OPINION – He probably meant well. After all the upheaval and division during his lifetime, peace and stability were his likely goals. But Thomas Hobbes gave life to a monster when his work “Leviathan” was published in 1651.
Hobbes’ depiction of the state as an irresistible strongman whose subjects live in fear and awe has become a popular template for power seekers.
Hobbes believed that man’s natural hatreds and appetites would have us living in violent chaos if order weren’t imposed from above. This type of law amounted to little more than the will of a ruler.
Moral limits to leviathan’s power were considered unnecessary. The people would obey out of a sense of fear rather than moral duty.
Curiously, overt violence isn’t required to create this kind of fear. As Joseph Sobran explains:
But a state that threatens lesser penalties with subtlety and apparent legality, gradually creating habits of timidity, may find little opposition. Its subjects will hardly recognize their own fear as fear. They may even believe the state when it assures them that they are free — and that it is “defending” their freedom! (Until they “fail to comply,” that is.)
Our modern leviathan loves to remind us of its irresistible power. Its buildings, bureaucracies, propaganda, and willingness to squander the fruits of the labors of others are public reminders of its might. The state loves to parade the symbols of its power with a panache that would make a Soviet commissar blush.
But resistance is far from futile.
As we’ve recently seen in here in Southern Utah and elsewhere, when leviathan clamps down too hard, the people find ways to avoid its coils and to negate its influence. And instead of devolving into the blood-soaked chaos that Hobbes feared, something far more powerful occurs—the market finds a way through innovation.
Max Borders and Jeffery A. Tucker recently weighed in on the remarkable shift that is taking place globally. Their article is titled “50 Ways to Leave Leviathan” and it is definitely worth a read.
To illustrate the kind of diminishing returns making the state less and less relevant, Borders and Tucker point to our rapidly atrophying Post Office. They note that thanks to the Information Age, we have far better, and cheaper, means of communication.
Borders and Tucker write:
This is the archetype. Government was supposed to provide but didn’t. Now markets are picking up the pieces and making new products and services that facilitate better living, which reduces the role and significance of public policy. Every time the State shuts a door or closes a loophole, people find and exploit two more doors, two more loopholes.
Those with a Hobbesian bent will likely find their noses out of joint at the thought of people acting without official permission. The fact that they are powerless to stop such acts means that the rest of us will have to resist the urge to delight in their discomfort.
Here are just a few examples of how leviathan’s dictates are being flouted at every level of our society.
Airbnb is a service that allow people to rent out their homes for a few days without having to become embroiled in union politics, zoning issues, or other parts of the regulatory apparatus. With over 34,000 places to stay in 192 different countries, it’s clearly a hit with travelers.
Likewise, Uber is allowing individuals to bypass the taxi cartel by allowing them to book rides in clean vehicles with drivers who are rated by reputation.
With increasing encroachment of government into healthcare, more physicians are refusing to accept health insurance and are providing low cost concierge care. This allows them to contract with a limited number of patients for a modest monthly fee that provides virtually unlimited contact with their doctor, free medical testing, and even house calls.
By purchasing a catastrophic care plan; a person can have their healthcare without having to jump through leviathan’s hoops.
The rest of the list can be seen here.
It’s worth considering from the standpoint of learning specific ways to individually reclaim our personal freedom as well as to catch a glimpse of the power of innovation and the market in solving problems.
We don’t have to confront leviathan head on to secure our natural rights. Too many innovators have already shown that, no matter how immutable some consider the state, the market will always find ways to free us from its grasp.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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