We haven't been picking on the Wall Street Journal lately. It's not that they don't deserve it, but we've had other things to do, such as trying to finish the series on common currencies (below), and figuring out what to do next (besides actually working for a living or something). Nevertheless, we read both the Journal and the Washington Post (almost) every day. Sometimes the comics are funny, more often not, and sometimes we can even figure out what point the Post's editorial cartoonist is trying to make (oh, Jeff MacNelly, where art thou?).
In any event, yesterday we came across a review of Thomas Hobbes's 1651 classic manual for the totalitarian State, Leviathan, in the pages of the Journal. That was startling enough . . . just how big is their backlog? (And no wonder they never reviewed Capital Homesteading for Every Citizen!) The reviewer, Dr. Jeffrey Collins, is a professor of history at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and is an expert on Thomas Hobbes, having written a book on the subject. (And we are experts on Capital Homesteading, having written the book on the subject.)
The point of the review seemed to be that modern government follows a blueprint laid out by Hobbes. Since we've been ranting and raving about that very thing for months now, what could we do but agree? So we agreed, and sent in the following letter:
Jeffrey Collins closes his review of Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan ("Real Government Efficiency," 07/14/10, A17) by quoting John Dunn's observation that Hobbes seems to be "our philosophical contemporary." Mr. Collins is right.
Today's "Servile State" finds its philosophical support in the work of Hobbes. By denying the natural right of private property, Hobbes rendered citizens economically powerless and justified socialism. ("A Fifth doctrine, that tendeth to the Dissolution of a Common-wealth, is, That every private man has an absolute Propriety in his Goods; such, as excludeth the Right of the Soveraign." Leviathan, II.xxix.) Denying the right of liberty by declaring all associations illegal other than those directly sanctioned by the State, and those necessarily "Representative of the whole number," he held citizens politically powerless. (Ibid., II.xxii.)
Walter Bagehot commented approvingly on Hobbes in The English Constitution (1867). He also ridiculed Magna Carta, sneered at the United States, and redefined "democracy" to mean rule of the British Empire by the "Upper Ten Thousand" financial elite who controlled parliament through the "rotten borough" system. An adherent of the Currency School, Bagehot accepted that the State should control the quantity of money, describing how he believed the London money market functioned under the Bank Charter Act of 1844 in Lombard Street (1873).
Following Bagehot, John Maynard Keynes denied liberty (freedom of association), claiming the State "decides what it is that must be delivered as a lawful or customary discharge of a contract" (Treatise on Money, Vol. I. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1930, 4), to say nothing of Keynes's belief that the State can change reality by "re-editing the dictionary." (Ibid.) By asserting that the State should allocate resources and set the return to capital by controlling interest rates, Keynes denied private property as a natural right. (General Theory, V.24.iii.)
Mr. Collins is correct that, "What we make of [Hobbes's] company is its own question." In light of today's economy, the spread of elitism, and State encroachment in virtually every area of life that threatens to reduce each person to the status of "mere creature of the State" (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925)), the answer is self-evident.
BTW (this wasn't part of the letter), Jeff MacNelly was a syndicated political cartoonist who also drew the comic strip "Shoe." He died of cancer in 2000 in Baltimore. His cartoon, "Jeff MacNelly's Tax Return," if I'm not mistaken, may have won the Pulitzer Prize. Or maybe not. If it didn't, it should have. It's so funny, you'll plotz.