America: Land of the Semi-Kinda Free

America: Land of the Semi-Kinda Free

"What is the best method of governing a nation?", this is the age old question. Why is this the question, and  not the further question, "do people need to be governed at all?" Two philosophers stand out when we seek our answer, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Any true evaluation must seek evidence from not only those who support their thesis, but also those who oppose it. If you cannot justify your point in the face of evidence opposing it, then your point will hold no merit and gain no support; Hobbes and Locke stand on contending sides on this issue stemming from their viewpoints on the state of nature and the natural condition of mankind. In order to make an educated theory, I must assess where these men agree, disagree, and why. 

All men, in a state of nature, are born of equal ability. They are reasonably of equal strength and intellect; it is how they choose to advance these traits that will distinguish them in their future endeavors. This is one of the only theories that these two wholly agree on, and it is one of the most important because both have built their ideals of the condition of mankind on this fact. 

Hobbes would argue that since men are equal, they will always be naturally distrustful and ununified due to the constant existence of an equal force able to take what they possess. He argues that man is "brutish" and "nasty", and that in this state the mild-mannered man would never be allowed to flourish because he would be constantly extinguished by those seeking to further their own power. Due to the fear of overtaking man would never try to further himself to the envy of others, and the world would have never been able to industrialize. He makes an attempt to support his ideals with the notion that people do not have the principles of just and unjust hardwired into their brains, but will only see things as such if a governing force creates laws to tell them what is what. Under Hobbes' state of nature man would not be communal and would constantly live in a state of war. 

Locke decided to take a different direction, on the other hand. rather than men being in a constant state of war, man in his state of nature would be in a state of pure freedom. He argues that there exists an inherent law that need no governing force to create it. The law of nature states that because men are all equal, no one should hurt or steal from another; it states that we are all one community, working towards the common goal of life and prosperity (in more ways than monetary). He put forth the option that the state of war is separate from the state of nature fore once one breaks the law of nature and makes an attempt against another, he exits the state of nature and enters the state of war. When the two sides of the disagreement have settled and retribution has been had, they will enter back into the state of nature. So what is to stop one man from taking from another? Locke proposed the idea of self-preservation, and the preservation of all mankind. In this world, property is gained when one applies their labor to something to change it from its natural state. Any acts of offense against the law of nature may be retaliated in full by the victim, so it would be unwise to attack another in fear of losing what they already possess in retribution. Something difficult to comprehend in our world, but that was quite present in those of primitive societies is that property can only be claimed until it is in excess of what you can use. Man was not meant to own more than he needs, and thus anything left to spoil would belong to the community.

Locke was a strong supporter of a communal natural state. He was not ignorant to the fact that people require security in contracts and agreements, but he believed in the innate goodness of human beings. In this version, we see communities with unwritten rules and private contracts between laborers. It is not a lawless nation in the traditional ideal. It is anarchy at its very best. For Locke, the state of nature would only be broken when a group of people came together and agreed upon a governing body for the whole. The people come to this conclusion for the option of convenience. They are placing faith in a governing body to establish laws and uphold them, so that they do not have to. People will adopt money out of greed of wanting excess and wanting to be more powerful than another. 

Although I am a realist, and do frequently, get considered pessimistic, I tend to side with John Locke on this subject. Some would conspire that what I wish for is Anarchy, but, in truth, it is a true Democracy that is my hope. Only with a political philosophy placed on the basis of Locke could we ever even fathom a true Democracy. Our founding fathers, after much deliberation and consideration, elected to consider both theories and create a Democratic Republic. They too decided that man could not be trusted in himself, but I wonder what would have happened had they not. Could the aggression between men be strengthened by the existence of seats of power and authority? Would man have come together amongst themselves to create communities and protection? If we had never adopted a monetary trade system instead of the trade of labor and goods, would we have the class issues we have today? What would have happened had they trusted their people in their good nature?

The American settlers were a unique grouping of people who were able to adapt to a foreign land and beat a full fledged army with a mostly untrained militia. These people had just banded together and shown their faith to one another's survival and safety; never would there have been a better time to form a Democracy than in that moment of unity. Yes, there were still many loyalists to the King, but should their voices have been smothered by the greater majority? If they were truly outnumbered, they would have lost to the majority in a democratic election anyway. Our government has never trusted its populous. It was built on a distrust for its populous. Did we need the government then? Is it possible that we still don't need them today? 

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