Life, Liberty, and the Law of Nature

The original American laws

The United States Bill of Rights was established in the year 1791, and immediately established the legal ramifications for our country. On the contrary, Thomas Hobbes’ The Levithian was published in 1651 in England. Could it be the case that the earlier set of laws is a more applicable for a modern country? The Bill of Rights is a very specific set of laws, specifically for a country in the year 1791. As a result, it is debatable that the bill of rights is a little dated. For one, the right to bear arms as a law has been a huge topic of debate between liberals and conservatives, and has especially has been under fire after tragedies such as the Columbine massacre and The Sandy Hook massacre. Another example of a dated law is the outlawing of quartering soldiers. While at one point, yes, this was an issue that many Americans faced while being occupied by the Royal English military, but at this modern day and age, it isn’t an issue that most, or any Americas have to deal with for that matter. While the Bill of Rights is a great set of laws for revolutionary age America, it necessitates a modern adaption.

Thomas Hobbes

Now, I am not saying that I am an advocate for revamping American laws, but I am saying that in some alternate universe, Thomas Hobbes’ “Law of Nature” would work as a good legal set of guidelines for a modern country. Not perfectly, mind you, but it’s a possibility. For example, the second law of nature is the mandate to seek peace. While for international conflict, this might not be the best course of action in terms of negotiating with hostile and wild foreign countries; it is a good guideline for a population to standby. The third law is that we need to follow up on the contracts that we make, which is basically the foundation of regional laws. The fourth is that we need to show gratitude towards those who stand by the contracts that they make. In other words, these laws are the general foundations for a government’s legal policies, not for specific conflicts, but for a more general management of crime. The second law alone could very well be a policy that any country could reasonably have, mainly due to its generic outlawing of crimes such as murder. While it may not be a perfect set of rules, it is very arguable that Hobbes’ “Laws of Nature” could very well be the makings for a modern countries general policies.

Illegitimate Burma

In Politics as a Vacation Weber says, “we must say that the state is a form of human community that (successfully) lays claim to the monopoly of legitimate physical violence within a particular territory” (Weber).

Now, I agree that a state uses physical violence or force within its territory to achieve its goals. There are times when this use of force is necessary to keep peace and done in the most ideal way, therefore legitimate. However, more often than not the use of force is abused and used under illegitimate circumstances. This can lead to power struggles, internal conflict, and an increasing use of illegitimate violence. I think the conflict in Burma is a great example of how the power of force can be abused.

Monks protest military coup in Burma

Monks protest military coup in Burma

The Burma conflict began when a military coup took power over the government and began to implement its own rules and values. If you didn’t obey them, you were harshly punished. Although protest have been going on for many years, they did not receive international attention until the 2007 Saffron protest. An article about the Saffron Protests said, “the monks began large peaceful demonstrations all over Burma after the junta raised gas and diesel oil prices by 500%”. While the monks were completely non-violent, the government began to imprison any protesters. In the same article it was estimated that “between 3,000 and 4,000 citizens were detained in connection with these protests”. Here is a video that discusses the Saffron protest and the violence these peaceful protest received.

Civil rights protest

Civil rights protest

This incident in Burma reminded me of our civil rights struggles in the 60’s. While the African Americans were strictly non-violent protests, our government and people in charge, used what they thought was “legitimate” physical violence to discriminate and hurt innocent citizens. This is an almost identical situation to that of Burma. The difference being that our government has not been run by a military coup. However, both protest were peaceful and non-violent, and both were put down by imprisonment and harsh, violent responses. This is why I believe giving a state or individual the power to use violence will always lead to corruption. Weber also states that, “whoever is active in politics strives for power” (Weber).  No matter what a government is trying to accomplish using violence, people are still going to be hurt and many times killed.

This has been proven over and over again. If the individuals calling the shots are always striving for power as Weber suggest they will be influenced to abuse that power and make selfish, unnecessary choices, which the military in Burma did and the United States did during the civil rights protests.

North Korea and the Fool’s Challenge

Kim Jong-un, the current dictator of North Korea

Kim Jong-un, The Current Dictator Of North Korea

In his book Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes introduces us to the “Fool’s Challenge”: the idea that contracts between people or nations can be broken at anytime no matter the resulting consequences. Thomas Hobbes spends part of his book refuting this point because he feels that breaking contracts with allies decreases the chance of survival because the allies become less and less willing to help out going into the future. North Korea’s communist regime has been, for the last couple of decades,doing exactly that and my blog post will, hopefully, leave you with a thorough understanding of what I think Hobbes would have to say about North Korea’s current policies concerning diplomacy.

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