Recently, Mark Safranski quoted Todd Zywicki as saying the New York Times has great influence in parts of the American government. If this sort of idiotic pseudo-political-philosophy counts as part of their influence, God help us all!
Between the murders on “Deadwood” and the massacres on “Into the West,” the Steven Spielberg epic that seems to be playing round the clock on TNT, the popular version of the frontier looks scarier than ever. There’s nothing like blood on high-def TV to illustrate Hobbes’s theory that life before government was nasty, brutish and short.
It was Hobbes’s prescription for “war of every man against every man,” and he was echoed by newspaper predictions of a “theater of tragic events” in which “brute force will reign triumphant.” But the miners peacefully worked out rules for delineating claims and resolving disputes so well that the system was adopted at later camps like Deadwood.
The Indians saw that Washington’s new interest in the Black Hills would be disastrous for them (a topic for a later column). Raiding was no longer costlier than trading for the settlers because they could now let troops do the raiding for them. Hobbes had expected war in the absence of government, but the West didn’t really get wild until the feds arrived.
In three paragraphs, accurate to bizarre to insane.
Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher who escaped the worst of the English Civil War. Believing that anarchy was the worst form of government — a style where life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” — Hobbes believed people banded together to form a monstrous Leviathan that could pacify country and protect the people from evils. This Leviathan would be a “system administrator,” taking care of rogue outlaws while allowing individuals to live more connected, rich, comfortable, soft, and long lives.
Hobbes did not “prescribe” anarchy as an ideal form of government. He saw it as the worst form of government. Likewise, Hobbes expected government to form in the absence of government, with people creating a Leviathan out of themselves to end the chaos.
So the Old Gray Lady doesn’t know what she is talking about (while attacking the Wild West – an American icon!). What else is new?