Would Hobbes vote for his opposition?

It’s election time, and every one of us is probably a victim of the flood of Facebook posts about the different candidates. Most are just reminders of how important it is to voice our views and vote, some openly support a specific party or candidate, and many criticize our current approach to a plethora of issues. This morning, however, I stumbled across a very unusual one in support of the Libertarian Party of Canada. The post was comparing voting to “chemotherapy to treat a very aggressive cancer”, an analogy explaining how although corruption, greed and monetary political incentives are so related that there is progressively less room for honesty and transparency in our political system, voting can limit the extent to which this can take place.

Human civilization has evolved to the point that freedom doesn’t seem to concern the majority of the population in first world countries. We can virtually unanimously agree that Canada is a free country, and “freedom” isn’t a popular Canadian political chant or party slogan, but rather an American one. To Hobbes, freedom is a “motion”. You are free until you’re not. You move freely until you stop. Or until you collide with your neighbour. But is there a link between Hobbes’ idea of freedom and one that is advertised by one of our parties? Well, let’s look at a quote found in a Libertarian ad, next to a picture of Tim Moen, leader of the party: “I want gay married couples to protect their marijuana plants with their guns.” Although this sounds like a form of Hobbesian nightmare where men are constantly fearing each other and using guns to defend themselves, I think Hobbes would vote for this party.


The Stanley Cup Riot. I chose this image to illustrate the Hobbesian State of Nature in a modern context.


It makes sense to say that Libertarians would most likely not agree with Hobbes’ idea of a strong government, mostly because of what our governments have been capable of in the past. But if you dig deeper in the issue, and approach it from a very unbiased theoretical point of view, there is a link between the two ideologies. Hobbes makes it clear that the “state of nature” is terrible, but at the same time he wants a powerful government as a means to obtain freedom, an idea that sounds paradoxical in the 21st century, where the State sees, hears and records everything we do. Hobbes however is an advocate for what I see as a non-intrusive government (compared to our current government) and being accountable individually for interfering with other’s rights. In other words, don’t do what you don’t want to be done to you. This is the main fundamental argument of Libertarianism: expanding personal freedom to its maximum without affecting collective freedom.

Hobbes also wants a state that lets live in every aspect, especially economic, providing its citizens with “good life”, or well-being, and freedom of market (classical liberalism). This is the Libertarian utopia, where the government’s force only functions to stop harm and to protect us from sudden and violent death. Hobbes wants a market that decides what things are worth by itself, in a supply and demand model. Maybe he is somewhat of a modern capitalist, or just a Libertarian in denial, hidden as an authoritarian.

Hobbes presents values that differ a lot from our modern Libertarian model, such as his idea of a welfare state through “public charity” (p.228), but I am just exposing a parallel amongst the two ideologies. I just want to show that maybe he isn’t as authoritarian as we think, but he rather supports Libertarianism without knowing it. Perhaps this is just a loophole in his argument? I wonder, though, what would Plato think about our political parties?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *