Both John Locke and Thomas Hobbes (and almost every other political philosopher) start their discussion from a state of nature. Locke’s state is one of liberty and love. Hobbes’ is a state of fear and war.
However, both opine that government is instituted in order to securitize property and peace. For Hobbes, the state of war that exists in the state of nature requires a Leviathan, an omnipotent entity, whom everyone else fears and to whom total sovereignty is granted in order that peace and security can exist.
For Locke, only if property is secure can human beings have the increased liberty that exists in a society to pursue further happiness and enjoy that liberty and life. And without a government established by consent of the majority that is able to secure life and property, one’s efforts are all spent trying to maintain what one has.
In my previous post and another prior post, I ask the questions as to whether corporatism (and eventually economic fascism) is the natural end of capitalistic free markets and whether statism is the natural end of socialism, seeing each not as two ends of a spectrum, but as two faces of the State, the face being determined by the society’s view regarding property.
During the 1920’s and 30’s in the United States, there was a lot of polarized sympathy for either fascism and communism, again depending on one’s view of property. Those who held a more “common property” view saw communism and the Soviet Union as a reasonable alternative to capitalism, while those who leaned more toward private property saw fascism and Hitler’s Germany as a reasonable economic structure.
Because we look at history through the retrospect-oscope, if we don’t read primary sources from those times, we can’t comprehend how anyone could support the policies of the Stalinist regime or Nazism. However, the economics of the two regimes held appeal to American intellectuals and business elite respectively during the 30’s while the U.S. was facing the Great Depression (the first death of Capitalism).
Today we seem to face a similar choice. The economic philosophies at the heart of government take-overs and corporate bailouts are the same as those at the foundation of state communism and state corporatism: the role of the State and the form of Property.
If the State plans and controls the economy, the end of the state is socialism. If Property plans and controls the state, the end results is corporate fascism.
The solution of conservatives is to keep the government out of the market and allow free enterprise, exchange, production, labor and prosperity to flow out from the market. This is fine and well, until Bastiat’s predatory men or Smith’s merchant class gain control of the legislative process, at which point the State becomes an arm of the Market: Corporate Fascism.
The solution of liberals is to inject the market with sufficient regulation to mitigate the effects of selfish humans seeking unrestrained self-interest. Again this seems reasonable until the government “seizes” the means and materials of production at which point the Market becomes and arm of the State: State Socialism.
Can our current concept of Property and natural tendencies of the State exist in the same society?