Question 1: Describe the models of society laid out by Althusius and Hobbes.
Althusius’s model of society is called a fedorative polity. Instead of imagining society as a flat plain of civilians with an omniscient ruling class above them, Althusius described society as a richly textured enormously vast circuit of information and individuals. The first organization of power within the society is the family, then several families combine and create a village, from there the villages combine to create provinces, and finally the provinces go on to create a kingdom or a state. In essence a society is based upon many different individuals grouping together to collectively strengthen themselves, these individuals then work and live harmoniously together. The purpose of grouping together is to gain enough power to fend off invaders and ultimately gain themselves freedom. The king or the governments role is strictly to protect these freedoms, nothing more. The government is meant to be representation of the individual, its created to fairly deal with other countries and maintain peace and proper commerce between the two. The government is not created to boss around the individuals or demean their freedoms, its a civil servant made strictly to aid the individuals freedom. The fedorative polity is a collection of many different civil authorities who combine their authority together to further help protect their own freedoms. This should be seen as basic for a free society.
By contrast the view of Hobbes is a central government having control over everything, the towns and provinces don’t have any real power to defend themselves against this central government. This (sadly in my opinion) is how the majority of societies establish themselves nowadays. The central government is viewed as unbiased and omniscient, when in reality it’s simply as human as the rest of us. It has its own biases, points of view, agendas and personal goals, and because its given all the civil power its extremely easy for this central government to become corrupt.
Let me give you an example of this corruption from recent history. Originally Europe was composed of many different small societies and civil authorities. It was a vast collection of characters and culture, a patchwork quilt of cultural self expression and individual civil authority. Then over time these civil authorities began blending together and allowing their power to transfer to a broader central government. Now let me ask a question that will highlight my point. Would it have been better for the 20th century European if Germany had stayed a collection of small individual city states instead of combining into a powerful totalitarian nation? The answer is obvious. We would have been spared an enormous amount of grief, wartime, individual suffering and cultural extermination. Nazi Germany is an example of what can happen if a central government becomes corrupt, it can result in horrors the likes of which the world has never seen.
Just because the Hobbesian theory of central government makes it faster to pass laws and control the masses doesn’t mean its the best option for the masses. I argue the Althusius model for society not only better secures our individual freedoms, but it more accurately represents what the average citizen wants. I hate that i’m forced to describe us all as “the masses”. Its like we’ve been labeled as cattle, our individual dreams and culture nearly all forgotten. We’ve completely lost our individual representation, unless you count one government agent representing over 713,000 people as proper representation. In the medieval time period questioning the kings decisions was seen as not only normal, but extremely respectable. You were seen as an intelligent visionary if you could make a proper argument against the kings rulings. As much as Game of Thrones wants to argue otherwise, the historically accurate king was put in power to SERVE THE PEOPLE. Nothing more. The kings that denied this were quickly overthrown.
What is sad is that in today’s society questioning the power of the central government is viewed as civil disobedience, it can even be viewed as civil terrorism by those truly consumed by the group mentality. In my mind this is as close to playing god as we can get as a society, we’ve started looking at the government as an all knowing force that we cant possibly understand instead of a group of people elected to represent the people. If we don’t stand up and speak against this the central government will only continue to grow. It will grow until you can’t speak against it, it will grow until those not satisfied with being part of “the masses” will be quietly done away with. If we don’t want George Orwell’s 1984 to come to fruition we must be able to see the signs of it encroaching.
Question 2: Can smaller political units contribute to the cause of liberty? If so, why?
Our country was founded upon many different small political units. The liberty we won from the British was won by many small political units fighting against one giant central government. This is why in our constitution the United States are never referred to as “is”. The United States are referred to as “are” because we are a collection of individual political groups. We are a collection of states, each meant to have its own power and rights. We are a collection of political units, not simply a blob controlled by central government. The Nationalist Theory argues against this, stating the central government maintains complete control over every part of our country.
The Compact Theory on the other hand argues that it was the states that created the central government, it was the individual states that assigned power to the central government. The creator should always have power over the creation, not the other way around. But it seems the central government has gotten it into its mind that it was the original creator, and that the states are simply under its thumb. This is absolutely ridiculous, and honestly quite frightening. The creation rising up against its creator and enslaving them, makes me imagine a world where a cartoon murders its animator. I’ll use another example. A bride and groom meet and decide to get married. Was the marriage a product of the bride and groom? Or were the bride and groom a product of the marriage. The answer should be obvious, now assign the example in terms of central government and you’ll realize how backwards our current system is. The marriage is acting like it created the bride and groom, when in reality without the bride and groom the marriage wouldn’t exist.
There is a clear parallel between the Compact Theory and Althusius: an organization of small political units creating their own laws and regulations to maintain their freedom. There is also a clear parallel between the Nationalist Theory and Hobbes: a federal government having all the power in the world with the individuals having little to no power whatsoever to represent themselves. Unless, again being assigned the title of “the masses” feels like proper individual representation to you. In the early 1790’s the US’s first congress of representatives had one representative for every 30,000 people. Seems like a lot of people for one person to properly represent doesn’t it? Well today there’s one representative for every 713,000 people, an overwhelming number that clearly establishes that we truly have lost our personal representation. Sure, you have the power of your vote. But a drop in an ocean isn’t likely to do as much as you hope.
The fundamental question that is “Has our federal government gotten too large?” has become taboo to even speak about. Its a very reasonable question, but those who ask it are labeled civil terrorists. This amount of defensiveness just goes to show that we are on the right track, it just goes to show that this is a topic worth talking about. I don’t know about you, but I believe that personal representation is one of the bases our country was built upon. I also believe it has been swept beneath the rug, guarded by a dragon who will bite you if you so much as question what its hiding. Individual representation for every soul who resides in this country needs to be fought for. It needs to come to light how important it is, and it needs to stop being seen as taboo. The creation has enslaved its creator, and the creator has forgotten how to fight back. We need to remember how this country was built, that being on the backs of individuals fighting for and with their lives. These individuals died for our rights of freedom, and their sacrifice has nearly been forgotten. We must remember what they were fighting for, and take a real good look at how it has translated into our modern society.