Chapter 4: It Takes a Beast

Chapter 4: It Takes a Beast. Hobbes believed that there could be no “rule of law” if there was no one to “rule on law.”  In his view, social contracts held together only if there was a sovereign to enforce them.  Hobbes carefully chose the metaphor of Leviathan both to startle and to offend.  The notion of some beastly presence looming over us (look at the cover of his book!) is still offensive to Western, liberal tastes.  The United States is particularly conflicted over this notion of sovereignty.  Our politicians trumpet “the rule of law,” and then defeat any treaty (law) that would submit our country to the sovereignty of any body beyond our sovereign territory: not International Criminal Court, not The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, not The Kyoto Protocols, not The International Court of Justice. Even the majority of the present composition of our Supreme Court seems not to believe that we are even subject to our own international treaties freely negotiated with other nations.  It seems we have an authority problem.  What is the relationship between the citizen and the sovereign?  How is the Social Contract “authorized?”  What is the effect of free ridership on the Social Contract?  How can we achieve a new set of global agreements to deal with the very real threat of environmental, economic and political collapse?  Or will our Libertarian tendencies to rebel at any and all authority external to our own country do us in?  Will Patrick Henry’s  moving refrain, “Give me liberty or give me death!” be quite prophetic for libertarian democracy, i.e. we get both – liberty and extinction?” Is (as Janice Joplin’s haunting song suggested), “freedom’s just anther word for nothing left to lose?”