Is It Justice That We Are Looking For? – II
Thomas Hobbes argued that before the existence of government humans were living in chaos. He describes this in his famous book Leviathan as this:
“In such condition, there is no place for industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments, and removing, such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.”
On the contrary to the arguments of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke argued that before the existence of governments (in the natural state) people were not living in chaos, instead, they had the natural right and means to defend themselves, their properties and liberty.
Although Locke and Hobbes had opposite ideas about the life of people before the existence of governments, they agreed on one point: People created governments through a social contract. With this contract, people assigned the power to govern themselves to the governments in order to reach a social order. Hobbes argues that people created governments because they wanted to get rid of the chaotic life they had been suffering from. Locke argues that the creation of the governments was triggered by the need to have a higher authority to solve conflicts between individuals and establish a better social order that will allow people to defend their rights more easily and efficiently.
We can see in both Hobbes’ and Locke’s theories that they consider the creation of the governments as the starting point of “the society”; a society that we know today. It is apparent that the creation of the governments meant the creation of laws and rules. Because, in the absence of laws and rules, the governments would be powerless and there would not be any reason to empower them through a social contract.
We do not know who is right; Hobbes or Locke. But we know that people wanted to create laws and establish order in society at some point in history. When we look at the ideas of Locke and Hobbes, we see that it was not justice people were looking for when they concluded the social contract. It was safety and social order they were looking for. I, personally, believe that either Hobbes or Locke was true; however, we must know that their arguments are not exhaustive for the possible scenarios that lead to the creation of laws. Maybe, on the contrary to the ideas of Hobbes and Locke, the society before the existence of governments was neither chaotic nor orderly enough to defend one’s life, property and liberty. It is possible that it was an injustice that disturbed people the most and became the reason for the social contract, or it also could be inequality that led to the creation of laws. Hence, the motivation behind creating governments and laws could be the desire to have a just and equal society. Yet, we do not know. Then, how can we have a better idea, a better insight into how and why the laws were created? As all arguments about the prehistoric period of humanity would be highly subjective, if we look at the laws of the today’s world, we can get a grasp of the motivation behind the creation of laws.
Almost all aspects of human life are regulated by laws. A person who committed murder is going to be sanctioned with the punishment stated under the relevant section of the Criminal Code. A person who did not pay his debts will be enforced to pay his debts through debt collection proceedings. A company which cannot sustain its financial activities and fails to pay its debts to its creditors will be liquidated or restructured under the relevant bankruptcy and restructuring regulations. The status of a child of divorcing parents will be decided under relevant regulations with an approach to ensure the best possible outcome for the child. As we can see, in every incident, the method of the law appears to be different than others; punishing a criminal, enforcing a debt, liquidating a company, deciding a child’s future… Although the methods are different than each other, we can see a pattern in all these situations: The law is trying to satisfy the public conscience by trying to find the best possible solution in each case. A murderer must be punished, a debtor that is eluding his creditors must be enforced to pay his debts, an insolvent company must be liquidated so that its creditors can obtain their receivables, and a child of divorcing parents must be treated with the utmost attention and care so that the effects of the divorce on him would be kept at a minimum level. These things are what the public wants; and when these things are not secured and/or handled by law, the public conscience will not be satisfied; and if it is not satisfied, then the social contract will be pointless. Because, if people are not satisfied with the efficiency of laws, they will not respect laws.
Here we can reach this argument: the first function of laws is to satisfy the public conscience by securing justice.
However, right after reaching this conclusion, we must question: is it justice that satisfies the public conscience? And maybe another question: is justice a phenomenon that emerges from the rational ideals and reasons, or is it a result of the endeavours of an emotional creature, human beings, to create an orderly society?