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More Liberty = Less Fear?

October 24, 2010

Fear and liberty, as discussed by Hobbes, can be very mind-boggling. Personally, I have had the most difficult of times trying to wrap my head around the concept of the two existing together. Hobbes states that “Fear, and liberty are consistent”, and then later “And generally all actions which men do in commonwealths, for fear of the law, are actions, which the dowers had liberty to omit.” It originally seemed to me, from this passage, that liberty and fear are inconsistent. Yet, after discussion, I slightly began to realize what Hobbes meant.

With more liberty, comes more fear. This fear is fear of the unpredictable. When one feels safe, some amount of their liberty must be taken away. Who is this from? The sovereign. The sovereign has laws that one becomes afraid to disobey for fear of its consequences. These consequences are predictable for the most part. For example, if you speed, you will generally get a ticket, which is predictable. It is predictable in part because of this “contract” between the sovereign and you. What if the sovereign was not there? Punishments would then become unpredictable. No matter what you did, you would never quite know the repercussions; there would not be a “contract”.

However, with more fear and in affect more liberty, would humans be better off? It is a natural state of humans to not have any order. Furthermore, if everyone had all the liberty they wanted, would they not be happier, and possibly would this take away elements that would add to fear? If there were never restrictions, people would never have anything to fight against. Would 9/11 have happened? Or, would the Crusades? If people had the liberty to believe whatever they wanted, wherever, without restrictions, would this ruin Hobbes’ argument that fear and liberty exist together? More liberty might be the key to less fear.

Yet, would more liberty just run the same cycle as the beginning of time? In the beginning there was not regulations, nor contracts. Yet people made them through time. Also, this may then prove to be in favor of Hobbes’ human nature argument. Humans progressed from a natural state of war and animalistic tendencies to a much more sophisticated and developed system. It is at this point that I once again come to a point of confusion. As much as I want to think that more liberty would cause less fear, it seems as though history has shown that humans would not settle for this. Eventually systems would develop and a sovereign would be created.

6 Comments
  1. Steve Neff permalink
    October 24, 2010 6:37 PM

    Yes I agree with you point at the end that more liberty causes more fear. You made the point perfectly that eventually systems would develop that would oppress some people. The reason Hobbes says that people give up some freedom to the sovereign is for that protection and safety that all people wish to have. If everyone has liberty, people will become fearful of others that might not have had that freedom before. The whole point of a sovereign-society relationship is so the people have that protection so therefore there is less fear but also less liberty.

  2. xiaoyzhang permalink
    October 24, 2010 10:37 PM

    I personally disagree with the idea that more liberty causes more fear. When liberties are taken away, it gives the ruler of a state a sense of power. This will cause the ruler(s) to abuse that power and instill fear over the people he is ruling over. I think North Korea is a perfect example of this. Their citizens have no liberties whatsoever, and I believe North Koreans fear for their lives. They don’t want to do anything their government opposes or they will be punished by either death or sent to labor camps. I think the Soviet Union during the Stalin era is also a great example as well.

  3. crorey permalink
    October 25, 2010 11:56 AM

    I agree that more liberty causes more fear because there is less certainty and security. It is in our instincts to want some sense of security and predictability. But humans also don’t want to be under complete control. The key is finding the right balance of liberty and control. A big problem here is that it changes from person to person. This contributes to why there is so much debate on issues such as having more or less governmental regulation over certain aspects of our lives. It is very peculiar that people will gladly claim they want freedom, but how often do you see people saying, “Yeah! I want to be more controlled!”? The answer is not very often.

  4. Trevor Cookler permalink
    October 26, 2010 6:37 PM

    I like the third comment because it states how there is this teeter-totter like debate between liberty and fear. There must be a good balance between liberty in fear to successfully rule a group of people. Too much liberty may cause anarchy, and too many constraints may cause hate for the ruler which may also lead to chaos. This almost brings it back to the question would a rule rather be loved or feared, and according to most posts the answer was feared because the ruler had more control. I would say the best balance would be to be pretty central on the spectrum between liberty and fear, perhaps a little closer to fear, so there is more control. Locke writes that the law of nature governs the state of nature and that in this place the crimes fit the punishment in order to set examples for others. This notion of an invisible restraint helps to secure the people as well as giving them room to breathe. The world is the property of the people, but this battle between fear vs. convenience and absolutism vs. civil society will always be debated.

  5. reedmarcus permalink
    November 1, 2010 10:39 PM

    Although I believe freedom is a very important part of what makes this great country, I also believe that the security and protection that our government provides should not go unnoticed. Sometimes sacrificing a small amount of freedom can go a long way towards the overall safety of our country. While freedom is certainly one of the most important aspects in the way in which this country operates, without security to protect these freedoms, the country would not be able to survive.

    • mquintin permalink
      November 3, 2010 11:46 AM

      When I first wrote this, I had not read Rousseau yet. However, after reading, and after today’s (11/3) lecture, an interesting element has entered my previous statement. In lecture, there was a slide showing the statement “…the acquisition in the civil state of moral liberty, which alone makes man truly the master of himself. For to be driven by appetite alone is slavery, and obedience to the law one has prescribed for oneself is liberty. Rousseau is saying that we are forced to be free under the soveriegn. It seems though, that obedience to the law is slavery because it drives you to disobey it. This would be driven by appetite, one to disobey that is. If one had more liberty, because they would not be under the soveriegn, then they would be less driven by appetite because they are free to do as they please anyway.

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