“America is a Lockean nation through and through.”

A wonderfully lucid look at America — and why other countries don’t always understand America — by Jonathan Walmsley at The Philosophers’ Magazine Online.

Walmsley argues that many people interpret American foreign policy in terms of Hobbe’s view of nature (or more often, a caricature of his view of nature) while Americans tend to view our actions according to Locke’s view of nature.

The article is well worth the time to read in full. Here’s a taste:

America’s Lockean outlook is perhaps most apparent in foreign affairs. America sees itself as a benign actor on a moral stage – acting in its own interests to be sure, but viewing its interests as exemplifying the universal values that it embodies as a nation. Moreover, in acting in its own interest, America sees itself as rule-bound and gentlemanly. There is, therefore, no necessity to be obedient to any authority – actions do not require the approval of an authority to be legitimate. Equally, any agreement freely entered into can be left freely and with equanimity. Should it no longer suit the United States to be bound by some international agreement, they have every right to leave it.

The funniest thing for Lockeans is to realize there might be another way to look at it.

The nations of Europe, for example, after a century of devastating conflict, well understand that left by themselves, nations are unruly entities capable of wreaking unrestrained destruction. Said nations are therefore conscious of the over-riding need to have each nation submit to a higher authority. In a fit of post-war sobriety, the nations of Europe volunteered to tie their own hands, that they might not injure themselves through hurting others.

We do need to understand each other better. This article maybe gives a few clues as to how to begin.

[tags] American foreign policy, Locke, Hobbes [/tags]

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One Response to “America is a Lockean nation through and through.”

  1. From those snippets I’d say I lean towards the Lockean outlook. And I’m talking about in my personal life. I have certain standards to which I try to conform. I have a problem with some “authority” that tells me I must conform to a different set of rules. That could start a really interesting philosophical discussion!


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