Perhaps the American society does need a strong government, because the government is a force that keeps the society together in the absence of such different factors as strong national identity or common origins of the “melting pot” citizens. Considering the increasing power of corporations and modern threats to security is possible to somehow agree with Thomas Hobbes’ theory, as he observes that in the absence of a strong government the society would be driven into natural state of “bellum omnium contra omnes” or war of all against all.
Hobbes identified three elements that contributed to constant struggle: competition, difference and glory, all of which can be revealed in the contemporary American society. This view has been contrasted by Locke’s idea of the state of nature. Under Locke, this was not a war of all against all, it is rather a state of freedom, but this is a very uncertain freedom in which an individual may suffer an invasion at any moment. So, the essence of the social contract is protection of life and private property by an authority established through such a contract.
Additionally, this contract establishes an impartial judge to resolve the disputes. For Locke such a judge had to perform the functions of a “watchman” and should for no reason interfere into private life of the people. As soon as the government performs this function, it follows the natural law, but unjustified violence of a state makes it similar to a criminal who breaches natural law and should be punished . Coming back to Hobbes theory, we should notice that under his idea humans had an interest to stop endless war of all against all.
To do so, the society took an organized form, making that what Hobbes called “covenant”, but that is more often referred as social contract. Any further social injustice is a result of breach of covenant, because the covenant itself is just. This contract is a kind of restraint imposed on every member of the society, and Locke would perhaps agree with Hobbes at this point. Following the establishment of social contract the people further establish authority to come under in order to ensure their safety and wellbeing.
In its development the authority takes a form of a mighty machinery, which Hobbes called “Leviathan”. The main function of the Leviathan is to ensure fulfillment of the social contract by every member of the society. For Hobbes, the absolute authority is in any case better, since it allows to establish certain standard rules for all. Another function is strict prevention of war in the society. Hobbes’s authority plays a role of an impartial arbiter, preventing men from acting so, as they would have acted in the state of nature.
Authority leads to inequity, and Hobbes’s Leviathan is to overcome such inequity and to stand over everyone. In other words, there should be a mass of standard individuals and an absolute authority standing over them . The mild form of such machinery exists in every society, including America. In the various periods of history American government played a role of both a watchman and a Leviathan, although never accepting any of them in full. Moreover, the USA is an example of a virtually “pure” social contract.
This contract has been concluded in the early years of national existence in the form of Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, to be later amended and modified by the representatives of the people. Further in its history America moved towards greater involvement of every member of the society into this contract, including granting suffrage to women and granting social rights to African-Americans. On the other hand, the Government did become similar to Leviathan, including centralization of power and establishment of complicated bureaucracy.