Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on May 5, 2014

in Civil Society, Complexity & Emergence, Hubris and humility, Law

… is from Chapter One – “Of Society and Civilization” – of Thomas Paine’s 1791 tract, The Rights of Man; this essay appears also in David Boaz’s invaluable 1997 collection, The Libertarian Reader:

If we consider what the principles are that first condense men into society, and what are the motives that regulate their mutual intercourse afterwards, we shall find, by the time we arrive at what is called government, that nearly the whole of the business is performed by the natural operation of the parts upon each other.

Man, with respect to all those matters, is more a creature of consistency than he is aware, or than governments would wish him to believe.  All the great laws of society are laws of nature.  Those of trade and commerce, whether with respect to the intercourse of individuals or of nations, are laws of mutual and reciprocal interest.  They are followed and obeyed, because it is the interest of the parties so to do, and not on account of any formal laws their governments may impose or interpose.

But how often is the natural propensity to society disturbed or destroyed by the operations of government!  When the latter, instead of being ingrafted on the principles of the former, assumes to exist for itself, and acts by partialities of favour and oppression, it becomes the cause of the mischiefs it ought to prevent.

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