By Julius T. Jaesen, II – firstname.lastname@example.org
The security and safety of Liberians under the government of President Weah seem to be fast eroding in the wake of increasing mysterious deaths taking place at the moment. The government whose constitutional obligation is to ensure the protection of lives and properties of all its citizens has defaulted on its responsibility as a government and now transferred such constitutional liability to citizens themselves through a subtle proclamation made by President George Weah asking citizens to purchase CCTV to self-protect. This is very scary when a government in whom the people have surrendered their power and authority and as well paid taxes to and instructed to utilize their state resources to ensure their safety, security, happiness, benefits and wellbeing can no longer meet up with such mundane obligation, to say the least.
Embarrassingly shameful, President Weah’s assertion was a confirmation and tacit endorsement of the failure of his administration to deliver on its constitutional obligation and also an inadvertent approval of any action on the part of the people to tumble his government from power and reform same for the so purpose of their safety and happiness spoken of in article one of our organic law. This statement in and of itself has rendered the government of ex-soccer icon, George Weah, illegitimate and invoked the need for the people to rise against his leadership for such careless statement that puts citizens’ lives in danger with some gang of cruel men who are on a killing spree for the so purpose of accumulating wealth and power.
Political legitimacy depends not on how a government came to power, but only on whether it effectively can protect those who have consented to obey it. It is forthright for me to say without an ounce of wisdom left out that political obligation ends when protection ceases. Therefore, it will not be incendiary rhetoric or inflammatory statement on my part, to say the least, that the government has lost its legitimacy with the people and the people must find an alternative to reform the state.
Hearing this pronouncement from the president, one wonders whether President Weah understands the nature of government and the reasons for which all governments around the world have been constituted by the authority and power of the people. The president’s statement alone is an attempt to invite the state of nature which ultimately is anarchy.
Two notable American political philosophers, Alexander Hamilton and Professor James Madison eloquently pointed out, “If all men were angels, the need for the existence of government would be needless”. If these two notable American scholars’ postulation is anything to believe, this goes to say since all men are not angels, and men my nature are inherently wicked and cruel in deeds, this lends valid any claim for the existence of a sovereign government or an assembly of men in whom the people can put all their powers and authority in to act in protecting them and ensuring their collective happiness and safety are sine qua non. This also goes to say that the assemblage of men who make up the government are under the obligation to protect the weak against the strong, the unlettered against the lettered, the poor against the rich and so forth. But when a government fails to honour its obligations to the people, such a government is useless and her power must be altered and abolished only by the people.
As a student of political philosophy, let me have George Weah and his cabal of cruel men reminded of what a 17th-century English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, the author of the “Leviathan,” which is perhaps the greatest work of political philosophy ever written in English, said about the state of nature, the state of war and the sovereign Leviathan. In his argument, Hobbes summoned our collective wisdom to consider or imagine what life would be like in a state of nature, that is, a condition where humanity exists without government and laws or organized society. For me, that would mean anarchy. Perhaps we would imagine that people might fare best in such a state, where each decides for himself or herself how to act, and as judge, jury and executioner in his or her case whenever disputes arise—and that at any rate, this state is the appropriate baseline against which to judge the justifiability of political arrangements. Hobbes terms this situation “the condition of mere nature”, a state of perfectly private judgment, in which there is no agency with recognised authority to arbitrate disputes and effective power to enforce its decisions.
In a similar vein, Hobbes’s near descendant, John Locke, insisted in his Second Treatise of Government that the state of nature was true to be preferred to subjection to the arbitrary power of an absolute sovereign. But Hobbes famously argued that such a “dissolute condition of masterless men, without subjection to laws, and a coercive power to type their hands from rapine, and revenge” would make impossible all of the basic security upon which comfortable, sociable and civilised life depends. Here, Thomas Hobbes argued intelligently that there would be “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 way of the sea; no commodious building would exist; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death would abound; and the life of man will be solitary, pore, nasty, brutish, and short.”
There, Hobbes suggested that if this is the state of nature, people now have strong reasons to avoid it, which can be done only by submitting to some mutually recognised public authority, for “so long a man is in the condition of mere nature, (which is a condition of war,) as private appetite is the measure of good and evil”, Hobbes asserted.
