The United States government was formed based on one thing—the science of man. Many different psychological and political theories are founded on the basis that there is an actual science of human beings. The ideas and theories of Hobbes, Locke, Roseau, and Montesque all contributed to the formation and compellation of our governmental structure, among others. In fact, they all agreed on one principle; man in a pure state of nature can be analyzed and theorized. The conclusions of all were vastly different, some even directly contradicting. But regardless of the opposition in belief, the result of their collective writings was the government we now live under today.
Thomas Hobbes derived his theories by concluding that man in and of itself was evil. In addition, he felt that if left without a government authority, life would be “nasty, brutish, and short”. In a direct result of the evilness of man comes the theory that self-preservation is the most imperative component of life. At all costs, one must uphold this right and do whatever is necessary to preserve it. Because every man in a state of nature can be based on one theory, it creates a state of equal mentality. If one man basis life around self-preservation, so will the next. With a society being in this perpetual condition, it creates a state of war. One man against all others—all equal in ability regardless of size or intelligence due to circumstances and willpower that can always level the playing field.
The state of nature will result in a state of war. Besides being nasty, brutish, and short, he also describes the state of war as being solitary and constantly threatening. Although this condition is unavoidable due to the basis of man, his next theory implies that change can be predicted.
Hobbes feels that due to the horrific conditions during the state of war, people will inherently seek peace. In order to obtain this, a government must be established. In his writings, social contract is the link between the state of nature and a civilized law. But, reverting back to his principle theme of self-preservation, a contract between two people can’t ever be valid. This is because self-interest will always be a factor, therefore if the incentive to break a contract is evident–one party will intrinsically do so. Hobbes continues to offer problems and solutions, finally resulting in the end of the inherently evil instincts of man: a monarchial government.
The reasons Hobbes gives that support his insistence that a Monarchy is the best form of government are all based around the principle of self-preservation and interest. He displays the need for government and the solution like this:
1. The State of Nature results in a State of war.
2. Members in a State of War will be unhappy and inherently seek peace.
3. Peace leads to social contract, yet social contract will fail due to self-interest.
4. Self-interest can only be solved with an over seeing arbitrator—but an arbitrator alone won’t succeed due partiality and lack of authority.
5. The arbitrator then needs to become a governmental authority.
7. The reason being that because every man is self-interested, by giving power to only one authority who has complete control of society is the best alternative. Because every man is evil, it is better to give up power to one individual, so that the evil in the society is limited.
John Locke’s theory directly opposes that of Hobbes. Locke’s view of the state of nature is a state of being where all men are created equal, and all men have the right to protect their life, freedom, and possessions. He believed that men were neither inherently evil nor good. Therefore, no one individual has any more right over another. For example, if a person commits a crime, the people have the right to punish him. If one man kills another man’s sheep, then the people have the right to kill one of his sheep—and that is justice not crime. Locke felt that man, even without civilization, will begin forming contracts and carry the importance of justice and equality.
Human beings decide to form a society out of the state of nature because there must be unity among men in order to protect one another. Locke says that men carry self-love, partiality towards friends and family, ill-natured intentions, passion, and revenge—all reasons that a society cannot govern itself. In order to uphold the basic rudimental values of nature, government is the only way to ensure and secure them.
The next question Locke answers is his postulation deciding the best form of government. He feels that men form a government under the rule of an individual that is selected by the people. The reason the authority must be selected is because for a government to work, voluntary relinquishment of certain rights must occur. Because of this act, no society would give up a right unless they felt it was a better trade-off. A democracy offers enough benefits for giving up some rights in order to gain security and justice.
The people for many reasons should choose the ruler. Besides offering a better end-result, it best represents the people’s ideas. Because the authority is also composed of members of that society, the interest of the betterment of the whole is always at hand.
Locke’s governmental system has the ability to possess several powers, which it holds through the people. The ruler has the supreme power and obligation to protect its subject’s life, freedom, and property. The branches of government are always in check with one another, creating a system of checks and balances. All aspects of the government are steered towards a direction of justice and equality. It offers a state of contentment for the people, and when the people are happy they are also compliant.
Overall, Locke gives a much more optimistic view of society. Both are agreeing that because the state of nature is unacceptable, and that a government must be formed. But, the resulting systems are entirely different. Hobbes feels a single authority is needed to limit the inherent self-interest. Locke attests that interest is on the basis of the whole society, not on individuals. He feels that because the betterment of the society due to justice and equality is a fundamental factor at hand, a representative government offers to be much more suitable. The people allow the ruler to govern, and it is with their consent that he is able to do so.
As it’s clearly evident, the need for government isn’t questioned. Hobbes gives a strong cause and effect relationship based on the evil of man. Locke gives a more logical solution of government. Regardless or right or wrong, both philosophies have played an in important role in the formation of our judicial system and our governmental structure—both coinciding with one another.
Leaving with one last question to ponder, revert back to the original concept of “the science of man”. The philosophies of many great thinkers have been studied and used. By understanding why men act the way they do, it has proved to be much easier to come to a conclusion as to how a society should be structured. However, if the idea that the existence of a science of man can be questioned or is false—where does that leave the theories that were constructed upon it. Without the “science of man”, all the theories who use it has their basis are in turn questioned and can’t be viably supported or be deemed valid reasons for constructing the very government we live by.
Perhaps ‘man’ as a whole really can’t be concluded into a theory. Maybe the individualism of humans is simply too unique to derive a only one conclusion. If so, is our government standing on a false foundation? Our country is young; our Democracy is still a world’s child. “Why government?” is only answered based on the validity of “the science of man”. Without that assumption we could never propose such a conclusion.