The history of mankind is to a large part a history of a delicate balancing act between the needs of the society and the needs of individuals. Both need to be addressed to some degree. However, striking the right balance is a extremely difficult thing.
Nobody really knows where the sweet spot is. Moreover its location will change constantly when societies, technology and human needs and most of all ideas about these needs do change. Strengthening the other inevitably weakens the other. A society cannot survive without healthy individuals. On the other hand individuals cannot flourish without a healthy society.
However, it seems that in economically strong societies there is a chance to offer more liberty of choice for individuals and in economically less successful societies these liberties are easily curtailed. On the other hand, it seems that the more elbow room individuals do have in a society, the healthier the economics in a society seem to be.
This is a classical egg and hen -dilemma. Will liberty breed economic success or will economic success give more room for individual liberty to evolve? Of course, it just might be that they do together help to create a rising spiral. It will create economically more robust and most of all more innovative societies.
Innovation just might be the key here. Creating an atmosphere (or at least an illusion) of liberty will help people to innovate in all possible ways. In closed society-centered societies innovation seem to be at a much lower level than in more individual-oriented societies.
There really are people who dream of a world without societies. However, it would be a fine place just for the strong, the well connected, the intelligent, the wealthy and the beautiful. Life would be all too often be nasty, brutish and short for the weak, the stupid, the lone, the poor and the ugly.
Admittedly the idea of a modern state was basically born out just a few thousand years ago form mafia-like outfits which did extort protection money to pay for the easy living of the upper class. However, things do evolve. The predatory nature of the state is a memory of the past. States have done a complete makeover, that were initiated by ideas coming from things like humanism, socialism and even feminism.
On the other hand the complexity of our societies evolved first tenfold, then hundredfold and then some more. We need to have some kind of regulatory arm to watch over all this new activity that has grown ten- and hundredfold from the past.
All too many people live in a world without past or future, They have only "now" and they often have real difficulty in grasping the possibility of drastic change and how things do not just exist. However, they have often evolved dramatically in the past and will keep evolving in the future.
A classic case in point is just the idea of society and state. Even in the time of Thomas Paine or John Stuart Mill a state was there to keep order and to keep other societies away to keep the all tax revenues for the rulers of one's own state. Society was a still thing that was basically mostly needed to keep the poor and outside predators at bay.
However, after their time things have changed dramatically. First the grand ideas embedded in humanism took over the western world with such a violent force that even the age-old and generally accepted institution of slavery was demolished. Even the Christian churches had to change their views over it 180 degrees because the zeitgeist or the spirit of the times just had evolved to demand it.
Then came the idea of socialism, that at first just challenged the existing order. Even that threat was eventually enough to make many rich people realize that to save their privileges in the long run they need to share some of their income with others to curb the lure of socialism.
Then came the western version of democratic socialism. It did change the whole structure of politics and most of all did change the zeitgeist in a similar way that humanism had done a century earlier. As slaves were freed in the earlier case, now was the turn of the industrial workers to gain their fairer share.
After these two immense but extremely slow and even hard to spot revolutions in prevailing zeitgeist, the idea of state had been already completely transformed. It was not only a guardian of privilege and a bulwark of the rich against the poor anymore. It was now an arbitrator of interests of both, that was also used as a tool to create evener distribution of wealth.
This development of course kick-started the modern rise in living-standards. More even distribution of wealth did create the mass-market that new capitalism needed to flourish. Now, Thomas Paine or John Stuart Mill were not speaking of the kind of society that we have now, when they did speak about the need to curb the influence and power of society. One should btw. also remember that Thomas Paine was a friend of the poor and he did propose a land tax to be paid by the rich land-owners to the poor.
The conflict of interest between individuals and the state is still the same as it was three thousand years ago. It is as difficult as then to find a level where both the rights of the individual would be secured. However, also the state can now function effectively to protect the individuals from the ill effects of all kinds of bad decisions that are made by other individuals in the society.
The sad fact of life is that many us will remain weak, stupid, ugly and lone whatever we will we do by ourselves. All people just don't share same capabilities. It is a fact of life that most libertarians just like to forget. They want to think that everybody can make out of their life whatever they want, which is simply a dirty lie.
A beautiful person who is born into a wealthy family just does have a million times better chances than a ugly person who is born into a poor family. This is true without this person doing anything extraordinary by him- or herself; it is about a simple accident of birth.
This fact does not change from the idea that it sometimes really possible to rise from poverty. It is possible, yes, but one needs extraordinary capabilities to it, which just are not so common that some libertarian do think. To be able to rise from poverty one just need be so much more capable as a person than those who just try to keep their inherited riches. Most people just do not have these capabilities and this is the reason why society needs to support them.
It just might be that the wealthy, the beautiful and intelligent just do not need as much attention and support from the society as the poor, the ugly and the stupid.