Differences Between John Locke’s and Thomas Hobbes’ Political Philosophies

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Hobbes and Locke were philosophers who were adamant in their political views and presented evidence to back them up. Both recognize humans as social creatures who make a social contract with the state. However, there are significant variations in their perceptions of the state and its people. Although Locke argued that democracy was the best form of government, Hobbes advocated for absolute monarchy. Other distinctions arise as a result of this key distinction. This paper would look at Locke and Hobbes’ political philosophies and, ultimately, Hobbes’ political philosophies. It will be evident through various illustrations that Locke’s political ideology is what has shaped the government of the United States.
Hobbes believed that absolute monarchy is the ideal way of governing a nation while Locke was persuaded that democracy was the best approach to government. In a monarchy, the king or the queen has the absolute power over the people since the citizens are not involved in the election of the queen or king. However, in democracy, people have a right, and say on how governs the nation through an electoral process. The person who gets the highest number of votes from the people is regarded as the winner and allowed to rule throughout the term. The monarchs, on the other hand, gain their power during peaceful successions and retain such power through hereditary means like that of England. In an absolute monarchy, the ruler makes the rules and laws and governs even the public affairs of the citizens. The transference of power in a democracy happens during peaceful elections where the prime minister or the president may retain his position or lose it to another person who will take up the leadership of the country. Notably, in a democracy the president or prime minister may lose the authority through military coups. Locke’s political philosophy has been adopted in the United States since there is no monarchy and the president is elected by the public and serves for a maximum of two terms after which fresh elections are conducted to allow another person in power. Therefore, the US government would be regarded as a government by the people and for the people.

Hobbes’ ideology of monarchy emanated from his persuasion that human beings are cruel, wicked, and selfish and always act on behalf of their best interest as opposed to Locke’s ideology that people are good and could learn from experience. In people being good, they only need to be trained on what right, ideal and ethical, and they will follow through. However, if such experiences are absent people may not learn. Hobbes’ coined the popular phrase to summarize the inclinations and behavior of people that states ‘every man for every man’ or every man for himself. Hobbes asserted that such predisposition of humanity needed to be taken care of for the well-being of all the citizens. In essence, the government would do wrong in allowing people to exercise their inclinations. Therefore, to tame the evil human tendencies, people should relinquish their rights to the monarchy in exchange for their protection. This is what Hobbes referred to as a social contract. Locke would oppose such a persuasion since he believed that human beings are born with inalienable rights which cannot be denied even by the state. Such rights involve the right to freedom, life and to own property. Denying people such rights is allowing the government to go beyond its boundaries. The aspect of the primary human rights could be traced on the American constitution which has allowed people their freedom such that the government does not interfere with people’s property.

Locke believed that apart from people being good and inclined towards what is morally right, they could be trusted to govern themselves as long as they were well empowered and offered the required knowledge. However, Hobbes opposed that and suggested that no people would be trusted to govern themselves and that absolute monarch would solve this challenge. In an absolute monarchy, the people would be required full obedience to the state through following the set down orders. In fact, the laws, rules, and regulation would be imposed on people such that every person who would not adhere to such consequences would face dire consequences. This control of people by the monarchy was exhibited in England during the second generation protestant reformation of Henry 7th, where any person that failed to acknowledge the king as the head of state and the Church of England would suffer execution. A few people were executed including one of the close advisors of King Henry VII. Although, the absolute monarch maintained order in England, it went against the human rights of individuals like that of life. The suggestion of Locke that information is the basis of personal governance is a deal since it allows human beings take responsibility for their actions. Hobbes’ philosophy is not entirely accurate since people seem to rebel and get into acceptable behavior when they are controlled and condemned. In defensiveness, people who are overly controlled by the monarchy would resent the government undermining law and order. Locke esteemed right knowledge as it would assist people to make the right decisions. The providing of necessary knowledge and inculcating values and morals to people would provide them with the strength to govern themselves. Such starts at a tender age of school going students who are taught of right and wrong and how to stand up for what is right. Therefore, it is an accurate statement to argue that people can govern themselves.

According to Hobbes’ the sole purpose of the government is to maintain law and order while Locke believed that the government’s primary objective for existence is to protect individual rights and liberties. Therefore, it would be accurate to suggest that the monarch is selfish since it aims at keeping the nation in absolute control while democracy is a little accommodative since the needs of the people are primary. This aspect of the government protecting the liberties and rights of people is what has seen the growth of activist groups that seek the safeguarding of rights and freedoms. For instance, the modern racism of the Blacks through the brutality of the Blacks in the hands of the police has allowed the formation of the ‘Black Lives Matter.’ This movement aims to addressing the discrimination the Blacks face in the hands of the police in pursuit of equality and freedom of the Blacks. In protecting the rights of the people, some police officers in the US have been arrested for shooting unarmed Black Citizens. With the growth in addressing such needs in the society, US would be at a place where equality, freedom and individual rights are celebrated. Protecting the rights and freedom of people also incorporates capacity building of the people such that they can also protect their own rights. However, the argument by Hobbes that the government just maintains law and order is quite narrow and presents the government as a body that is just waiting for any wrongdoing to punish. Such relationship will affect the people and hinder any collaboration between the state and the citizens. With monarchy issues like community policing would be challenging to implement although that has helped and promoted the well-being of people in the US.

Notably, the different political ideologies between Hobbes and Locke would provide different outcomes or options in case the government is abusive against the people it should protect. According to Hobbes, the people have no say and can do nothing in case the government turns abusive. However, since Locke’s philosophy is anchored in democracy, in case the government proves abusive people can revolt against it. In fact, this option is a right offered to all the citizens, and even peaceful demonstrations are allowed. In the worst case scenarios where the leader seeks absolute power through being a participant and a judge in a dispute, Locke asserted that such a leader attracts war with his subjects. Locke reiterated his argument by saying that such a situation gives the subjects the right to kill the leader and his servants. However, revolting against the monarchy is non-existence and perhaps what the people could do is to wait until the death of the king or king and anticipate that the successor will not abuse the people. In fact, Hobbes alluded that a king cannot do wrong since what is lawful and unlawful is determined by the king in an absolute monarchy. The subjects pledge their allegiance to the king such that none of them should consider a king abusive since he is the custodian of the law.

In conclusion, Hobbes philosophy of government emanated from his belief that absolute monarchy was the ideal way while that of Locke from the persuasion that democracy was the best system of government. As such Hobbes saw people as potential evil, selfish and ones that could not govern themselves requiring the control of the government while Locke saw people as inherently good and capable of governing themselves as long as the right information was availed. In examining this differences it is evident that USA political philosophy is anchored in Locke’s philosophy given that is democratic and the government’s primary goal is to protect its citizens.

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