemies, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 16 Jan 2015
Considers the 7-9 January 2015 attacks in Paris and contrasts the choice between an open, free society and imperialistic, militaristic foreign intervention
Obviously, the police in more or less open societies—"but rather less than more"—cannot fully prevent the kind of violence that occurred at Charlie Hebdo and the kosher grocery Hyper Cacher ... If even a full-blown police state could not prevent all such plots, what chance does a society with a vestige of regard for civil liberties have? ... That is why it is imperative for societies wishing to remain more or less open to not let their rulers make enemies by conducting a militarist foreign policy ... It really does come down to a stark choice between full freedom and empire.
Oppenheimer, Franz (1864-1943), by George H. Smith, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical and bibliographical essay
Oppenheimer distinguishes between two methods of acquiring wealth: the economic and the political. "These are work and robbery, one's own labor and the forcible appropriation of the labor of others." ... Oppenheimer's distinction between state and society became a crucial aspect of libertarian philosophy. The state, he contended, is "the fully developed political means," whereas society, based on voluntary relationships, is "the fully developed economic means." He attributed the growth of individual freedom to the development of cities in late medieval Europe and to the emergence of a money economy.
Popper, Karl (1902-1994), by Jeremy Shearmur, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
Popper also is well known for his writings on social philosophy. His books Open Society and Its Enemies and The Poverty of Historicism, both written during the Second World War, were powerful attacks on Plato, Marx, and their arguments in favor of historical inevitability as enemies of an open society. The open society that Popper favored was characterized by ethical individualism—in opposition to the moral collectivism of his day—and was influenced by Kantian ideas about the significance of intersubjective criticism.
The Production of Security, by Gustave de Molinari, Journal des économistes, Feb 1849
Questions whether the provision of security to citizens should be an exception to the economic principle of free competition, delving into arguments favoring monopolistic and communistic government and concluding with a hypothetical free market example
In order to define and delimit the function of government, it is first necessary to investigate the essence and object of society itself ... The instinct of sociability brings [man] together with similar persons, and drives him into communication with them. Therefore, impelled by the self-interest of the individuals thus brought together, a certain division of labor is established, necessarily followed by exchanges. In brief, we see an organization emerge, by means of which man can more completely satisfy his needs than he could living in isolation. This natural organization is called society.
The Quest for Cosmic Justice, by Richard Ebeling, Freedom Daily, Dec 1999
Review of The Quest for Cosmic Justice (1999) by Thomas Sowell
Only a cosmic or godlike perspective could claim to know what each of us "deserves." Instead, the intellectual elites claim the supposedly disinterested superiority to bear the burden of these momentous decisions. They arrogantly presume to do away with all the circumstances that make the patterns of society what they are: custom, culture, tradition, the competitive processes of the market, and the free choices of individual human beings. All these are to be set aside, with large swatches of society re-configured according to the designs of the social engineering elite.
Real Liberalism and the Law of Nature, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 10 Aug 2007
Examines Thomas Hodgskin's introductory letter to Henry Brougham, a Member of Parliament (later Lord Chancellor), written in 1829, published in The Natural and Artificial Right of Property Contrasted (1832)
Hodgskin was alarmed that few among the general public or in Parliament understood that society is a natural phenomenon, rather than an artificial product of government. It was too commonly thought that without a constant stream of new legislation, society would run down and turn chaotic ... He wanted to set Lord Brougham straight on this point ... But if no one understands the true nature of society, i.e., that it is essentially self-regulating, then how can a legislator know that he must keep from interfering with it? It's a question we could put to almost any member of Congress.
Reasoning on the Nature of Things, by Clarence B. Carson, The Freeman, Feb 1982
Discusses how natural law doctrines were repudiated by utilitarians, why natural rights are important from an economic viewpoint, how the rights to life, liberty and property can be construed and what the author understands as the "social contract"
The social contract is not a written agreement, nor do we willingly and consciously enter into it. Rather, it is that agreement which is necessary, in the nature of things, to the existence of society. It is every man's tacit agreement not to use violence to get his way, to leave others to the enjoyment of the fruits of their labor, not to trespass upon the property of others, to fulfill the terms of his individually entered into agreements, to honor his parents, to succor his children, to keep his word, to meet his obligations.
