Sunday, July 25, 2010

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679 ) from Leviathan (1651)

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)Image via Wikipedia

Thomas Hobbes explains the reasons for nations, governments, and war, and even police departments (which did not show up for another two hundred years) in Leviathan, Part I: Of Man. Chapter 13: Of the Natural Condition of Mankind, as concerning their Felicity, and Misery, pp. 73-74. You can read it in full in Google books, in his own language and spelling. (It's not hard, but it's not a beach read, either.) It won't cut and paste, worse luck. I am going to type parts of it in modernized form.

It is so relevant.
In the nature of man, we find three principal causes of quarrel. First, competition: secondly, diffidence: thirdly, glory. 
The first, maketh men invade for gain: the second, for safety: and the third, for reputation. The first use violence, to make themselves masters of other men's persons, wives, chilcren, and cattle; the second, to defend them; the third, for trifles, as a word, a smile, a different opinion, and any other sign of undervalue, either direct in their persons, or by reflection in their kindred, their friends, their nation, their profession, or their name.
WARRE
In the next paragraph, Hobbes notes that WAR is a period of both violence and potential violence. One can live in a state of war even when they are not being robbed, invaded, killed, or beaten--if they know it could happen any minute. His example is weather. It doesn't have to be raining twenty-four hours to be a rainy day. It's a matter of environment, and what one must do to survive it (carry an umbrella, go out only in armed company, stay under the awning or inside the fort. THEN he writes (I have divided the paragraph):
Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of war, where every man is enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security than what their own strength and their own invention shall furnish them withal. 
Anarchy
This is Hobbes' famous "war of all against all" or anarchy. It is Road Warrior the movie (no old people or young ones, only predators and prey), only ten times worse; infighting and genocide between the Serbs and Croats and why gangs spring up in part. A strong man with good luck can live long enough to do--what? Steal and sneak and kill to gain what's needed in life, or to keep the bone he's got.
In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no culture of earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving, and removing, such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; 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.
Government
Hobbes goes on to say that Kings (read: warlords, band Chieftains, or hey, our own government)  have these same qualities: a military for gain, or for defense, or stuck in pride and invasive for that reason.  But what a government does is displace this anarchic war of "All against All" to the limits of territory. Thus farmers may "till the soil" and builders may "build cities". Trade may take place under the protection of the state (flagships, caravans, trains, etc). The "movement of large things" might be Treasuries or even a load of lumber, impossible when people are hanging onto every part of it to make it booty or spoils of war.

Safety
It's not that Hobbes didn't lock his door or hide his money. However, once he did that, he could sleep at night, and wake up to study and write his famous work. Band chieftans and kings also held their own territory with domestic troops--if for no other reason than to execute murderers and gather tax money. But without a King or Chieftan or Police Force, in Hobbes words, there is no justice. Nor is their injustice. Because anything goes. Any strong person or lucky person can do whatever they want, and everybody else either has to kill him or suck it up.

Police
Our police force did not give us life, or air, or buy our food. They are the facilitators of our own ability to "know the face of the earth" or at least our part of it; to "plan our time" and expect that the plan will be fulfilled; to enjoy arts, letters, society and contribute to them in our own way..

Right now, many cities are giving up their police forces--contracting city services to the county sheriff as a cost-saving measure. In so doing, they may very well be contributing through economic choice to a more streamlined effort in county-wide protection. They have also given up their first reason to be a government, the only reason they are a government. Therefore, they are not really a government at all.

If you can, read some of Hobbes. The link and pages are above.
Last comment: isn't it funny that Hobbes also links politics to having an economy? I'm telling you, political economy is the way to know government the best. There will be another post on an economist this week.

In the meantime, appreciate your police force! They make it happen for you.
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19 comments:

Bob G. said...

Ann:
I really like the way you went with this.
At first I didn't even expect your post to be going in that direction, as I tend to read lots of philosophical writings and then determine my own course.
Wonderful segue.

A brilliant intermingling of what one philosopher believes and writes about versus the modern law-enforcement venue.

But Hobbes MUST have been telling some smattering of TRUTH, because no matter WHERE he went, he cheesed off his share of folks...LOL.

--I know San Carlos, CA laid off their ENTIRE police force, leaving up to the county sheriff department.
--Oakland laid off 80 officers.
--Total NJ police layoffs to be around 600+!

This is being repeated across the nation, and some loons think that laying off all these officer won't affect the AMOUNT of crime...
(WTF?)

Wonder how they'd feel is some thugs broke into THEIR house, or threatened THEIR family with bodily harm, or shot up THEIR neighborhood because there were NO police around to patrol?

