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The Natural Order of Society
In order to define and delimit the function of government, it is first necessary to investigate the essence and object of society itself. What natural impulse do men obey when they combine into society? They are obeying the impulse, or, to speak more exactly, the instinct of sociability. The human race is essentially sociable. Like beavers and the higher animal species in general, men have an instinctive inclination to live in society.
Why did this instinct come into being?
Man experiences a multitude of needs, on whose satisfaction his happiness depends, and whose non-satisfaction entails suffering. Alone and isolated, he could only provide in an incomplete, insufficient manner for these incessant needs. The instinct of sociability brings him 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 object of society is therefore the most complete satisfaction of man’s needs. The division of labor and exchange are the means by which this is accomplished.
Among the needs of man, there is one particular type which plays an immense role in the history of humanity, namely the need for security.
What is this need?
It is in one’s self-interest to procure security at the lowest price possible.
Whether they live in isolation or in society, men are, above all, interested in preserving their existence and the fruits of their labor. If the sense of justice were universally prevalent on earth; if, consequently, each man confined himself to laboring and exchanging the fruits of his labor, without wishing to take away, by violence or fraud, the fruits of other men’s labor; if everyone had, in one word, an instinctive horror of any act harmful to another person, it is certain that security would exist naturally on earth, and that no artificial institution would be necessary to establish it. Unfortunately this is not the way things are. The sense of justice seems to be the perquisite of only a few eminent and exceptional temperaments. Among the inferior races, it exists only in a rudimentary state. Hence the innumerable criminal attempts, ever since the beginning of the world, since the days of Cain and Abel, against the lives and property of individuals.
Hence also the creation of establishments whose object is to guarantee to everyone the peaceful possession of his person and his goods.
These establishments were called governments.
Everywhere, even among the least enlightened tribes, one encounters a government, so universal and urgent is the need for security provided by government.
Everywhere, men resign themselves to the most extreme sacrifices rather than do without government and hence security, without realizing that in so doing, they misjudge their alternatives.
Suppose that a man found his person and his means of survival incessantly menaced; wouldn’t his first and constant preoccupation be to protect himself from the dangers that surround him? This preoccupation, these efforts, this labor, would necessarily absorb the greater portion of his time, as well as the most energetic and active faculties of his intelligence. In consequence, he could only devote insufficient and uncertain efforts, and his divided attention, to the satisfaction of his other needs.
Even though this man might be asked to surrender a very considerable portion of his time and of his labor to someone who takes it upon himself to guarantee the peaceful possession of his person and his goods, wouldn’t it be to his advantage to conclude this bargain?
Still, it would obviously be no less in his self-interest to procure his security at the lowest price possible.