A combination of what Thomas Hobbes on one hand and Professor James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, on the other hand, posited, provides ample reasons and exigency on why there is a compelling need for guaranteeing the rights, happiness and safety of humanity an organised society with laws and government should be established.
Sadly, in Weah Liberia, there are laws and the people just in 2017 went to the polls and constituted a new government for the so purpose of assuring their happiness and safety but the government is recklessly shouldering the responsibility of protecting lives and properties on the very people who vested that authority in Weah and few men. No responsible government will leave their citizens’ safety to the mercy of their private CCTVs at homes or will request every citizen to procure CCTVs for their homes. Even in developed countries like America, China, Great Britain, France, Russia, etc, not every citizen have CCTV at his homes. So, let agree that for personal security, every citizen should have CCTV at homes. But have we taken into consideration the economics of having CCTVs at home? Have we as a nation been successfully utilising state resources to create windows of opportunities for the struggling poor who are living in wandering despair to afford the economics of purchasing and maintaining CCTVs at homes? Or have we also been able as a government to provide stable electric power to homes in Monrovia, least to talk about the surroundings of Monrovia and other counties far away from the capital to keep the CCTVs on as always? Or we may just ask you whether we as a government have been able to place CCTVs at all government ministries and agencies, least to talk about the struggling poor? How can this even be possible when your government cannot pay its workers for months? How can the security sector even be equipped to combat crimes and protect lives and properties when the sector is underfunded and under-supported by the very government? How can this be a dream achieved when millions of tax dollars end up in the pockets of a privileged few?
To shoulder the responsibility of providing security and protection for the subjects (people) of the state is to revert to the state of nature, which Thomas Hobbes described as the state of war. And indeed, the state of nature where the security of the people is resting in their own hands other than the responsibility of their government they pay taxes to is a state of nature. To return Liberia to the state of nature, it to make bleak and meaningless the sacrifices of the pioneering fathers of our independence struggles and to invite anarchy – a state where there is lawlessness.
Taken together, these plausible descriptive and normative assumptions from Hobbes yield a state of nature potentially fraught with divisive struggle. In any society and the world over, the right of each to all things invites serious conflict, especially if there is competition for resources, as there will surely be over at least scarce goods such as the most desirable lands, spouses, etc. People will quite naturally fear that others may, citing the right of nature, invade them, and may rationally plan to strike first as an anticipatory defence. Moreover, that minority of prideful or “vain-glorious” persons who take pleasure in exercising power over others will naturally elicit preemptive defensive responses from others. Conflict will be further fueled by disagreement in religious views, in moral judgments, and over matters as mundane as what goods one needs, and what respect one properly merits. Hobbes imagines a state of nature in which each person is free to decide for herself what she needs, what she’s owed, what’s respectful, right, pious, prudent, and also free to decide all of these questions for the behaviour of everyone else as well and to act on her judgments as she thinks best, enforcing her views where she can. In this situation where there is no common authority to resolve these many and serious disputes, we can easily imagine with Hobbes that the state of nature would become a “state of war”, even worse, a war of “all against all”.
So, to suggest or lay bare the security, happiness and safety of the people to the purchase of CCTVs or at their behest by any stress of imagination is to revoke the people’s power of attorney from the government and to further erode their legitimacy in their government to act in their behalf. Certainly so, just by such reckless and irresponsible utterance alone from a president, it renders the current government grossly incompetent and inept to collect taxes from the Liberian people and as well to manage their resources for the just purpose of ensuring their safety and happiness. What would you say and do when Liberians refuse to pay taxes on grounds that since your government can’t perform her constitutional responsibility of protecting lives and properties they would use such money to hire their security or buy CCTVs as requested by your office? Since our security is no longer guaranteed by the state, you are simply telling us not to submit to the political authority of the state.
It was with great astonishment that we witnessed the gruesome murdered of four auditors all of whom were linked to the conduct of audits that implicated top government’s officials for looting the public coffers but yet those auditors were buried one month after their deaths with no cause of deaths being established by the government. No autopsy reports! This is concerning and scary for the country our people call their only home.
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