Defining Ordered Individualism - Part 2

In Ordered Individualism - Part 1, I defined Ordered Individualism as a theory saying each person in society should be valued and their interests made a priority, similar to individualism.  But at the same time, no person should attempt to live isolated from others or seek to free themselves from traditional human relationships.  We are emotionally healthy when we are both recognized as unique and committed to act for the benefit of others.  Part 2 will look at 3 examples of why that is and how it works itself out practically.  First, let's examine the structure of the family.

Individuals In The Family
Probably the best description of God's design for families is found in Ephesians 5:22-6:4:

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. 28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; 29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

6:1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 Honor your father and mother (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth. 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Notice how well the roles in the family work within Ordered Individualism.  The family is designed to be mutually beneficial to each member.  In order for that to happen, each member's interests must be protected and their roles respected.  You see that in several places.  Husbands are supported through their wives' respect for him, while the purpose of his leadership is to benefit his wife and children.  To lead in a way that harms your family doesn't satisfy God's intention.  For a child's obedience, they receive the promise of a good and long life.  Wives receive love, protection, and provision.  In addition, I would add, to best love his wife and children, a man must understand their uniqueness in minute detail.  A husband must affirm who his wife is specifically: her personality, hopes, dreams, abilities, talents, fears, strengths, and weaknesses.  Then he must accept her for who she is and work to make her life better.  For this to work well every member of the family needs to treat each other in the same way.  This will naturally lead to compromises being made.  The others-directed action will create its own spontaneous order where each person is receiving what they need from each of the others.  That balance should then be adjusted if one person is feeling neglected, disrespected or overburdened with responsibilities.  Nothing is perfect in this world, but in God's design everyone is considered.

Individuals In Civilization 
Ordered Individualism works well for families, but does it make sense with much larger groups where there isn't the same personal connection?  Let's think as big as possible and consider civilization as a whole.  Civilization is the word we use to describe a society which is technologically advanced and relatively peaceful.  To get to that point, human society had to progress through multiple phases.  It started with family groups, then grew into clans and then tribes.  As population continued to increase tribes combined into nations.  The Iroquois nation is one example of that. Now nations from around the world interact with one another in different ways.  Life at the tribal scale concentrated on the needs of the tribe primarily.  In order to provide for its own needs, there was frequent, even constant war with other tribes.  They were seen strictly as competition for land, food, and other resources.

Within the tribe, the needs of the individual members were not considered as important.  The idea was what was good for the tribe was good for everyone within it, regardless of how it actually affected certain members.  That was a major weakness since the mentality kept customs rigid and discouraged innovation of any kind.  What was considered the good of the tribe approximated Rousseau's general will, and was most likely determined by those in power.   A mitigating factor was the fact that decision making in some areas was still decentralized.  Tribes were small in number and there was still a familial identity within them.  In societies like the Commanche's, being a chief depended on your skill as a hunter or warrior and your ability to convince others to follow you on a raid.  That maintained a healthy level of equality within the tribe and rewarded people based on merit.  That was okay as long as the unit stayed small.  As those units grew from tribes to nations, there had to be additional ways to decentralize decision making and allow for individuals to show their merit.  Plus, the rivalry between tribes had to be defused, in order for society to progress from primitive to civilized.  Mises points us again to the fact that the division of labor and broad societal cooperation was the way forward.

The fundamental facts that brought about cooperation, society, and civilization and transformed the animal man into a human being are the facts that work performed under the division of labor is more productive than isolated work and that man's reason is capable of recognizing this truth. But for these facts men would have forever remained deadly foes of one another, irreconcilable rivals in their endeavors to secure a portion of the scarce supply of means of sustenance provided by nature. Each man would have been forced to view all other men as his enemies; his craving for the satisfaction of his own appetites would have brought him into an implacable conflict with all his neighbors. No sympathy could possibly develop under such a state of affairs. 

In a hypothetical world in which the division of labor would not increase productivity, there would not be any society. There would not be any sentiments of benevolence and good will.
Human Action, p. 144

His reasoning is easy to understand.  When individuals concentrate on making one product or performing a special task while working together with everyone else, life is better.  We work and trade together in a mutually beneficial way within families and between families, within nations and between nations.  Then in terms of economics we have more things which bring a more physically enjoyable life.  In order to distribute those things across civilization, people trade with each other.  That is made most efficient with money.  I will have to write a separate article on that later.  However, it is important to recognize that money is a medium of exchange, but nothing more.

Mises makes still more comments about what happens when people are free to pursue their own interests while still interacting within society.

