Sample Paper on The Relationship between People and the Government

The relationship between individuals or citizens and the government has long been controversial. As indicated by Elowitz (2002), in the mid-1600s, soon after a civil war over who between King Charles and the Parliament was the rightful ruler of England broke out, scholars such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau began debating over the question of the ethical link between government and its people. It can be argued that, over time as the absolute rule of royal families weakened, different forms of democracy have emerged each highlighting dissimilar forms of how freedoms are enjoyed by citizens, meaning the concept of the ‘ideal government’. In an era defined by sustainability, accountability, and growth there seems to be only one theory that may reflect the relationship between people and their ideal governments.

Thomas Hobbes Theory

Shortly after the death of King Charles in England, Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679) wrote a manuscript titled Leviathan, which defended the absolute power of royalty, particularly kings. In the book, Hobbes introduces the concept of a “state of nature” which represents an environment where all individuals are naturally equal (Schmitt, 2008). In this case, each person in a community is allowed to do what is necessary to survive; however, the result of this sovereignty is that hatred, poverty, and a lack of security. Hobbes indicates that the negative consequences and the people’s agreed pushed them to forfeit their rights and give absolute power to the crown (Lindsay, 1996). It can be argued that freedom and authority are created through social contract by the citizens and is given to a person or a representative group. Hobbes set the premise that a government led by a king was the best way to protect a community’s liberty. He posited that a social contract was an arrangement among the people and not between them and their king (Lindsay, 1996).

Hobbes theory was the first to bring up the concept of representation, which is its only strength. It is easier to govern constituents who have one sole leader who makes sure all their needs are taken care of. However, his premise of absolute power give to the king and a lack of revolt or compromise over it is questionable and stands as the theory’s major weaknesses.

Locke: The Reluctant Democrat

Born a short time before the English Civil War, John Locke held the premise that the King was an important figure in government; however, he disputed the notion of having one who had absolute power. As indicated by Benhabib (2003), Locke sided with the Protestant Parliament after they went against the wishes of the Roman Catholic King James II in 1685. This revolt saw to the reduction of the King’s powers and made the Parliament one of the major authorities in the English government. In his manuscript “Two Treatises of Government”, he agreed to Hobbes principle of the brutality of the Republic of nature, which led to the development of the social contract to guarantee peace; nevertheless, he disagreed with Hobbes on two issues (Lindsay, 1996). Firstly, according to Locke’s understanding, no individuals has the ability to forfeit their rights and secondly, the notion that the social contract was made between the citizens; he saw it as an arrangement between the people and the sovereign.

The biggest strengths of  Locke’s theory is that it addresses Hobbes weaknesses; for instance , the people have the power to rebel the sovereign if the privileges provided to the said authority are violated and soon after a new government should be established. Additionally, it is realistic when it comes to changing the hands of sovereignty through the people’s will. The only weakness it that he does not equivocally indicate the powers of other branches of government

Rousseau: The Extreme Democrat

Unlike Hobbes and Locke who believed in the existence and selection of authority such as royalty, Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed that the rich and powerful unlawfully seized the authoritarian power over the poor and later swindled the common citizens into believing that they had their best interest in mind. He stated that the social contract was not an agreement but a fraudulent agenda against individuals committed by the wealthy in the community.  Per Estlund, Waldron, Grofman, and Feld, (1999,) Rousseau stated that a person should not be compelled to give up natural rights to a king because he did not believe in the state of nature. Nevertheless, he indicated that in the instance that an election is a positive aspect of agreement then all people had equal voting rights in the selection of the most popular leader.

Rousseau’s notion is hard to discount considering that in most states the authorities are made up of the elite of the society who try to communicate with the ordinary citizen from a similar platform, which is questionable. The aforementioned premise is the theory’s major strength; however, it should be noted that the elite do not force the constituents into making them leaders as indicated by Rousseau.

The Ideal Government

The prevailing notion of an ideal nation or an ethical government tends to adopt a universal profile. Firstly, an ideal state allows an individual to enjoy different types of liberty, including natural, civil, political, personal, economic, and national liberty (Weiss, 2009). Secondly, it should follow the principals of de-jure and de-facto, thus allowing all individuals to enjoy the privilege to share their ideas, statements, responses, or associations without causing any harm to other citizens. However, the right to exercise the three kinds of freedom might still be insufficient. Thirdly, ideal nations provide its people with the right to organize their lives according to their taste, but on the other hand, they also need social attachments and safety. Therefore, in an ideal case, the state would not only allow the subjects the right to practice the kinds of liberty but also guarantee social order. Nevertheless, such a relationship does not exist in reality reason being that the forces of freedom do not exist in an inverting symbiosis (Weiss, 2009). Therefore, with this in mind it can be argued that Locke’s theory represents the best relationship between people and their governments, a perfect democracy.

The relationship between the people and the government is based on the social contract. An ideal and ethical nation provides for its citizens a majority of the freedoms with limited authoritarian behaviors. Hobbes was the first philosopher to mention the social contract concept soon after the English civil war of the 1690s. He indicated that the society needed to forfeit its rights to the sovereign ruler(king) to maintain sustainability. Locke refined Hobbes’s notion by indicating that the king ought not to be given ultimate authority but be a part of different branches of leadership. This notion it the best when it comes to highlighting the ideal relationship between government and its people, a perfect democracy.

 

References

Benhabib, S. (2003). The reluctant modernism of Hannah Arendt. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Elowitz, L. (2002). Study guide: Government by the people. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Prentice

Estlund, D. M., Waldron, J., Grofman, B., & Feld, S. L. (1999). Democratic theory and the public interest: Condorcet and Rousseau revisited. American political science review83(4), 1317-1340

Lindsay, P. (1996). Creative individualism: The democratic vision of C.B. Macpherson. Albany, NY: State Univ. of New York

Schmitt, C. (2008). The Leviathan in the state theory of Thomas Hobbes: meaning and failure of a political symbol. University of Chicago Press.

Weiss, T. G. (2009). What happened to the idea of world government? International studies quarterly53(2), 253-271