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There are many reasons as to why we need government, such as it creates rules that are necessary and/or desirable, responsibilities to the economy, public service and to provide social programmes to its citizens, and many more. However, this essay will focus on why we need the government, by discussing the term “State of Nature”, and discussing thinkers behind this term, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. This essay will discuss their ideologies of the necessary and the unnecessary needs of government. Also, the characteristics of state and whether they rule the world that we live in.
State of Nature is a useful term in explaining why we need government as its definition is “the real or hypothetical condition of human beings before or without political association”. If we were to look at recent times with the Coronavirus pandemic, it has shown the need for government. As the government has shown its power in determine what has been best for its country, e.g. by introducing a national lockdown. Other extraordinary global events such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and the Ebola Outbreak of 2013/14. Events such as these show how politics and government are essential, and show that we are better off living in a political society than not. To some politics is like a piece of paper that was written on centuries ago with rules and laws. However, human progress, potential and happiness are all from a political society. Modern day State of Nature would include Syria and aborigines in Australia, from a western perspective we have no War Gods etc, however in tribal places this could be a sense of Eastern Politics. Stating that each country has its own State of Nature.
Thomas Hobbes “believed that all phenomena in the universe, without exception, can be explained in terms of the motions and interactions of material bodies.” Instead, he saw human beings as “essentially machines”, with even their “thoughts and emotions operating according to physical laws and chains of cause and effect, action and reaction.”
“No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” – Hobbes
Hobbes uses definitions as bases for explaining a change of sensations and actions. In the state of nature, when the only feeling of good and evil gathers from individuals’ “appetites and desires”, general rules about whether actions are good or evil do not exist. Hobbes believes that moral judgments about good and evil cannot survive until they are ruling by a society’s central authority. This position leads directly to Hobbes’s belief in an ‘autocratic’ and ‘absolutist’ form of government. Hobbes recommended that monarchy is the best form of government and the only one that can secure peace. In some of his early works, he only says that there must be a supreme sovereign power of some kind in society, without stating definitively which sort of sovereign power is best. In Leviathan, however, Hobbes directly argues that absolutist monarchy is the only right form of government. In general, Hobbes seeks to define the rational bases upon which a civil society could be constructed that would not be subject to destruction from within. So much of what Hobbes had to say about law was said also by other absolutists and by such influential thinkers as Suarez and Grotius. There were important points in which he split from the ideas and views of these writers. Some held that natural law considered moral absolutes which had to give way to even against the command of the sovereign, while Hobbes argued that this was not so, for ‘the principle’ law of nature was ‘that we should not violate our faith, that is, a commandment to obey our civil sovereigns, which we constituted over us, by mutual pact with one another’. Here Hobbes is encouraging people to oppose their leaders, Hobbes was in the idea that God put all leaders (Kings) where they were needed to be, introducing Social Contract Theory (SCT). Mixed SCT and obedience tried to make people think how leaders could come about without God, which resulted in the making of governments. This theory had an understandable argument; however, it is not realistic nor desirable.
On the other hand, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau has similar ideas and theories. Both were optimistic and idealistic, and both believed that the main purpose of state was to look after individuals and anything that belonged to individuals, so government should be based by a collective will by society and not by sovereign power.
“Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains” – Rousseau
Locke came across his revolutionary and opposing of Charles II, ‘Devine Right of Kings’, as he found that basically no one could be independent. Both Locke and Rousseau expect good government to regulate our actions, those who are governed are the real source of political power, and that governments are there to attribute discussions. Locke’s findings were that ‘Natural Law’ is not scientific laws governing physical process, but to normative laws. To disclose Locke’s idea of Natural Law it is suitable to divide two aspects it has. The ‘formal’ aspect and the particular structure and content Locke thought the law of nature had. In this regard, Locke’s conceptions vary from that of other natural law theorists of his time. 7 Rousseau’s findings state “Just as any group has a collective will as opposed to the individual private will of its members, so does the government.” Rousseau thinks it almost inevitable that this group will end up usurping the legitimate sovereign power of the people and substituting its corporate will for the people’s general will. Essentially the theories here is that it is an agreement between people and government who both get what they desire and need, basically being a two-way street. Basically, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Characteristics of a State include; population- must have people; territory-must have clearly defined and recognised borders; government- must be recognised from within and by other nation states in the international community; sovereignty- must have supreme power to act within its territory and to control its external affairs; state- political unit within the power to make and enforce laws over a group of people living with a clearly defined territory. As much as these are the characteristics needed for a state, does a state rule the world that we live in? States are mostly concerned with the idea of democracy, and the whole point is to distribute the wealth that is created. However, there are differences between states and nations, as states can fail and nations are essentially a state of mind, culture, and language. America is still one of the most overwhelming rulers, from wealth-power, so perhaps it is the wealthy who have the biggest say to power.
“Force is on the side of the governed” – Noam Chomsky
The public has power from protests, petitions etc, but really there is a degree of apathy and no class consciousness, and as a collective it is the power but not the education. So, government is very much needed in terms of power.
With all that been said is there a theory of State of Nature the most accurate or are they all correct in their own rights? They are all accurate as we all cooperate within our own society. For example, in concentration camps people argue that they wouldn’t be able to do the awful things that take place, but would anyone be able to answer that without living in a political society and state of nature? And the answer is no. Some would argue that currently we need a more authoritative government, so more Hobbes rather than Locke and Rousseau, as Locke’s main idea was to maintain public order, safety and freedom.
In conclusion, government is very much needed as it is important for society and progress, protecting our freedoms, educating everybody, and improving public health. Rights are the foundation of our democracy and capitalist economy. Essentially, governments are a formal mechanism for agreeing upon shared rules, deciding challenges, and engaging in cooperative actions among communities. Whether you agree with Hobbes, Locke or Rousseau’s theory, some form of authority over citizens will always be needed.
“Wherever law ends, tyranny begins” – John Locke
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