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Saturday March 23rd 2019Tim Candler9

 

    Thomas Hobbes, who died in 1697, has been called one of the founders of what's been called Modern Political Philosophy. His central assertion, reflected an understanding of the essential condition of man as being characterized by a war of everyone against everyone. And yet, he suggested, that throughout history societies have emerged which are not characterized by a war of everyone against everyone. His question was why and how does a society manage the essential condition of man so as to produce a world where life for people is better than nasty, brutish and short. Today his thinking is reflected in various understandings of a Social Contract which defines the rights, duties and obligations within the relationships between rulers and the ruled. Hobbes himself had an understanding of power that I'd argue he shared with Plato. The ideal ruler for Plato was a Good Tyrant, but the trouble for both Plato and Hobbes was that Good Tyrants were few and far between. The odds are with a Tyrant, every thing started out all hope and bliss for the enthusiasts but with Tyrants mans essential nature reared its ugly head and soon enough life for most people was back to being nasty, brutish and short.  Plato suggested that a nations leaders should basically be highly trained bureaucrats, preferably chosen at tender age from the general population, carefully educated in the arts of governance.  There were Men of Gold in the flux of Humanity, he argued and they could be discovered, promoted and fostered.

 

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     Hobbes also was a little suspicious of democracy, he reckoned that more often than not an electorate would elect, let's call them really very unfit leaders from a bunch of very suspect pretenders, and again soon enough life for the rest of us would return to being nasty brutish and short.  Hobbes, reckoned that with all its faults a monarchy made most sense as the vehicle through which a society might maintain the kind of Social Contract that allowed for improvement in the lot of us people. And it's also true that Hobbes was alive in the period of the English Civil War, which was a war between an emerging Middle Class and Royalists. The Royalists were gallant and brave and had an old fashioned disdain for merchants. The middle class side produced Oliver Cromwell as their leader, who was a bit of a religious nut who really disliked Catholics to the point of trying to wipe them out in Ireland. Cromwell was also a man who's been called a Hero of Freedom by Thomas Carlyle, a Military Dictator by Winston Churchill and a Revolutionary Bourgeois by Trotsky and whatever you think about Trotsky he was so vehemently opposed to Stalin assuming the role of Tyrant he ended up being assassinated in Mexico by an agent of the Soviet security services. One of the signatures of a Social Contract in Liberal Democracies are functioning Institutions. And it's not just lip service to the formulation that inspired the bricks and mortar of an institution, something like "Equal Justice," "One Man One Vote," and so on. On our side of the divide between the ruled and our rulers when it begins to become pretty obvious that Institutions, for example Equal Justice Before the Law, or One Man One Vote, not to mention the others, are so much fluff then a Social Contract begins to fail, slowly at first as the constant disappointment of expectations unmet, then more suddenly.

 

 

 

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