Why do some societies thrive while others collapse into meltdown mode? Look around the world and you'll see happy, successful communities, even in relatively poor regions --- and you'll also see violently self-destructive subcultures, even in the wealthiest of nations.
The Big Secret is so hugely obvious that, like air, we tend to overlook it: the vast majority of people simply have to voluntarily go about their daily lives peacefully. That's it.
If most folks, most of the time, can rely on their neighbors not to harrass them ... if most folks pretty much mind their own business, but are willing to lend one another a hand in time of need ... if most folks mostly stay out of trouble (and if the rules defining "trouble" are clear and consistent) --- well then, the rest of life tends to handle itself. On the other hand, if a significant fraction of the individuals in an area decide to make a living out of predatory behavior, hurting other people for "fun", taking stuff that isn't theirs (including, on an international scale, invading and exploiting other countries) ... well then, in rather short order life is going to get nasty for everybody. Either the hoodlums will run riot, or the anti-hoodlums will have to spend a big fraction of their resources keeping the scorpions bottled up.
"Anything that's peaceful!" was a slogan of Leonard Read (1898-1983), a quiet and thoughtful student of liberty. The rôle of government, Read suggested, was simply to keep the peace ...
(see also EducationVersusEduction (30 Apr 1999), AntiLearning (30 Jun 2000), EducationOfTheYouth (1 Dec 2001), InvestInPeace (9 Jul 2002), CenturyHence (1 Sep 2002), PersonalPositivism (16 Nov 2002), ... )