Monday, January 17, 2011

Is Thomas Hobbes going to be the next President of Haiti?

New York Times
Well, not the REAL Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), but a philosophical surrogate perhaps..."Baby Doc" Duvalier, a former dictator in Haiti, arrived unexpectedly in Port au Prince over the weekend (NY TIMES).  He inherited power from his father, "Papa Doc" Duvalier. This family ruled Haiti from the 1950's to 1980's. 

Haiti could be a modern day example of the Hobbesian view of man in the "state of nature" and why the return of Baby Doc may be no mere coincidence.
Kind of a dim perspective, isn't it? The "common power to keep them all in awe" refers to the choice of government people will choose to avoid the above conditions.  In Hobbes view, the social contract people would/should choose voluntarily is rule by a "single sovereign or assembly of men"  who would use unconditional power to maintain law and order. The people would cede all rights, including the right to rebel, to this sovereign power in return for protection against those who would do them harm. 

If you view this Frontline documentary on post-earthquake Haitii, one could see how the power vacuum in Haiti may set the conditions for the rise of a single-power sovereign like Duvalier.  At this point, are the people of Haiti ready for some law and order provided by another dictator? I certainly hope not, but the inertia seems to be pushing that way...

"During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.

"To this war of every man against every man, this also in consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law, where no law, no injustice. Force, and fraud, are in war the cardinal virtues.

"No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."
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