The LAST place any city should trim any budget should be PUBLIC SAFETY...but it would seem that Thomas Hobbes already knew about that in his own way.

VERY good post.

Have a great Sunday!

Ann T. said...

Dear Bob,
Thomas Hobbes was so great. I didn't privilege Anarchy in this post, such as the riots over the G-20 or this year in Portland--both of which the police were on the front line.

But I sure could have!

I do think many overlapping jurisdictions may be inefficient for information transfer and cause confusion for catching some crooks. But giving up local knowledge is a bad tradeoff. There's another way.

Plus, these cities admit that they want to control everything except what we really need them for. Just insane. All the other things government does is adjunct, or additive, to law and order or public safety, from building inspections to public assistance.

I don't know how we forgot that.

Thanks for the kudos! I do appreciate them! Have a great day!

Ann T.

Yellow said...

Ann ~
You will have to forgive me, as much as I loved my philosophy classes, I never did do real well. I blame it in part on my fantastic writing skills, but I digress. Please also keep in mind that our Police officers are at the core of my thinking, at least for now.

Sadly there is a strong correlation to Police and freedom; the two go hand in hand as much as they may seem to be opposite. Take one away and the other will fall. When we let our local governments give up its right to protect itself, and its people, we are giving up the core of any freedom. It is sad that our nation has picked dollars over safety, and really sad when there are so many other areas we could be cutting to save the things that are important, Education and Safety are put on the back burner for things like parks, lakes, new city buildings, full with new office supplies. I know of a town, one I no longer live in, that spent millions to bring in a painting and build a lake. The painting has done nothing for the economy, the lake is dry, and now there is no money to keep the police department open. Our officers make little money for the safety risk they take. I think as a nation some priorities have been mixed up. And what is really sad is we should have known this over a hundred years ago!

Anyway thank you for getting my brain working again, I think this summer has killed much of my deep thought.

Ann T. said...

Dear Yellow,
Nothing to forgive! I see only a thoughtful and illustrative comment! Come back any time.

You give a great example. The city you mention, that bought the painting and the lake, did what in international relations is called "unsustainable development". They therefore, as many places have around the world, reduced their capacity to fulfill their true function as a state.

I think we have unsustainable development all over our own country. We are definitely Mixed Up.

I know what you mean about the summer, too. Maybe a/c is an unsustainable development, but it also displaces the anarchy of my brain . . . LOL!

Thanks for stopping in!
Ann T.

the observer said...

Ann T:
What interesting commentary to read on a Sunday. Hobbes spoke many truths, many harsh, about the human condition, particularly the human condition without God.

War is not just combat, it is always having to prepare for or worry about combat. I think of those who live in the bad parts of town and something as simple as attending church. There is danger and risk at every turn. Will they be attacked in transit? Will they be criminally bothered at church? Will their possessions be there when they return home? It must be more difficult to worship with all these little worries flapping around in the back of the mind. The practice of God's peace is infinitely more difficult in this environment. Not impossible, but definitely harder.

With regard to civic peace, I always think of Iraq. The gamble we are making is that we can develop a force of Iraqis that can function to keep the peace, allowing everything else to proceed. However results have been mixed. For example, electricity has been more erratic since Sadam's fall, on account of more lawlessness around electric plants and such.

Cities cutting police is penny wise and pound foolish. Crime is a significant quality of life issue and people will not see a neighborhood as stable or good if there is a crime issue. Everything else will hinge around crime and the perception of disorder. Think of the difference between the NYC of the mid/late 1970s and Rudy Guiliani's NYC.

Wow, epic comment! Thanks for the thought provoking post.
The Observer

Christopher said...

Of the excerpts you chose, the one on Anarchy grabbed me most. It seems to accurately describe the poorest and most crime ridden places of any society. And it's why the "broken window theory", if not perfect, certainly resounds with us.

I have a mixed feeling on police forces, despite being part of one. Or stated better, I have mmixed feelings on our purpose. I feel so many of our laws are counterproductive (Chicago's gun laws), silly (you can't plough a field with an elephant), restrictive of personal choice (fornication is still illegal in Illinois), or trivial (a city ordinance against throwing an object across the street). On the grand scale, the protection of life and property, we are essential. Yet how much spinning our wheels for nothing I witness in our attempt to carve out some good in the places we serve. I love what I do, but I wish more of our energy went to things that will last.

Ann T. said...

Dear Readers,
For those who are not familiar with the "Broken Window Theory", it is explained fairly well at Wikipedia.

