Wednesday, December 19, 2012
He Got There First
I've been meaning to post something along the lines above (point two), but the thoughts always come to me when I'm away from my computer and then disappear before I get home.
The "we just need MORE guns" argument is an abandonment of the very idea of a state, the very idea of a social contract. The author says that to embrace this model would be to embrace a Hobbesian worldview of a "war of each against all".
Poor Hobbes, so misunderstood, like that nice Niccolo Machiavelli.
Hobbes was not arguing for a life in nature that was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." He was arguing against it. Hobbes - in some ways the first "conservative" among the classical liberal philosophers - saw the anarchy of the Cromwellian Era as a descent into violence and chaos. To him, a state was needed to rein in the destructive impulses of man. It was necessary, said Hobbes, to cede some of our rights and liberties to the state in order that we may live in peace and prosper.
It really isn't a surprise that some Americans - a people whose exposure to Hobbes' brutal state of nature is very limited - cling more ferociously to this single right than to safety. They do it precisely because they are safe. Not knowing real danger, they invent it. The UN/black helicopters/the Mayans/the Kenyan Socialist Muslim Usurper are all coming to round them up and put them in FEMA re-education camps.
They crave, in fact, the purifying horrors of what Hobbes warned against, and they do so, because they have no idea what they wish for. For them, mostly comfortably middle class, life is soft and easy, so they seek out Red Dawn scenarios to prove to themselves that they aren't soft and easy.
Hobbes lived in a world that saw war and devastation when the passions of men ran wild. These gun loving morons have no idea what that really looks like.
Hobbes' suggestion that a state was necessary to provide security came from hard experience. It also was the foundation of social contract theory that was later amplified and improved upon by Locke, Rousseau and Jefferson. It was this social contract theory that created the American government. The Constitution is a fundamental law, yes, but it is also a social contract. We the people have come together to form a more perfect union, establish peace and tranquility against the ravages of anarchy.
The Constitution strengthened the state because Shays's Rebellion, the Bey of Algiers and default on our revolutionary war debts proved that an intentionally feeble state was not a workable model. Don't believe me? Look at the EU today.
Therefore the lesson that Hobbes teaches us is that the primary function of a state is to keep the people safe and secure. Only if a state fails to do this, writes Hobbes, should it be replaced.
Yet the people who just want to arm more citizens are basically arguing against this primary function of the state. Forget regulating carbon dioxide, seat belt laws or monitoring e-coli outbreaks, these yahoos are basically saying the state isn't even allowed to keep you safe.
At least in this point, the coming GOP obstruction of an assault weapon ban makes consistent ideological sense. Unlike say the desire of the GOP to regulate vaginas, the desire to abdicate any state role in public safety is consistent with their desire to destroy the basic functions of the modern state, heck even in this case the pre-modern state.
President Obama ran - persuasively - against the GOP's economic idea that we are all on our own. He now has an opportunity to make this case against those who would turn our neighborhoods into armed camps, where you better not have your dog crap in neighbors petunias or else you'll get a short burst from an AR-15.
The war of each against all is a war we all lose.