In the seventeenth century, Thomas Hobbes articulated one of the most influential accounts of the need for government.2 Hobbes begins with the assumption that human beings are motivated entirely by self-interest and that they are of approximately equal mental and physical abilities, such that every individual may pose a serious threat to any other individual. Now imagine such beings living in the ‘state of nature’; that is, a state without government or laws. These people would come into frequent conflict with one another, for three reasons. First, people would attack each other to steal each other’s resources; Hobbes calls this ‘competition’. Second, people would attack each other preemptively — that is, one may decide to kill or permanently injure another person, simply to prevent the other person from being able to injure oneself in the future; Hobbes calls this ‘diffidence’. Third, people would fight for ‘glory’ — that is, one may attack another person to force the other person to express respect for oneself. For these reasons, Hobbes believed that the state of nature would be a state of perpetual war of everyone against everyone. There would be no industry, trade, or culture. Everyone would live in constant fear of violent death, and their lives would be ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’.3
KeywordsPolitical Authority Executive Branch Violent Conflict Conjunction Fallacy Farm Policy
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