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THOMAS HOBBES (De Cive, 1642, Leviathan, 1651) wrote in the troubled times of the Civil War and the Commonwealth, when the need of a strong central government was more felt in England than the need of domestic reform or international mediation. He is the greatest modern apostle of the doctrine that Might is Right. He speaks like Grotius of a law of nature, and a state of nature, but conceives them very differently, and his writings may be read throughout as if controversial pamphlets against Grotius. What in the Dutch philosopher was only implied,—that the individual is the starting point of political philosophy,—is by the English made explicit and emphatic. In tracing State and Society to their first beginnings, we come (if we follow Hobbes) to individual men, by nature not social, but, “ad mutuam cædem apti,” selfish and anti-social, in a state of war with each other. In this state of nature there are no laws, not even laws of nature. Every man is, roughly speaking, his fellow's equal in the balance of physical and intellectual gifts; every one has a claim to all things; his desires are boundless, and his will is only bounded by his power. It is the struggle for existence, with supremacy to the strongest, described in the 2nd book of Plato's Republic ; and it is a struggle which ceases only when the combatants recognise that they are defeating their own ends by continuing it. The first law of nature
1 “Librum de Cive vidi. Placent quæ pro regibus dicit. Fundamenta tamen quibus suas sententias superstruit probare non possum. Putat inter homines omnes a natura esse bellum, et alia quædam habet nostris non congruentia” (namely, about Religion). Letter of Grotius to his brother, 11th April, 1643 (Grotii Epistolæ, Amsterd., 1687, pages 951, 952.
is self-preservation, and that law bids them seek peace instead of war. They discover that the paths of gain and glory lead but to the grave.
The voice of reason is first heard when passion finds out its own impotence. But to get peace they must make mutual concessions ; each must give up his unlimited claims, on condition that the others do the same. Obeying the law of nature, they give up the state of nature, and found a political union, where the once independent individuals have surrendered their several wills to one sovereign authority. They do this by entering into a Contract, a contract on which all other contracts depend. The Sovereign may be a single man or may be a group, but in any case, represents their common self-denying ordinance, their common submission for Peace's sake. They then become one people instead of an aggregate of separate atoms.? To Hobbes, therefore (as to Grotius), the State is “an artificial body." "By art is created that great Leviathan called a Commonwealth or State, which is but an artificial man (though of greater stature and length than the natural man, for whose protection it was intended), and in which the sovereignty is an artificial soul giving life and motion to the whole body.”
Outside this State there can be no laws and no justice; particular States are to each other in a state of nature, which means a state of natural liberty and anarchy; of the laws themselves we can say they are good or bad, but not that they are just or unjust, for we have no other standard of justice but the laws themselves. 3 After departing from Greek notions by beginning with individual atoms having no bent for society in them, Hobbes goes on to make men depend on the State for their rules of life in a stricter way than the Greeks themselves. The State on which they so depend is, moreover, according to him, a contrivance of enlightened selfishness;
1 De Cive, ch. xii., 199, 200 (Elzevir, 1669). Compare Dante, De Monarchia, I. § v., Pax universalis is the final goal (ultimus finis) of
2 Leviathan (init.); cf. Grotius, De Jure Belli et Pacis, II. ix. iii. 3 For concessions, see Leviathan, ch. xxiv. p. 122, and ch. xxx., ed. 1676. Kings (he allows) may sometimes act against their own interest and against the laws of nature.
and the source of all morality and justice is thus itself quite alien to either in any ordinary understanding of the terms. Political economy has been often understood to delight in a reign of law where the selfishness of many conduces to the benefit of all, but it has not claimed (as Hobbes claims for his State) that the fact of such conduciveness converts the selfish motive into a moral principle. Hobbes' immediate application of his theory was political : he inferred that no resistance to sovereign authority was ever lawful to which the answer is, that the obligation which binds the action of man after the contract cannot be shown to rest on any other foundation than obligation before the contract; in other words, there is nothing, on Hobbes' own principles, to prevent a nation breaking this contract except their want of power to break it. If they have the power, they have all the justification, which, on the premises, is needed. It might be added that, if the assumption of such a contract is historically improbable, the assumption of its intentional unalterableness is still more so. In regard to Hobbes' theory, Professor Green says, very happily, and in the spirit of Grotius, that “where there is no recognition of a common good there can be no right in any other sense than power."
