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A friendship is a relationship between companions, usually based on shared interests, mutual liking, and so on. Many romantic relationships contain an element of friendship in addition to the erotic component; Ludwig von Mises writes of the passion of married couples fading and developing into a friendly affection. He also notes that friendship tends to be based on mutual self-interest:[1]

Within the frame of social cooperation there can emerge between members of society feelings of sympathy and friendship and a sense of belonging together. These feelings are the source of man's most delightful and most sublime experiences. They are the most precious adornment of life; they lift the animal species man to the heights of a really human existence. However, they are not, as some have asserted, the agents that have brought about social relationships. They are fruits of social cooperation, they thrive only within its frame; they did not precede the establishment of social relations and are not the seed from which they spring.

Murray Rothbard reports that John Maynard Keynes and Lytton Strachey's group, the Society of the Apostles, two basic attitudes were overriding belief in the importance of personal love and friendship, while scorning any general rules or principles that might limit their own egos; and animosity toward and contempt for middle-class values and morality.[2] The Encyclopedia of World Biography notes that "'friendship' meant, for Strachey, homosexual love."[3]

"Friendship," like "love," is a vague concept, subject to many differing interpretations. As with love, many people have been disappointed by friendship's not providing what they sought after. A distinction is sometimes made between "fair-weather" and "foul-weather" friends.[4] The preface to Cato's Letters discusses the perceived obligations of friendship at length:[5]

Who were the authors of these letters, is now, I believe, pretty well known. It is with the utmost sorrow I say, that one of them is lately dead, and his death is a loss to mankind. To me it is by far the greatest and most shocking that I ever knew; as he was the best friend that I ever had; I may say the first friend. I found great credit and advantage in his friendship, and shall value myself upon it as long as I live. From the moment he knew me, ’till the moment he died, every part of his behaviour to me was a proof of his affection for me. From a perfect stranger to him, and without any other recommendation than a casual coffee-house acquaintance, and his own good opinion, he took me into his favour and care, and into as high a degree of intimacy as ever was shewn by one man to another. This was the more remarkable, and did me the greater honour, for that he was naturally as shy in making friendships, as he was eminently constant to those which he had already made. His shyness this way was founded upon wise and virtuous considerations. He knew that in a number of friendships, some would prove superficial, some deceitful, some would be neglected; and he never professed a friendship without a sincere intention to be a friend; which he was satisfied a private man could not be to many at once, in cases of exigency and trial. Besides, he had found much baseness from false friends, who, for his best offices, made him vile returns. He considered mutual friends as under mutual obligations, and he would contract no obligation which he was not in earnest to discharge.

This was agreeable to the great sincerity of his soul, which would suffer him to mislead no man into hopes and expectations without grounds. He would let no body depend upon him in vain. The contrary conduct he thought had great cruelty in it, as it was founding confidence upon deceit, and abusing the good faith of those who trusted in us: Hence hypocrisy on one side, as soon as it was discovered, begot hatred on the other, and false friendship ended in sincere enmity: A violence was done to a tender point of morality, and the reputation of him who did it lost and exposed amongst those who thought that he had the most.

He was indeed so tender and exact in his dealings with all sorts of men, that he used to lay his meaning and purposes minutely before them, and scorned to gain any advantage from their mistaking his intentions. He told them what he would and would not do on his part, and what he expected on theirs, with the utmost accuracy and openness. They at least knew the worst; and the only latitude which he reserved to himself was, to be better than his word; but he would let no man hope for what he did not mean. He thought that he never could be too plain with those whom he had to do with; and as men are apt to construe things most in their own favour, he used to foresee and obviate those their partial constructions, and to fix every thing upon full and express terms. He abhorred the misleading of men by artful and equivocal words; and because people are ready to put meanings upon a man’s countenance and demeanor, his sincerity extended even to his carriage and manner; and though he was very civil to every body, he ordered it so, that the forms of his civility appeared to mean no more than forms, and could not be mistaken for marks of affection, where he had none: And it is very true, that a man's behaviour may, without one word said, make professions and promises, and he may play the knave by a kind look.


  1. Mises, Ludwig von. "Human Cooperation". Human Action. 
  2. Rothbard, Murray. Keynes, the Man. 
  3. "Encyclopedia of World Biography on Giles Lytton Strachey". 
  4. Brown, David M. (30 October 2012). "Price Gouging Saves Lives in a Hurricane". "On October 27, as East Coast residents prepared for Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie threatened "price gougers" with stiff penalties. As David Brown pointed out in Mises Daily on August 17, 2004, shortly after Hurricane Charley hit Florida, foul weather is when we need market prices the most. Capitalism needs more foul-weather friends, not fair-weather friends like Christie." 
  5. Gordon, Thomas. "Preface". Cato's Letters.