July 2023: Civil Society and Political Economy

Please join us in July 2023 for a Virtual Reading Group with Anthony Gill


We appreciate your interest in this virtual reading group. Unfortunately, this VRG is full and we are no longer accepting registrations. We invite you to check out our upcoming events here. We hope to see you at a future VRG!



Debates surrounding public policy often bifurcate the world into private markets and government. When social and/or economic problems arise, pundits are quick to propose government solutions to so-called failures of private entrepreneurs. However, the quick rush to government solutions overlooks the vital role that civil society plays in creating an institutional environment that serves to alleviate many of these so-called market failures. This is surprising considering the rich history within mainline political economy that considers civil society an essential component to well-functioning nations. Indeed, civil society provides a vital buffer between individuals and government, augmenting the ability of markets to perform effectively and holding the tyranny of government at bay. Our discussion explores the writings of Alexis de Tocqueville, Adam Smith, Bernard Mandeville, Edward Shils, and James Buchanan with an eye to understanding how voluntary cooperative action on the part of free citizens supports the common good and promotes human flourishing.

Session I: Tuesday, July 25, 2023, 3:00-4:00 pm EDT, Smith and Tocqueville

Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Section II: "Of the Character of the Individual, so far as it can affect the Happiness of other People"

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America. English Edition. Vol. 2., Chapter 4, 5, and 7

Session II: Tuesday, August 1, 2023, 3:00-4:00 pm EDT, Mandeville on Charity Schools

Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees or Private Vices, Publick Benefits, Vol. 1, “An Essay on Charity and Charity Schools

Session III: Tuesday, August 8, 2023, 3:00-4:00 pm EDT, Shils and Buchanan

Edward Shils, The Virtue of Civility: Selected Essays on Liberalism, Tradition, and Civil Society, "Civility and Civil Society: Good Manners between Persons and Concern for the Common Good in Public Affairs"

James Buchanan, The Collected Works of James M. Buchanan, Volume 17: Moral Science and Moral Order, Part III: "Moral Community and Moral Order"