Thomas Hobbes wrote that the life of man is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
It Hobbes’ time, that was a true statement. The only respite mankind has had from such a life has been due to two things – the advent of capitalism and the respect for individual rights protected by constitutional government.
Yet, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” lives still exist.
Where is that, you well may ask?
They exist anywhere the reverence for individual rights and the self-determination brought about through the combination of liberty and capitalistic economy is lost. They exist when a population believes that survival in an age of affluence and plenty means that they must take from others in order to have for themselves – both legally via government and illegally via criminal acts.
As the linked article indicates, they also exist inside our great nation – rooted in the welfare state.
Onlookers were transfixed by the scene of a fatal crash on Wednesday afternoon; a heartbreaking chain of events, but what happened afterward made it even worse.
Houston police say the mother behind the wheel of the Toyota 4-runner collided with another car heading northbound on Fondren near Dumfries. She crashed into a tree and died on impact.
Her two sons — ages 6 and 4 — were wearing seat belts but were not sitting in car seats. They were rushed to the hospital with what we’re told are non life-threatening injuries.
But before help arrived, someone pounced. Eyewitnesses told police they saw people taking groceries out of the front seat of the dead woman’s SUV.
They exist inside any society that teaches moral equivalence when they teach morals at all.
Solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short lives also exist in countries with socialist/Marxist/communist systems…and also in individual government programs in capitalist countries as well. Communism has never brought man a Utopian existence, it has only brought shared misery – because a “successful” communist government or program must first defeat the only known antidote for poverty – the drive and aspirations of the individual.
Hobbes’ answer to the “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short” problem was the creation of Leviathan, an overwhelming government that exists to enforce the social contract and rules via a benevolent and munificent “sovereign”. The sovereign is the ruling force behind the social contract; in the analogy between the abstracted contract and an artificial person, the concept of sovereignty is the soul of the artificial person and the sovereign itself, the head. This artificial person is a metaphor for the state in total, and Hobbes refers to this artificial person “Leviathan.”
In the State of Nature, (where Hobbes proposed that a man’s life in nature is “nasty, brutish, and short”), he defines our natural state as “savage”. Hobbes suggests that we have no inherent free will, but instead all of our actions are governed by responses to stimuli, essentially “knee-jerk” reactions over which we have no control resulting from the various impulses that are experienced by our central nervous systems.
This savage man is one who exists only for himself, and will do anything to satisfy his own self-interests and to ultimately stay alive. This self-interest is therefore a singular pursuit and because he believes that all ends justify all means, there are absolutely no moral limitations and he can do anything that he wants. He has no idea of justice, morality, or personal property.
The existence of such a state of man is proven when people will steal groceries from the side of a dead person after a fatal auto accident.
There is an insidious undercurrent to this rejection of morality by government, church and society. It sets the stage for totalitarian government – the modern version of Hobbes’ Sovereign will say that if man cannot control himself, he must be controlled by some authority…and it creates the impetus for a societal death spiral which guarantees a life that is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.