Every step by which an individual substitutes concerted action for isolated action results in an immediate and recognizable improvement in his conditions. The advantages derived from peaceful cooperation and division of labor are universal. They immediately benefit every generation, and not only later descendants. For what the individual must sacrifice for the sake of society he is amply compensated by greater advantages. His sacrifice is only apparent and temporary; he foregoes a smaller gain in order to reap a greater one later. No reasonable being can fail to see this obvious fact. 
Human Action, p. 146

The important thing to realize is that a society where individuals are free to pursue their own interests doesn't lead to chaos or conflict.  Whether people or tribes or nations, the transition from acting in isolation to working together brings peace and prosperity.  War, where one person or group sees others as competitors, is a miserable way to build and maintain economic prosperity.  In fact it is self defeating.  When more war is waged, less things exist that enrich life.  It may be counter intuitive, but when people are free to make their own decisions, and life isn't dictated by Kings and Councils, they are more likely to align their interests with the interests of everyone else.  It happens naturally because it is how God made us to live together.

If and as far as labor under the division of labor is more productive than isolated labor, and if and as far as man is able to realize this fact, human action itself tends toward cooperation and association; man becomes a social being not in sacrificing his own concerns for the sake of a mythical Moloch, society, but in aiming at an improvement in his own welfare. 
Human Action, p. 160

Political leaders speak often about the need for people to sacrifice their interests for the good of the tribe or nation.  According to them, to have a healthy society individuals must give up pursuing their own interests and listen to the expert, the general, the scientist, the chief, or the intellectual who knows how everything must work together.  There is a sliver of truth in this, a person must sacrifice some autonomy and a bit of his own desires in order to operate in society.  Also, there are people we should listen to for guidance since their role in the division of labor is to provide knowledge in specific areas of life.  However, those sacrifices in a society that values the individual will allow people to decide for themselves what sacrifices to take.  The ultimate outcome will be the most efficient satisfaction of the desires of the largest number of people possible.

It should be clear that the proper operation of civilization works much like that of the family.  Individuals must be valued for their unique contributions to society while at the same time band together with others who hold things in common with them.  With that in mind, it is a gross betrayal of civilization and the division of labor for a government to state that some businesses are "essential" and others "unessential".  It is a tyrannical act to shut down "unessential" businesses by force.  It contradicts Ordered Individualism by devaluing some compared to others and fracturing economic interactions which were created because real human beings valued them and received value from working in them.

Individuals In The Church
Last, if Ordered Individualism is really part of God's design for humanity, then it should also apply to the organization He started over two thousand years ago.  I first thought of this theory while reading Human Action and noticing how similar the division of labor was to the description of Spiritual Gifts and their purpose within the Church in 1 Corinthians 12.

1 Corinthians 12:4  Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it."

There are several ideas in this passage I want to highlight.  First, you see the same pattern of variety and commonality.  Paul states that there are various gifts but one Spirit multiple times.  That parallels the division of labor's operation in society.  Second, the specific members have different roles but those roles are there to benefit everyone else in the church.  This is the same in civilization where everyone is working to provide things of value for everyone else.  Third, every role is important.  God made every person.  God gave them all their specific personalities.  God gave all of the spiritual gifts to whomever he wanted.  His close activity shows this.  It is explicitly stated in vv. 22-24.  The key phrases are "the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary" and "those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor."  Everyone is cared for and bonded together.  It should be clear that Ordered Individualism is in effect in the Church.
According to Ordered Individualism every person is essential to society because their specific role and personal gifts are essential.  The archetype can be seen in the proper functioning of the family, the church, and civilization as a whole.  Benefit comes to each individual because they are free to direct their own lives in search of the most enjoyable life they can imagine.  Benefit also comes to each because everyone is directing some part of their lives to making the world a better place for everyone else through love, patience, acceptance, tolerance, forgiveness, truth speaking, education, protection, provision of food, entertainment, shelter, and any other good or service perceivable by the human mind.

I wish politicians around the world in 2020 believed this.  Instead they have given honor to "essential" workers and dishonor to others by calling some jobs "unessential" and shutting them down.  It is folly for political leaders to act as spiritual mediums channeling the mysterious general will of the people during a pandemic.  There is no general will.  There are billions of individuals trying to live the best life they can.  Now many are being harmed by bad philosophy which is not informed by God's or nature's design for humanity.  Because our leaders don't value the individual, the needs of real, normal people are being ignored.  Those who are harmed as a result are being told in effect the bargain they made with society, through choosing where they best fit into the division of labor, has been made void (many for the rest of their life).  Ordered Individualism is a better way forward.


  1. “…a person must sacrifice some autonomy and a bit of his own desires in order to operate in society. …those sacrifices in a society that values the individual will allow people to decide for themselves what sacrifices to take.”

    This is a point lost on those who place individualism or the individual at the top of the pyramid, taking these to an extreme. In order to live with some semblance of peace, we all must conform to some degree with the society around us.

    For this reason, I return to the idea of decentralization in governance and authority structures. This opens up more options, more possibilities. It is more likely we can find a “society” which offers a character that suits us.

  2. It is easy for libertarians or ancaps to miss this point. Much of the talk on the Left is freeing people from any societal obligation or hierarchy of any kind. In their attempt to "free" people they strip away things that make humans happy and healthy if functioning appropriately. They don't believe there is a design or a final cause for humans which is there big mistake. You understand that way more than I do.


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