Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hobbesian Choice

George Weigel puts a philosophical spin on the forthcoming US presidential election - it isn't so much Romney vs Obama as Burke vs Hobbes:
For as the candidates have presented themselves to the country over the past months, and most recently at their conventions, it has become ever more clear that America will choose in 2012 between two paths into the future. Along one path, there is, finally, room for only the individual and the state [Hobbes]. Along the other path, the flourishing institutions of civil society empower individuals and contribute to real problem-solving [Burke]. In the former, the state defines responsibilities and awards benefits (and penalties). In the latter, individuals and free, voluntary associations assume responsibility and thereby thus make their contribution to the common good.
Burke is one of our least celebrated Irish heros, but that's probably because Irish politicians are all Hobbesians nowadays.

(By the way, I'm not convinced Romney is a Burkean either for that matter).


  1. Burke, probably the finest philosopher this country has ever produced, but barely mentioned in his native land and certainly never taught in schools. In the eyes of the present establishment he has two black marks against him - he was a conservative, and an Irish patriot who chose to work within the framework of the United Kingdom. He still has a lot to teach us.

  2. Given Burke's scepticism regarding democracy he probably fits more closely with the Republican Party than anticipated. Plus how naive to assume that Romney cares about the 'common good', his idea of the 'invisible hand' is that of the rich into the pockets of the poor.


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