society and government

Full-Length Friday Liberty Quotation: Thomas Paine on the Real Source of Social Order

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Thomas Paine“A great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government.  It had its origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man.  It existed prior to government, and would exist if the formality of government was abolished.  The mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has upon man, and all parts of a civilized community upon each other, create that great chain of connection which holds it together.  The landholder, the farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant, the tradesman, and every occupation, prospers by the aid which each receives from the other, and from the whole.  Common interest regulates their concerns, and forms their laws; and the laws which common usage ordains, have a greater influence than the laws of government.  In fine, society performs for itself almost every thing which is ascribed to government.”

Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man [1792]

 

Full-Length Friday Liberty Quotation: Thomas Paine on the Distinction Between Society and Government

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Thomas Paine“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.

“Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer!  Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise.  For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform, and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of this property to furnish the means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him out of two evils to choose the least.  Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.”

Thomas Paine, Common Sense [1776]