But without at present dwelling on the political aspect of the theory, let us look a little at the economical. The injunction, “Seek peace and ensue it,” applies to men as dealing with goods quite as much as to men in their other relations. The two strongest motives for seeking peace are the fear of death and the desire of the comforts of life. 3 Outside of the State no one can be sure that he will reap the fruits of his labour, whereas (according to Hobbes within the State every one can have that assurance. Without are fightings, but within are no fears ; without are poverty, ignorance, and barbarism, within are the reign of reason, peace, security, wealth, refinement, and knowledge. Natural or absolute liberty and equality, however, are given up, and when we speak, for
1 T. H. Green, Works, vol. ii. p. 370 (Principles of Political Obligation). 2 De Cive, p. 161.
3 Leviathan, I. XIII. end.
example, of equality in taxation we mean equality of burden, but not of payment (equalitas non pecunia sed oneris), for the burdens should be in proportion to the advantages gained by the citizens from the peace of the State, and these advantages are very unequal.
We see from the above that the connection of Hobbes' economical principles with his philosophical lies in the fact that the social compact is supposed to be necessary for economical growth, as well as for general security, culture, and happiness. To Hobbes himself economics is only one aspect of politics, and he does not include the former in his table of sciences. In many ways, however, he has prepared us for the view of economics as a separate study. He distinguishes the State from the household very sharply, and observes that public interests secure less active service than private. “To govern well a family and a kingdom,” he says, “are not different degrees of prudence, but different sorts of business. ... A plain husbandman is more prudent in affairs of his own house than a philosopher in the affairs of another man."1 Private interest is conceived as the real motive force in society; and human beings, he considers,” never “rest in the repose of a mind satisfied,” but are continually advancing in their desires from one object to another ; if there be any “highest good” at all, it is a never ending satisfaction of indefinitely increasing desires. It is true that this conception of insatiable human wants is not specially applied to wealth. Hobbes lays more stress on the resulting competition for power and praise, than for the comforts of life. But the latter, if subordinate, is still included ; and, taking this notion (which anticipates the notion of Ricardo, that demand may be assumed to be constant and wants insatiable) as our starting point, we may proceed to gather up the other economical ideas of Hobbes as best we can from his fragmentary statements of them. The assumption that all men are by nature practically equal in ability,' is made by him deliberately, and adapted as a general political
1 Leviathan, ch. viji. In his English version, which is the earlier he says "privy councillor " instead of " philosopher.” 2 Ib., ch. ix.
3 Ib., ch, xiii.
axiom. Here again we have a principle which of course applies to the economical relations of men amongst others; but, though here too we have an anticipation of a later economical hypothesis, we do not find it turned to special economic account by Hobbes himself. His general ideas on economics are most fully conveyed in the 24th chapter of the Leviathan (part II.), where he treats of the Nutrition and Procreation of a Common
The nutrition of it depends, he says, on the abundance of the materials of wealth, the fruits of land and sea, given by nature either freely or in exchange for labour, including the labour that purchases them from foreigners. It depends, also, on the distribution of those materials in accordance with the laws of property, without which no man can call the fruits of his toil his own. Thus the Greeks wisely used the same word vóuos, for law and for distribution or allotment. There is, however, no right of property as against the Sovereign power, and the uniqueness of the position of that power should exclude it from the holding of domains as if it were an individual. For like reasons the Sovereign must control foreign trade, that men may not for private gain bring mischievous goods into the commonwealth. In the next place the nourishment of the commonwealth depends on the
preparation or “concoction" of the said materials. They must be converted into goods that can be stored and transported, and exchanged for what can at all times be converted by the citizens into food. He explains that he is referring to the valuation of goods in money, and the exchange of them for money, money not only being prized for the sake of its material, all over the world, but being “ bonorum cæterorum omnium mensura commodissima,” the most convenient measure [of the value] of all other goods. By means of money a man can go to and fro, and always in a sense have his goods with him, in the shape of their equivalent, money. Money, circulating from man to man, is like blood in the physical body; and, as in the physical body the vitality is quickened by
1 De Civitatis facultate nutritiva et generativa.
2 So Grotius reminds us that Ceres was "legifera.” De Jure B. et P., II. 11. § 2.