John Locke is someone who high school and university students of every stripe and color should consider. To this day he’s one of the most important contributors to social contract theory. He believed that the state of civil society concerns a standing rule to live by. ("a liberty for every one to do what he lists, to live as he pleases, and not to be tied by any laws: but freedom of men under government is, to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it; a liberty to follow my own will in all things, where the rule prescribes not; and not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man")
It is a sense that in some geographically defined space people could come together and form a just government so that their lives would be better, safer and more secure. (“The great and chief end . . . of man’s uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.”) According to Locke, people have a natural reason to do good and respect human rights, but there is no force to bring it about without the democratic nationhood of law and order. This may seem like a forgone conclusion, but nearly 400 years later, democracy is still struggling to bring it into effect in many places in the world. Why this has been so slow in coming has much to do with colonialism, fascism, communism and other undemocratic ideas and events of the last centuries. For a society of good productive people, the question has always been, what to do with the mismanaged, parasitical and criminal people who cannot or will not obey the laws which protect us all. We band together under rule of law and strive for justice and to protect ourselves against criminal elements. It isn’t perfect, but so far, it’s all we’ve got. With no government at all, we might indeed spend most of our resources to fend them off, especially elements like organized crime, violent ideologues like marxism and religious fanatics like fundamentalists.
Many nations too, have a natural reason to do good and live in peace, but there is no global authority or institution to bring it about. Some nations are lawless and the democratic law-abiding nations are forced to arm themselves against these rogues, so, just as there is a civic body in our democratic nation-states to protect human rights, so there must be a civic body to supply law and order to the whole world; the only problem being, who’ll regulate the regulators? However, isn’t that an issue dealt with effectively already inside the democratic societies who have gone from a closed system to democracy by a division of powers? Won’t we be able to work out a solution if the member nation-states could continue to retain a modest defensive military and the global world-wide government is constitutionally restricted by other bodies of government such as executive, judicial and representational? Isn’t it remarkable that the European Union has done so well given how complicated tribal, national and religious differences are to overcome?
Every person has mutual borders defined by human rights. These borders apply especially to the state, church and market-place. No one or institution has the right to initiate physical force. No philosophic theory, religious ideology or political science can legitimately incorporate, or justify, such initiation of force for their means or ends. Both the right and left extremists often mix up means and ends, and therefore, for people seeking human rights, political extremes should be avoided. The broad middle has room enough for every decent person. People have the freedom to their own thoughts. The expressions of these thoughts in any manner whatsoever should be allowed, (as long as they do not contradict or promote the violation of these same rights in others). They have the liberty of association. They have the right to own property. They have the right to a fair trial without the use of torture. They have the right to be treated with dignity in law and have recourse to a speedy trial. They have a right to have civil law anywhere in the world superseded by these rights–that no nation or organization, religious or otherwise, can enforce laws with impunity which violate these primary human-rights.
Humankind has waited long enough. Undemocratic nations are human rights violators in a far greater degree than democracies have ever been and under almost every circumstance. See, “Freedom, Democide, War: Homepage,” for the facts and figures. A future where every citizen of the globe is a commonwealth unto himself, responsible, economically self-sufficient, caring of others, practicing consistent morality and supporting the international effort of human rights in every corner of the world is at hand. It needs a forceful prod to start the final push. Maybe China will commit itself to human rights and democracy. Possibly the United States will stop the use of torture. Perhaps South America will become a democratic union such as has happened in Europe.
© 2023 - E. A. St. Amant