The one flaw in the article concerns the end, where Steven Levitt's findings on demographics have been refuted, and he has to some degree retracted it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_windows_theory

Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear Christopher,
Hobbes knew human nature, and time proves that it has not changed much if at all.

I believe the Second Amendment was enacted because the Founding Voters knew real life and the Founding Fathers studied Hobbes. They also tried to get rid of caprice in government. Yet all your examples show caprice, or some past special interest that has no present relevance.

I think "Broken Windows Theory" makes perfect sense--it works in management, you try to catch things early. But I think our populace either doesn't recognize the war of all against all when they see it. Or else they consider nasty, brutish, and short somehow normal.

Thank you for writing in. It adds to my resolution to get back to basics--and perhaps adds to the resolve or knowledge base for my small group of readers.

Take good care,
Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
I got your comment--but it showed up much later than you wrote it! more Blogger Mysteries!

I agree with everything you say. With increased transit, I think it is harder to keep crime from homogenizing across the face of a city. That any of us have peace in which to think or Thank is due to police containment and enforcement.

From what I keep reading and seeing on videos like YouTube, we have huge pockets of anarchy already. This is a big (non-Sunday word) deal. We are going to tip the wrong way if we don't start strategizing now.

penny wise, indeed!
Thanks for a heartfelt comment.
Ann T.

chiccoreal said...

Dear Ann: This is amusing; Hobbes must have had some confidence in being able to speak his mind; he was not a dissident. He reflected what he saw as the three main reasons for quarrel (is that a pretense to war?)competition, diffident, and glory (CDG for mnemoic fans). Which is the one reason today which makes war? In other words what main reason is the most contributing factor to war? Greed. It all starts and ends with Greed. Clean up Greed I am certain the other two reasons to quarrel will disappear.

Momma Fargo said...

Another fantastic post! Very deep and liked the direction you took with it. You are superb in making us all think, look back, and look ahead.

Ann T. said...

Dear Chicoreal,
What a heartfelt comment! No, I don't think Hobbes was a dissident in the way we use it today. Some people do believe he was irreligious though.

Mostly, he was a philosopher, who endeavoured to observe the world as he saw it and think hard so as to come to grips with it. In my mind, that is a revolutionary act!

Unlike you, I am not sure we can get rid of greed--it seems so darn basic, you know--and it only takes one jerk who refuses to get rid of it and the rest will be sitting ducks. It's a trust issue too.

So, most good people practice diffidence--or I think the word today is defensive, as in, defending themselves from predators.

Then we have standing armies to protect our borders and standing police to protect our interior regions.

Thank you for stopping in! I went and checked your site. Like you I very much enjoy Emily Dickinson.

Come back any time! I do love thoughtful comments.

Sincerely,
Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear Momma Fargo,
I am glad you enjoyed it. Past, present, future: that is a very fine compliment indeed!
Ann T.

peedee said...

Ok, my comment is not NEARLY as philisophical as the rest. In fact NOT EVEN philisophical at all.

I just want to point out that Bill Watterson who wrote the BEST COMIC STRIP EVER: Calvin & Hobbes, fashioned his character Hobbes after the Thomas Hobbes you speak of Annie. =)

Watterson had this to say the real man:
Hobbes is named after the 17th-century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who had what Watterson described as "a dim view of human nature."

It definately explains Hobbes sarcastic view of human nature in the strip. ;)

Ann T. said...

Dear peedee,
Ha ha ha! maybe he is also saying that Calvin is nasty, brutish, and short!

Crazy woman.
Ann T.

peedee said...

Calvin was named after the 16th-century theologian. I think you should analyze and tell me why Watterson picked these two. =)

tgace said...

What is interesting is how, in some areas of the US, people are giving up their police depts in favor of County/State police coverage; while in other areas people are forming brand new depts. I hear about guys retiring only to go work in some brand new PD.

It seems to be a North/South thing here on the eastern seaboard. In the north they are closing down while in the South they are opening up. I think it has to do with the migration of population.

Ann T. said...

Dear peedee,
Maybe I will! I must say, I had NO IDEA!!!
Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear tgace,
Migration and demographics of all sorts drives so many parts of political economy. You're right to frame it that way.

I suppose another part--the initial investment for cities in expanding populations is always fronted. It creates budget shortfalls until people own property and pay sales tax.

In the meantime, those cities who lost population also have a budget shortfall, and unsustainable plans.

My feeling is that cities from govt to citizenry, have to track these borderless markets like labor or else they cannot plan properly for the future.

Thanks for an insightful comment.
Always glad to see you.
Ann T.