The Bases for a Free Society

“Precepts for living together are not going to be handed down from on high. Men must use their own intelligence in imposing order on chaos, intelligence not in scientific problem-solving but in the more difficult sense of finding and maintaining agreement among themselves. Anarchy is ideal for ideal men; passionate men must be reasonable. Like so many men have done before me, I examine the bases for a society of men and women who want to be free but who recognize the inherent limits that social interdependence places on them.”[1]

Buchanan’s point is that there is no authority other than us humans and that there’s a tradeoff. Social interdependence cannot be avoided because we necessarily have to cooperate with other humans if we wish to enjoy the gains from trade and the division of labor that it entails. For that we have to arrive at some set of rules that we all agree to abide by through some process of negotiation. These rules will limit our own freedom of action but in exchange for that we will gain greater scope to exercise the freedoms and rights that we do retain. Continue reading