Presentation on theme: " Maintaining order is the oldest objective of government. In our study maintaining order means establishing the rule of law to preserve life and to."— Presentation transcript:
Maintaining order is the oldest objective of government. In our study maintaining order means establishing the rule of law to preserve life and to protect property.
To the seventeenth-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), preserving life was the most important function of government. In his classic philosophical treatise, Leviathan (1651), Hobbes described life without government as life in a “state of nature.”
Without rules, people would live as predators do, stealing and killing for their personal benefit. With no governmental authority to settle disputes between individuals, each person acted as a sovereign --an authority that answers to no one but itself. Because every individual in the state of nature was autonomous and because food and other items people wanted were scarce, life in the state of nature would be characterized by an incessant war of "every man against every man.”
In Hobbes’s classic phrases, life in a state of nature would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
It was the violence and uncertainty of life in the state of nature that motivated people to form governments. Because life was so bad in the state of nature, the desire for peace and stability would become so profound that the people would seek out a "sovereign" or ruler to whom they could transfer or give their own sovereignty. In return, the sovereign would provide the peace and stability the people wanted.
So long as they abided by the laws the sovereign established, the people would then be free to pursue happiness without constantly fearing for their lives and property. He believed that a single ruler, or sovereign, must possess unquestioned authority to guarantee the safety of the weak to protect them from attacks of the strong.
At the time when government was formed, Hobbes maintained that the people gave up their sovereignty absolutely and permanently. He believed that complete obedience to the sovereign’s strict laws was a small price to pay for the security of living in a civil society.
Hobbes further argued that because the transfer of sovereignty was permanent, the right to revolt against the sovereign was nonexistent. In fact, any attempt to reform a government through disobedience (revolution) would be an injustice that would produce more harm than good. Better to suffer the excesses of an unjust king than to overthrow him and be left with anarchy.
By claiming that individuals in the state of nature were the original source of sovereignty, and not God or kings, Hobbes created a doctrine on which others base compelling arguments for natural rights, popular government and revolution
Other theorists like Locke taking survival for granted, believed that government protected order by preserving private property (goods and land owned by individuals.)
Locke declared that Hobbes' description of life before government was only half right. While the state of nature might be a state of war, Locke argued that it could just as easily be characterized by "peace, goodwill, mutual assistance and preservation.”
While agreeing with Hobbes that individuals in the state of nature would naturally and rationally come together to form a government, Locke argued that the contract people entered into with each other and the leaders of their new government was not permanent because the people did not unconditionally surrender their sovereignty to their leaders.
In Locke's view, when the people agreed to become subject to governmental authority, not only did they expect their government to provide stability and order, but they also expected it to protect their rights and liberties. The purpose of government, then, was to provide enough protection of life, liberty and property that individuals could enjoy them.
Rather, Locke argued, individuals would grant authority to a government so long as it provided for the common good--protection from the dangers of the state of nature. Locke argued that because the people were the source of government's power in the first instance, the people remained the source of governmental power even after it was established. The notion of popular sovereignty, that power was vested in the people, was lent greater intellectual credibility.
Second, if the people were the source of the government's authority, it followed that the government was accountable to the people. Consequently, political leaders were just as obligated to obey the laws of society as the people were.
More importantly, Locke argued that the government could only legitimately exercise its authority so long as it protected the inalienable individual rights of the people. If government ever acted "contrary to their trust," the people were justified in taking action against it.
In Two Treatises on Government (1690), he wrote that the protection of life, liberty, and property was the basic objective of government. His thinking strongly influenced the Declaration Of Independence, which identifies “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” as “unalienable Rights” of citizens under government.