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The True Origins of Government

November 8, 2010

Since we learned about Locke, Rousseau, and their philosophical outlooks several questions ran through my mind. These two men’s philosophies were influential and contrasting and caused me to contemplate this question: Was the formation of government or civil societies something that was done out of necessity or because the strong man learned that the weak man was gullible and thus easily able to be controlled? Now obviously, it would be easy to say a little bit of both, however, that would be a cop out and these blogs are supposed to spark heated debate at least in Political Science 101 discussion. Locke defines the ‘state of nature’ as an original condition preceding the development of society, and describes it as a state in which all individuals are perfectly free and equal. The ‘state of nature’ is governed by the ‘law of nature,’ and the ‘law of nature’ is that of reason. The ‘law of reason’ declares that all individuals should refrain from causing harm to each other’s liberty, property, and well being. If all individuals obey the ‘law of reason,’ then peace and harmony will be maintained, and a ‘state of war’ will be avoided. In Locke’s state of nature, it takes too long before people realize they need government because in Locke’s state of nature people live their life for the most part unimpeded. I ultimately believe originally, government was created because a strong man learned that the weak man was gullible and thus easily able to be controlled. As people began moving and interacting with one another language was created. With the advent of language came society and thus property. Rousseau claimed, “The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society.” The rationale of how someone can just put down markers and claim land his/hers is foreign to Rousseau because it is counterintuitive to Rousseau’s thought pattern. Rousseau believes similarly to Locke’s claim that each person owns his or her own body, and all the labor that they perform with the body. When an individual adds their own labor, their own property, to a foreign object or good, that object becomes their own because they have added their labor to it. Nevertheless, the weaker man acquiesced to the stronger man’s desires. the labor necessary for human survival is divided among different individuals to provide for the whole. This division of labor and the beginning of private property allow the property owners and nonlaborers to dominate and exploit the poor. This would lead to rebellions of the poor resenting the rich. It was also at this very point where men started comparing what they have and don’t have and perfectibility enters the human psyche. Man having a better home or property led to stealing and policing of society. At this juncture, society is starting to become so complex and interconnected the only way to accomplish anything is through government, or a sovereign ruling over the whole. Man had to organize into governments to control society and people. Unfortunately, this is how large land holding people became the rulers of their respective societies, similar to the Lords and Serfs in Feudal Europe. Anyways, after much debate, I believe that because of the strong man’s deviant behavior in the State of Nature, man took control of private property. The consequences of private property led to the establishment of governments, rather than a group of humans living in harmony with no disputes in their live.

2 Comments
  1. arjunindianhongkongkid permalink
    November 9, 2010 1:12 AM

    Great Post.
    Power is more important of a factor here. When societies originated, it was the strong man who wanted to be in control. The origin of inequality can be conceptualized as God’s fault of creating some of us better off physically and more ability while others among us are not so fortunate. Then the strong man took control due to his ego. Locke, Hobbes and Rousseau argue one thing in common, we form social compacts to get ourselves out of the state of war, whatever contracts they might be. But I cannot help but wonder how much consent goes into these contracts or is it just the strong man dictating that society on a facade that it is going to be run in this fair and equitable way while subtly mending these contracts to his favor. It was strong men at the beginning of society, it came to Kings and noble births, then to aristocracy and now it has moved to ones in political power. Society might just be the strong man’s general will.

  2. Andrew Babat permalink
    November 9, 2010 7:17 PM

    I definitely think government is a necessity. There needs to be a person or group of people who oversee a society. To keep order and stability, there has to be rules that are enforced by a government. Without government, there is nothing stopping a society from turning into chaos. Government makes sure the society is safe, and makes decisions that are in the best interest of the people.

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