There is an old addage that goes: “'Society' is everyone but yourself.”
As simplistic as this may sound, a moment's reflection reveals it to be true. When people think of or use the term “society,” their frame of reference generally encompasses everyone but themselves. And this is true for every member of society, rendering the paradox that “society” must be everyone and yet no one at the same time.
One exception to this rule is when the person using the term has brought certain other individuals outside of that frame of reference for purposes specific to a particular topic; e.g., to say that “society” is responsible for the actions of a certain individual or group. For instance, they might place the responsibility for a criminal's behavior on “society.” In this case, they are almost certainly still excluding themselves from the frame of reference (lest they be volunteering themselves to take responsibility for the behavior of criminals), but they are also intentionally yet temporarily bringing specific others outside of the frame of reference for that one particular instance.
But let's step back a moment and consider what this implies.
If the frame of reference for “society” encompasses everyone but one's self, and this is true for every member of society, then what does it really mean when someone blames “society” for particular ills, such as the behavior of a criminal? Are we to take from this statement, that this person believes that the blame for crime falls on everyone else except for criminals?
When thought of in this light, the use of the collective noun “society” as a conscious, personified entity is shown to be a logical absurdity, and rightly so.
There is no real, tangible entity called “society.” Just as there is no such thing as “a forest,” only trees; there is no such entity as “society,” only people — individual entities interacting with each other. Just as you cannot pin up a poster on a forest, you cannot pin responsibilities or traits on society; only on individuals.
The reason this is relevant is because the fallacious concept of an entity called Society has become embedded in our culture, and it is this fallacy which has opened the door for socialism and tyranny in a republic that was founded upon the principles of individualism.
The Society Fallacy is, in fact, the foundational core of all collectivist doctrine, and it is collectivist dogma that perpetuates all tyranny; whether it be in the form of “communism,” “socialism,” or “fascism,” it is the root ideology of collectivism that sits at it's core. The one constant in all of these manifestations of collectivism is that the group is held to be superior to the individual, and thus individual rights may be violated with impunity for the alleged benefit of the group, or “society.”. The only difference among them is the dogmatic characterization of the group; what is the nature of the contrived, mythical Society Entity that is upheld in the particular variant of collectivism? In the traditional socialist and communist dogma, the mythical Society Entity is the egalitarian defender of the “common man,” or the “working man.” In this case, the socialist state exacts its tyranny over its subjects in the name of the “common good,” sacrificing the rights of individuals for the Utopian ideal of “social justice” as defined by income equality and “public ownership” of property. In the fascist (aka National Socialist) dogma, the mythical Society Entity is still proletariat in nature, except the focus is centered not on egalitarianism but on belligerent nationalism and militarism. In this case, the fascist state exacts its tyranny over its subjects in the name of “national greatness” and “national security.”
In either case, the entity called “society” is held up as not only having mythical traits and characteristics, but also as having rights that supercede the rights of individuals, at all times and in all cases. This way, the state may presume to impose on the rights and the exercise of free will by the individual, using the alleged rights of “society” as justification. For instance, governments pass laws that command individuals to obtain a draft card, effectively submitting their person and their liberty to the state's war machine should the state ever commit its subjects to such a large and drawn-out war as neccesitates conscription; because the people owe it to society, of course. Or the state may draft compulsory attendance laws for its youth indoctrination camps it calls “public schooling.” Parents are not allowed any choice in the matter; because, of course, this is what society demands.
But now let's return to the nature of the central fallacy; the mythical entity called Society. It's clear that governments rely, in the instances where the rights and free will of individuals are violated, on the presumed authority they have been given by “society.” But there is no such entity! There are only the individual people who make up the whole; when the individual units are taken out, the whole disappears! In reality, society are people, and that means you and I. So in order for the state to have acquired authority to engage in any particular act, it must first acquire the authority to do so from the individuals within it's jurisdiction, such as you and I. But the timeless truth which has been buried beneath decades upon decades of habit and custom, is that individuals cannot possibly delegate any authority to a government that they themselves do not possess.
The important thing to remember here is that all government is force. Government acts by laws and mandates, which must have the sanction of force to back them up. This begs the question: What is the proper sphere of force as wielded under the auspices of the Law?
To answer this we must ascertain what it is that gives the Law its rightful domain.
Every individual is born with intrinsic, natural rights. These rights precede all governments and human legislation; they exist for the simple reason that our lives have value, as we each have only one to live. If our lives are valuable, then we as individuals have a natural right to defend it, as well as to defend that part of nature which we have rightfully assumed as our own through the use of our faculties. This is the origin of self-ownership and property rights; the two inalienable natural rights we possess as humans. And since we have the right to use force only in defense of our natural rights, then we also have the right to combine our individual right of defense, to provide for the common defense of life, liberty, and property. This is the origin of Law. But the sphere of Law — the collective force for the common defense — cannot rightfully exceed the sphere of the individual forces which comprise it; for once its reach goes beyond its proper sphere of rightful defense, it can only violate all that it touches. The force of the Law, when used for any other purpose beyond the rightful common defense of life, liberty, and property, at that instant becomes an instrument of tyranny and plunder.
It is this principle of natural (or God-given) rights, and its corollary of rightful defense, that was enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, and later in the Constitution. The men who signed the Declaration of Independence believed these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. And that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. They even believed that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.
So if government only receives its just powers from the consent of the people, and the people can only delegate those powers of rightful defense that they themselves possess, then it stands that the state cannot rightfully appropriate the force of Law for any purpose beyond that of the common defense of life, liberty, and property of individuals.
Governments may not lawfully presume to exercise arbitrary powers as allegedly delegated to them by “society,” because there is no such entity called Society that has rights or powers beyond that of individuals. Individual rights may never be lawfully violated for any reason whatsoever — not for the “common good,” not for “national greatness,” not even for alleged “national security.” If the rights of individuals are violated by the state, then the law has been transformed from an instrument of equal justice to an instrument of tyranny and plunder, and no one in the nation is “secure.” If an individual's property is coercively expropriated by the state and given to another individual, there is no benefit for the “common good.” All this does is benefit some at the expense of others; nothing more.
In truth, the only possible way for government to provide for the common defense and the general welfare, is to administer equal justice by protecting the natural rights of all individuals.
For it is only the individual which may delegate authority to the government, and he may only delegate that authority which he has been given by nature; the right to defend his person, his property, and his freedom. There is no mythical entity called Society which can grant powers to the state beyond that which it is rightfully granted by individuals. Society are people, and people is us.Tweet