The seven major societal institutions are family, community, religion, academia, business, media, and government.
The role of the family is to ensure responsible citizens, preserve society, and balance the desires of individual liberty with the demands of community responsibility.
As James Ure has written,
“The family is the bubble in which a child…feels safe enough to explore his individuality. It is also the first place a child learns to make personal sacrifices for the good of the whole.
“In the family, it is natural for a parent to expose a child to various activities or ideas to determine what unique interests the child may have and to give the child an enhanced sense of self. It is also natural for a parent to ask a child to sacrifice personal interests to benefit the family, such as to provide help with cooking or cleaning.
“In the end, this is not very different from what makes free societies tick…It is in the family that children are expected to learn the core values and beliefs that democratic institutions later draw on to perpetuate themselves.”
The original concept of federalism meant that as many decisions as possible were made at the lowest level possible.
As Cleon Skousen taught, strong, local self-government was the keystone to the original American system.
Understanding that power centralizes and expands, the Founders knew that the bulk of our political decisions should be made on the community level.
The role of the community, therefore, is to prevent the centralization of power by keeping responsibility and decision-making close to the people.
John Adams wrote that,
“Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not only of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all government and in all the combinations of human society.”
George Washington affirmed,
“Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure…reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
The role of religion is to remind republican citizens of their duties to and reliance upon God. Virtue is the bedrock of free society, and religion provides a constant reminder of that fact.
Furthermore, religion serves as a venue where citizens serve God by serving their fellowman; philanthropy is enacted in large part through religion.
Academia advances culture through knowledge, helps to prevent socio-economic inequities, breaks through boundaries of human ignorance and fear, helps societies to avoid repeated historical mistakes, and serves as a check on the government by keeping citizens informed of civic affairs.
As John Adams said,
“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people…They have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge — I mean, of the characters and conducts of their rulers.”
The role of business is to provide exchange, commerce, and ultimately widespread prosperity. In a free market economy prices tend to decrease through competition and innovation, the ultimate benefactors being end consumers of products and services.
In a free market economy poverty decreases, the standard of living rises, and people are able to find self-fulfillment as their subsistence needs are met.
In The 5,000 Year Leap, Cleon Skousen wrote that,
“By 1905 the U.S. had become the richest industrial nation in the world. With only five percent of the earth’s continental area and merely six percent of the world’s population, the American people were producing over half of almost everything — clothes, food, houses, transportation, communications, even luxuries.”
The occurred because of our free market economy, where business was left free to fulfill its role.
The role of the media is to disseminate information, highlight important current events, and to essentially stand as a witness, an observer of cultural, political, community, and educational events.
A healthy media provides a check on the government and increases the political astuteness of republican citizens.
The role of government is to protect unalienable rights. Government is the institutionalization of force, and as such should not do anything that would not be right for an individual to do (such as steal).
As Thomas Jefferson said,
“…a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”
Why It Matters
Freedom occurs when all seven of these societal institutions are on an equal plane, with no one form being more important or having more power or influence than another. When one gains predominance, some form or level of tyranny always emerges.
For example, having family run society results in the mafia. The Dark Ages illustrate the problems of religion ruling. When business is predominant, the society is oligarchic. When the government is predominant, this usually occurs as a monarchy or aristocracy.
The best way to ensure that all seven institutions remain on a level plane is to keep the government within its proper role.
Since the government does not produce — it only takes what others have produced and redistributes — any time it favors one institution over another it does so to the aggrandizement of the one favored and the detriment of the other.
When government tries to get into the business of philanthropy through wealth redistribution, family, community, and religion are weakened.
When government stifles the press, the media is obviously weakened, and so is academia as citizens are kept in the dark on important matters.
In America today, government and business are predominant over the other five societal institutions. Furthermore, they are often joined together, forming an oligarchic structure that harms small business, decreases widespread prosperity and increases discrepancies in wealth distribution, and increases the size and scope of the government.
If America is to survive and thrive in the 21st Century, it is imperative that the power and influence of the government and business be reduced and the power of family, community, religion, academia, and media be increased.