Thursday, December 11, 2014

Tyranny vs Chaos

The debate of the freedoms that should be allowed to man (and woman) has occurred from the moment that humanity has formed civilization. To put that in the perspective of the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, since humanity has left the state of nature. Arthur Miller wrote that, "It is still impossible for man to organize his social life without repressions, and the balance has yet to be struck between order and freedom." For Hobbes, the state of nature was that life without the repression and influence from society. However, the state of nature would turn into a state of war, there was no way around it, and the best thing to do was just to leave it. Hobbes then proposed a social contract where the people give up all rights to a sovereign and in turn, the sovereign protects the people. What Hobbes proposed was an absolute monarchy, a government that would not give liberties to the people, but would keep them safe.

However, man (and woman) is not content to allow rights to be taken away, and as the chaos of the state of war leaves memory, the people will agitate for rights. This agitation is apparent in times of upheaval, and most notably, in revolutions. In the American Revolution the colonists fought against a sovereign (albeit not a king) that was absolute in power and would not afford the colonists rights. In the French Revolution the nobles fought against the king, then the bourgeoisie against the nobles, then the peasants against the bourgeoisie, before everyone decided that tyranny was better than chaos and Napoleon was able to take over.

Today, we see liberties as important and in fact the basis of society. However, is this debate on the balance of rights still happening? Undoubtedly. Some examples of liberties being used to ensure order include the Patriot Act, the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and the recently released Senate Committee on Intelligence report. These examples all include the sovereign, the U.S. government (even though the people are supposed to be sovereign), violating the rights of both citizens and non-citizens. the latter two clearly violating the constitution and the natural rights of man supposed to be upheld by America.

So, is liberty preferably to security? Freedom to safety? Chaos to Tyranny? In my (likely controversial) opinion, no. I would like to point out that I am not in support of torture. I am in support of a political stratification and separation from the masses. History is something that will repeat unless studied. The masses tend not to study history. Chaos tends to break out, it was a monumental moment when Adams and the Federalists handed over power, peacefully, to Jackson and the Democratic-Republicans in 1800. Politics is getting more and more dirty, and America is truly wonderful in that it remains peaceful. But in other places, chaos breaks out. Liberty can be a very dangerous thing. As the historian Henri Peyre wrote, "In order to revolt against one's lot, one must be aware of his wretched condition." Peyre means to say that oppression is not enough to cause revolution, it must be accompanied with a knowledge or vision of liberty.

I would like to emphasize that I am not in favor of the repression of the masses. As the French Physiocrat Turgot said, "Give me five years of despotism, and I can make France free." With absolute political power, one could increase welfare to the poor, create a social equality, and raise the quality of life of the entire nation. Of course this enlightened absolutism cannot be reliable on a hereditary model. With continual despotism there is a danger of oppression. Although Hobbes stated that oppression was tolerable and even preferable to chaos, in this day and age it cannot be considered as a permanent solution. Despotism has to be used from time to time to help the safety and even the freedom of people, for example the increased powers given to government in times of war.

The struggle between tyranny and chaos will always continue. In the Arab Spring in Egypt, a dictator was thrown out, replaced by an elected leader, that was later replaced by a military backed leader. Time after time the world has chosen one or the other. Time after time, the world has either supported or regretting that decision. The struggle will never end as great men rise and fall, and as ideas rise and fall. Our world, civilization as a whole is the embodiment of the debate of tyranny vs chaos, freedom vs safety, and liberty vs security.

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