Adam Ferguson was a Scottish philosopher of the enlightenment period. A contemporary of Adam Smith, he wrote An Essay on the History of Civil Society. In his essay he said: "...nations stumble upon establishments, which are indeed the result of human action, but not the execution of any human design." This key insight helped others, such as F. A. Hayek, develop the concept of an unplanned yet orderly society (spontaneous order). Thus Adam Ferguson is a substantial figure in the natural law line of continuity that runs from the Stoics to recent books such as Bionomics. Ferguson's writings remind us that Civil Society does not require human design, but it does require human understanding lest we disrupt the progressive capabilities that are inherent in the nature of Civil Society. Ferguson also merits our attention for his observations on moral philosophy. He noted, for example, the tendency for those involved in a relatively safe and successful commercial society to pursue matters of self interest (making and spending money) and disregard matters of honor (civic responsibilities).
Regarding the public interest and liberty Ferguson states: "The public interest is often secure, not because individuals are disposed to regard it as the end of their conduct, but because each, in his place, is determined to preserve his own. Liberty is maintained by the continued differences and oppositions of numbers, not by their concurring zeal in behalf of equitable government."
The mission of AFI is to encourage people to read about, think about, and talk about ideas that impact Civil Society. Civil Society is a voluntary association of people organized under law. It is an association composed of or shared by individuals, living and participating in a common community. Mass society, on the other hand, is a mechanistic or bureaucratic organization of people and resources characterized by a lack of communal relationships and a sense of anonymity. Our society today has many of the characteristics of a mass society. Can we change things for the betterment of all? If we can, the first step must certainly be to learn more about the nature of the problem. Our learning must seek truth about Civil Society through reason and knowledge, while attempting to avoid the easier paths of cynicism and fanaticism. Therefore, AFI will take the following steps:
First, we want to make thinking and learning about Civil Society fun and entertaining. Thus, our AFI Mars Hill Cafe will be a place where people can go to get information (audio and video tapes, books, and periodicals), have some coffee, etc., and perhaps engage in stimulating and meaningful conversation or discussion.
Second, we want to provide some structure to this learning process. Our course "On Civil Society," consists of 9 books in several disciplines (history, philosophy, economics). Students can demonstrate their proficiency by passing a true/false exam and subsequently receive the designation Student of Civil Society, Instructor of Civil Society, and Philosopher of Civil Society. Each level involves the study of three books.
Third, we want to sponsor research and publication in the new discipline of "Socionomics". The Tucson Center for Socionomic Research(TCSR) is a division of AFI. This global cyber-center think tank will be dedicated to the study and promotion of Socionomics.
Fourth, we want to help integrate the various efforts to learn and teach about Civil Society. Many organizations, disciplines, and individuals are interrelated. AFI will sponsor workshops, seminars, and other events in order to bring people and their ideas together. We look forward to your participation in these mutually beneficial exchanges of ideas and perspectives.