Life Without Law: A State of War

What is a state of war?

According to Thomas Hobbes and John Locke a state of war exists when, in a state of nature, there is no government and everyone has a right to everything.

The concept of a state of war is something I work to emphasize to my students and they always get it.

We love the idea of rights. We love the idea of liberty. Hey, wouldn’t it be awesome if we all had a right to everything and the liberty to anything? How great would it be to live in a world where there were no cops and was no law?

Isn’t this exactly what is being demanded today?

Antifa, Black Lives Matter and others are working to eliminate all law and law enforcement. They have said their goal now is to abolish the police.

Have they truly thought this through to the end? Perhaps the illusion of a “right to everything” and complete liberty is enough though.

Let me expel the illusion.

Consider what the theorists, Hobbes and Locke, mean when they say a state of war.

Hobbes says, “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.”

Hobbes explains that in a state of nature where there is no law and no government, everyone has a right to everything. And that’s just it. Everyone has a right to everything. Nothing is unjust.

So, while there is no law to prevent you from doing whatever you want, there is no law preventing your neighbor from doing whatever he or she wants.

And this just results in a miserable state of war.

I ask my students. Is there liberty in the state of war?

They contemplate and consider this and realize the reality that, no, there is no liberty in a state war. Why? Because if there is complete liberty for you, that means there is complete liberty for all and therefore no liberty for anyone.

If you have just as much of a right to kill me and steal from me as I do from you, then we must always live in a constant state fear and misery and ultimately war.

And this is what Americans are calling for today as they scream for the police to be abolished. Sure, the idea of complete liberty and a right to everything sounds nice, but the reality that people are not reckoning with is that when they finally do have “complete liberty” and a right to everything, so does everyone else…which means we have no liberty.

“Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man;”

The unfortunate but sobering reality of mankind is just this. If there is no law, if there is no order, there is chaos. Every man fights for himself and can trust no one. Why? Because everyone else is doing the same.

This is what American citizens are calling for when they call for the police to be disbanded.

And this way of living is and always will be …”solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short”.

But again, who knows, maybe that’s just what people want.

The Liberty Belle

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