This Yale professor [see video lecture below, 45 min.] extols the virtue of Thomas Hobbes, whose treatise enabled many of the most evil men and governments in the history of the world. Hobbes is a close second to Machiavelli. In fact the adoring speaker names Hobbes “Dr. Watson” to Machiavelli’s “Sherlock Holmes,” which he manages with the straightest of faces. His tenor is reverential to the point of descending (or ascending, depending on your view) to worship. If the reader thinks that I am exaggerating, I invite you to preview the first two minutes of the video, after which you will need no convincing.
If the reader is frustrated, as I am, at the growing power of the state and the near religious faith statists place in government to provide for every need, right every wrong, and generally achieve heaven on earth, one need look no further than Hobbes to find the philosophical underpinning for these beliefs. Quoting the professor:
Hobbes is the “most articulate defender of political absolutism.”
“The Hobbesian sovereign is to have a complete monopoly of power within his given territory.”
“Hobbes, along with Machiavelli, was one of the great architects of the modern state.”
“Machiavelli speaks of the “Prince,” while Hobbes speaks of the “Sovereign.”
“Hobbes tried to render acceptable, tried to render palatable, what Machiavelli had done.” [By restating Machiavelli’s ideas in a more pedestrian way.]
Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) In a nutshell
Human nature: people are stupid, irrational, and incapable of governing themselves. People are moved by passions – ambition, fear, envy, desire for novelty and security, and the love of wealth.
Christianity makes some people feeble and easy prey because of its exaltation of meekness, humility, contempt for worldly objects, and religious passions.
Government: a strong Prince is needed to control the resulting conflicts among people. The good ruler maintains power and pursues his own interests without getting caught and starting a rebellion, ruthlessly uses force and propaganda as necessary.
The frontispiece of the Hobbes work “Leviathan” illustrates this absolute power by depicting the state-figure with a sword in one hand and a scepter in the other, towering over and dominating the secular and religious factions of society. The Hobbesian state demands total power. The state exercises absolute authority over the “churches, university curricula, and what books and opinions may be read and taught.”
Leftists find this view not only tolerable, but desirable, so long as they are the ones in charge. Hobbes’ influence is such that the average street leftist is articulating his views without even realizing it. Like Madge’s unwitting victim, they are soaking in it.
The founders expressly rejected this Hobbesian model of government, where we have no rights except as granted by the largess of the state, in favor of the Lockean view, where our natural rights derive “from the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” Locke asserts that the power of a legitimate government must be limited — the phrase “limited government” being very familiar to most Americans. Locke held that, when a government becomes oppressive, the people have righteous redress in revolution. Proponents of the Hobbesian view (leftists) are in conflict with the U.S. Constitution, as the current state of our culture and continuing governmental crises readily attest. For Hobbesian success, the Constitution and it’s protections must be dismantled, the sad phenomenon we now see.
Spark Notes lexicon
Leviathan – A metaphor for the state, the Leviathan is described as an artificial person whose body is made up of all the bodies of its citizens, who are the literal members of the Leviathan’s body. The head of the Leviathan is the sovereign. The Leviathan is constructed through contract by people in the state of nature in order to escape the horrors of this natural condition. The power of the Leviathan protects them from the abuses of one another.
The arrogant belief persists that, once formed, the Leviathan monster can be controlled by the people who created it. History informs us time and again that this conception is naive and stupid. Perhaps disciples of Hobbes may be enlightened by a close reading of Mary Shelley.
According to Hobbes, the head of the state would have the authority to determine the religion of the state. We see this application in America with the current war on Christianity and it’s attempted replacement by government force with a secular religion, led in part, by the prophet Al Gore (may he live forever.)
Pertaining to property rights, Hobbes’ view is that mankind is entitled to no right of ownership:
“(T)here be no propriety, no Dominion, no Mine and Thine distinct; but (only) that to be every man’s that he can get; and for so long as he can keep it.”
“(E)very man has a Right to every thing; even to one another’s body.”
The principal writings of Thomas Hobbes appeared between 1640 and 1651—during and immediately following the war between forces loyal to King Charles I and those loyal to Parliament. In his own words, Hobbes’ reflection began with the idea of “giving to every man his own,” a phrase he drew from the writings of Cicero. But he wondered: How can anybody call anything his own? He concluded: My own can only truly be mine if there is one unambiguously strongest power in the realm, and that power treats it as mine, protecting its status as such. Wikipdeia-Property [Emphasis mine.]
HAMILTON’S REJECTION OF HOBBES
A dozen years before the debate on the Bill of Rights, the nineteen- year-old Alexander Hamilton explained the import of this point to the reading public. Hamilton was framing, at the time, the most compelling case that would ever be made in vindicating the rights of America in relation to Britain. In the course of his argument, Hamilton appealed to natural rights. But it was the measure of his calibrated mind that he saw the need to distinguish natural rights, properly understood, from that corruption of natural rights which could be fashioned from the teachings of Hobbes. According to Hamilton, Hobbes held that men in the state of nature were “perfectly free from all restraints of law and government.” “Moral obligation,” according to [Hobbes], “is derived from the introduction of civil society; and there is no virtue, but what is purely artificial, the mere contrivance of politicians, for the maintenance of social intercourse.” These doctrines would impress the tutored mind as “absurd and impious”: They could be explained, in such a formidable writer, only by the most inspired aversion to the commands of both reason and piety. For Hamilton, there was nothing inscrutable about the sources of this mistake:
“[Hobbes] disbelieved in the existence of an intelligent superintending principle, who is the governor, and will be the final judge of the universe….Good and wise men, in all ages, have embraced a very dissimilar theory. They have supposed, that the deity, from the relation we stand in, to himself and to each other, has constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is, indispensably, obligatory upon all mankind, prior to any human institution whatever.”
Some writers have argued in recent years that the founders accepted the “modern” notion of natural rights that was built upon the premises of Hobbes. In that understanding, natural rights were rooted in the commands of “self-preservation”; human beings in the state of nature were bound by no moral laws; and political society began with a wholesale transfer to the government of our natural rights.
Hadley Arkes, “The Founders and the ‘Superintending Principle’ – the Founders’ Notion of Rights Is Tied to the Philosophy of Monotheism,” World and I Feb. 2003,
Rousseau and Hobbes together supply the ideological jiu-jitsu required to enslave a “free” people. Which is exactly why our Founders rejected “democracy” and the entire revolutionary tradition that culminated in Robespierre and the 24-hour-a-day pounding tyrannical rhythm of the guillotine.
America’s Founding Fathers recognized the entire democratic charade as the nightmare of power-hungry madmen. They embraced instead the notion of a national government with strictly limited powers, where the voice of the states and of the people commanded the government, and not vice-versa. With regard to war, the Founders sided with Augustine and the Just War theory that had reigned in Christendom for a millennium and more. Peace, said Augustine, is the natural state of man. Even wars are fought to achieve peace. And society is not the artificial construct of Hobbes, a construct wrought from the feverish reveries of ideologues, but a peaceful reflection of “The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God. lewrockwell.com
Understanding the tension between the Hobbesian and Lockean models of government is essential to comprehending the issue of private property rights, the aggressive undermining of Christianity, and the threat of the totalitarian state.