The Right to Life Equals the Right to Possess Firearms, by Sheldon Richman, Freedom Daily, Jun 1994
Discusses U.S. legislation or proposals to restrict, register, license or ban gun ownership, countering that these controls go against the basic right of self-defense, itself a corollary of the right to life
But, many people will say, in a civilized society, we have delegated our right of self-defense to the government. We don't need to carry guns ... anyone who believes he has turned his self-defense over to government is living in a dream world ... But there are already too many guns in society, the proponents of control say. More guns would make society more violent. Would it? ... What counts is not how many guns, but who has them ... "An armed society," wrote libertarian science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein, "is a polite society." An armed people is a people who have taken a personal interest in keeping their society civil.
Robert Nozick, Philosopher of Liberty, by Roderick T. Long, The Freeman, Sep 2002
Focuses mainly on Nozick's contributions in Anarchy, State, and Utopia (page references are to 1974 edition), with brief reference to his later works and his death earlier in 2002
Nozick argued that because there is "no social entity" but only "different individual people, with their own individual lives," it makes no sense to describe the sacrifice of an individual's rights as being made up for by an "overbalancing good" to society as a whole; a human being "may not be used or sacrificed for the benefit of others," because doing so would "not sufficiently respect" the fact that "he is a separate person" whose life is "the only life he has" (pp. 32-39). Every step of that argument is a deliberate echo of arguments [from] defenders of the welfare state ...
Smoking Bans Are Dangerous to a Free Society's Health, by Thomas A. Firey, The Baltimore Sun, 6 Dec 2006
Argues against proposed legislation in the city of Baltimore and the state of Maryland to ban smoking in restaurants and bars
In a liberal society, people are free to make their own risk and lifestyle choices — including whether to smoke ... Liberal societies have market economies in part because the pursuit of profit and the threat of competition force the marketplace to provide choices for people with many different preferences. This should include the choice of smoking-allowed and smoke-free bars and restaurants ... Free societies allow people to make decisions that others don't like. That includes allowing smokers to have bars and restaurants to cater to their preferences, just as nonsmokers should have establishments that cater to theirs.
Related Topics: Entrepreneurship, Health
Spencer, Herbert (1820-1903), by George H. Smith, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
Biographical essay
In addition to his other contributions to libertarian theory ..., Spencer made seminal contributions to the theory of spontaneous order. In The Principles of Sociology, Spencer likened social development to a "rolling snowball or a spreading fire" where there is "compound accumulation and acceleration." An intricate social network evolves as in a market economy that is so interdependent that any considerable change in one activity "sends reverberating changes among all the rest." Society, in other words, is an unplanned spontaneous order, one that "grows" rather than is "made."
Tackling Straw Men Is Easier than Critiquing Libertarianism, by Sheldon Richman, 5 Dec 2014
Counters John Edward Terrell's critique of libertarianism (in "Evolution and the American Myth of the Individual") using quotes from Adam Smith, Vernon Smith and Herbert Spencer
Terrell asserts a dubious distinction between thinking of society as natural and thinking of society as a matter merely of convention ... But if for argument's sake we accept ... his preference ..., we still must ask: if society is natural, why must we be compelled to be social? Why is aggressive force—the initiation of violence, which robs persons of their dignity and self-determination—acceptable when free and spontaneous cooperation—voluntary exchange and mutual aid—ought to work reasonably well? Do the Terrells of the world believe that society would fail without violence? That, I submit, is bizarre.
Try This On Your Friends [PDF], by F. A. Harper, Faith and Freedom, Jan 1955
Poses a riddle about the extent to which government is needed
A society of wholly good men calls for no political rulership whatsoever ... Since evil acts wouldn't exist in such a society, control by government is neither called for nor proper. Only in another society where evil has entered the scene is any government deemed necessary, by this simple theory that government is a necessary evil ... Now consider as the other extreme a society in which every man is wholly evil ... this society would then be ruled by a totally evil dictator possessed of unlimited political power ... How could it be any better than having no political rulership at all in that society?
