Hobbes theories included the belief that in a state of nature man is an “emotional creature, driven by their desires and physical appetites, and all of his actions spring from two basic motives for his actions, desires and aversions.” If this is true, then man is an impulsive creature first, and a methodical creature second. In order to achieve one’s goals, which are egocentric and self-satisfying in nature, man is capable of perpetrating anything in order to reach the end that benefits him most. Meaning that lying, cheating, stealing, and killing are all within the realm of possibilities when trying to quench those desires. This is why in our civil society laws have to be created, an organization to uphold these laws must be formed, and the perpetrators who break these laws need to be held accountable. His aversion to death and his desire for life and the comforts provided therein are what motivates his actions.
It must be remembered that both Locke and Hobbes wrote during times of strife inside of their respective lands, one with a despotic ruler and one with a civil war ravaging the land where anarchy reigned. Their ideologies differed, but their theories converged on two important points. First, that man left unto his own devices would do what it takes to further his own self-interests, so in order to form a civil society (i.e. to have a peaceful existence) one must give up some personal freedoms. The second is that in order to be governed man must make a “covenant” to voluntarily give up “total freedom” in order to belong to a peaceful society where fear of an untimely death is eliminated, thus allowing him the “freedom” to pursue his desires and further his own interests without the looming threat of death.
Locke was more concerned with making sure that there was a distribution of power at the top to ensure there was not an abuse of power. When power all resides with one entity, that entity will become tyrannical and abuse said power. This is true if the power all resides with one position or if one group or party holds complete dominance over a position like the Republicans are doing in Congress today. When they all act in accordance to party lines instead of individual consciousness they are in essence circumventing the fail-safes constructed by the framers of our nation in order to carry out their despotic will. It is a dangerous side effect of the democratic checks and balance system that is in place in the legislature and needs to be amended. However, only those who are in power have the ability to amend it. And unfortunately they will not clip their own wings. That is analogous to having a prisoner set his own parameters for his incarceration. Of course they are going to choose what is most favorable for themselves. Their concern is not with the people they represent, but with maintaining their own power.
Rousseau thoughts on civil society can be clearly demonstrated in his “discourse on inequality.” He rejects the idea that Hobbes and Locke set forth that in a state of nature man is evil and self-serving. That the fear of an impending death does not drive his desires to conquer and control the resources necessary for his survival, because the concept of death to natural man is too abstract of an idea. Rousseau believed that the act of creating private property itself is what corrupts man, causes discourse, strife, war, and the “impending death” that man so fears.
The theories about man and his place within civil society that all three of these political philosophers subscribed to, along with a few others would eventually shape the political landscape of today’s America. Using the methods that America has already employed with the original drafting of our DOI and Constitution, we take from each of these political theoretical tinkerers the best and most desirable theories to create a truly democratic rule, and cast aside their ideas that are no longer of any need or pertinent to today’s dynamic society. Cast aside is the wrong phrase, because only a great fool would not take heed of the advice and pitfalls of other failed governments. It is like getting lost while driving. Once you have turned down the muddy road at night and gotten stuck, lost, turned around, and utterly confused, you have probably learned your lesson and will not make that mistake again. However it would not behoove you when making directions for someone else to not caution them about not turning down muddy roads. It is a quagmire you must heed, but just not give as much credence to as before.
That is the mindset that we must have if we are to continue to succeed here in America. We have a very tumultuous past that is not at all something we should be immensely proud of, but we should not be shamed by it either. Slavery, internment, genocide, exploitation, war, child labor have all marred our country’s past, but also helped propagate our freedoms and dominance we enjoy in the world today. Only relatively recently in our history, in the last few decades realistically, have we truly been headed toward the democracy that our founders had anticipated for us. The hardest, most treacherous part of our journey lay behind us and we owe it to ourselves, our children and the people who sacrificed, died, and were persecuted to ensure our future, to stand once again united in the fight for our country. The problems that lay in front of us are indeed daunting, but not insurmountable. This is the country that moved mountains, connected oceans, and put men on the moon, impossible is not in our lexicon. The problems we are facing now are different than those of the past, but not any less perilous. Do not let the mistakes of the past ruin our future. We know what we have to do. We know how to do it. Now it is time to do what is right for all Americans and not what is right for the individual.