Related Topics: Ethics, Government
Up From Freedom: Friedrich von Hayek and the Defence of Liberty, by Richard Ebeling, ama-gi, 1996
Opens with biographical and bibliographical details and then discusses Hayek's insights. concluding that he was fortunate to witness the collapse of communism which "demonstrated the practical impossibility" of social engineering
Society and its institutions, [Hayek] explained, are primarily the results of evolutionary processes that have created a vast and intricate spontaneous order. Language, custom, morality and the often unwritten rules of just conduct, as well as the institutions and workings of the market place, are the results of human action, but not of human design. They are the cumulative results of generations ... of human beings ... Society and its institutions are the product of the shared and contributed knowledge and wisdom of many more people than any social engineer could ever hope to understand ...
The War the Government Cannot Win, by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., 1 May 2007
Discusses how government cannnot win the war on terror because economic law is more powerful than the state; talk given at the Wisconsin Forum in Milwaukee
The power of government to do what we desire is strictly limited ... And the economic teaching has a broader implication that concerns the organization of society itself. Government is not free to make and unmake society as it sees fit. It is not a tool we can use to fulfill our private dreams. Society is too complicated, too far reaching, too much a reflection of the free volition of individual actors, for government to be able to accomplish its ends ... Society contains within itself the capacity to self-organize. There is nothing that government can do to produce a better result.
Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism? [PDF], by Robert Nozick, Cato Policy Report, Jan 1998
Posits that "wordsmith" (as opposed to "numbersmith") intellectuals often resent capitalism because the market society does not reward them as their schooling did
The schools ... are the major non-familial society that children learn to operate in ... It is not surprising that those successful by the norms of a school system should resent a society, adhering to different norms, which does not grant them the same success. Nor, when those are the very ones who go on to shape a society's self-image, ... is it surprising when the society's verbally responsive portion turns against it. If you were designing a society, you would not seek to design it so that the wordsmiths, with all their influence, were schooled into animus against the norms of the society.
Related Topics: Capitalism, Free Market, Socialism
Why the Republicans Are Doomed, by Lew Rockwell, 21 Feb 2007
Discusses Republican behavior at both the presidential and grassroots level, arguing that they take their societal view from Hobbes
Elsewhere we discussed how the Democrats believe in a conflict-based model of society, with their imagined society consisting of groups of warring tribes (men v. women, blacks v. whites, etc.). In the same way, the Republicans imagine that the social order is rife with conflict, but a conflict of a different sort. Republicans believe that all of society, whether your town, the nation, or the whole world, is divided between those who adhere to the law and those who are inclined to break it ... [T]hey believe that without the state as lawmaker, all of society and all of the world would collapse into a muddle of chaos and darkness.
Why Those Who Value Liberty Should Rejoice: Elinor Ostrom's Nobel Prize, by Peter Boettke, The Freeman, Dec 2009
Discusses Elinor Ostrom's work and viewpoints, shortly after her being awarded the Nobel Prize in economics
Diverse institutions at work in different societies promote voluntary cooperation ...The foundation of the social order of a free people is self-governance, not governmental authority and centralized power. Decentralized decision making that drills deep into the local social dilemmas real people face, that mobilizes incentives within a local rule structure, and that utilizes local knowledge is how the process of institutional development assures that self-governance is effective governance, enabling fallible human beings to reasonably manage scarce resources and the relationships among themselves.


Claiming Paine: The contested legacy of the most controversial founding father, by Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason, Jul 2007
Review of the book Thomas Paine and the Promise of America (2006) by Harvey J. Kaye
[I]t was Paine, in Common Sense, who declared: "Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher."


The Society of To-morrow: A Forecast of Its Political and Economic Organisation, by Gustave de Molinari, 1899
Partial contents: Formation of Primitive Communities and the Conditions Necessary to Their Existence - Competition Between Primitive Communities and Its Results - Competition Between States in Process of Civilisation - Decline of Destructive Competition

The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Society" as of 3 Dec 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.