Human beings are supposed to have rights. There is a basic assumption that individuals all share the same entitlements. Thomas Hobbes and Jean- Jacques Rousseau tried to set the terms of modern philosophy. They offered theories and debates on the social and political ethics that are associated with authority and the citizens. Rousseau in The Social Contract believed in a democratic approach to authority. He insisted on the respect of the will of individuals and proper participation of the citizens in the decision making. Hobbes, on the other hand, believed that the nature of human beings was violent, self-preserving, and sought freedom. He believed that the incorporation of a sovereign authority would help to ensure peace and security in the society. The sovereign would ensure the extent of the freedom an individual would enjoy in relation to the needs of the society. In this essay, I will describe the Seat Belt Law and assess whether it is ethical in both social and political aspects.
The seat belt law is a tool that has been used to combat the fatalities and injuries that are associated with traffic accidents. They are divided into, the primary seat belt law which allows any law enforcement officers to ticket individuals for not wearing a seat belt. The secondary seat belt law asserts that law enforcement officers if they find an individual without a seatbelt, may issue a ticket only if there is another traffic infraction. In 1996, the federal government increased the seatbelt usage from 65% to 85%.
The governments proclamation and issuance of the seatbelt law is an indication of it offering security. Hobbes in his theory of political philosophy paints the picture of human nature. He regards human beings as needy and vulnerable beings who are easily led astray by their trials to understand the world. He believes that it is in the nature of human beings to act selfishly, in ignorance, and impulsively. He believes that the best way for human beings to achieve a peaceful existence is to live under an authoritarian sovereign. Rousseaus theory, on the other hand, believes that the general will of individuals is often inclined towards the public good. Human beings have a sense of what is right and wrong. They understand that it is their basic duty behaves in a trustworthy manner. This fact I think gives justice to individuals cooperating in service of the welfare of all other individuals as opposed to governments overcoming the desires of citizens in a bid to offer security.
The seat belt law though very helpful, can be viewed as an attempt by the government to impose authority on it, citizens. Hobbes argues that the nature of human beings is self-preservation. He viewed the lack of a sovereign power to mold man would lead to a state of war. Life would be very brutal, isolated and short. It is in the nature of human beings to seek personal freedom. Individuals have a right to be free from any encroachment from external sources. Governments are in place to maintain peace. Therefore, to enjoy security and peace, individuals have to part with some of their freedom. It is a dilemma really, to decide what amount of liberty that an individual must part with for the greater good. But I believe that the greater good, peace, and security, are issues that justify the government's imposition on citizens.
An individual can give up their liberty for the greater good of the society. In this light, the government may dictate obligations to be followed by citizens. Are they obligated to follow these dictates? A citizen is obligated to fulfill what they owe to the state as long as it is useful to the community. For instance, the seat belt law is useful to both the individual and the community in reducing the number of fatalities. This, therefore, gives merit to the government to impose the law on the citizens. And these citizens are obligated to follow the law since it is beneficial to the community.
Hobbes theories and Rousseaus theories are both relevant to the seat belt law. The aspect of the will of man comes up in this case. Rousseau in the social contract asserts that man is born free. He believed that the will of man is always to do the right thing that they have a desire to do good. He affirms his theory by explaining the need for citizen participation and not representation. His argument was based on the premise that if everybody was informed, in the decision-making process, then a lot of the differences would be countered. Hobbes, on the other hand, believed that it was in the nature of human beings to be violent. He asserted that the only way to resolve this flaw in human nature was to incorporate a sovereign authority that was totally unaccountable to its subjects.
The sovereign factor also comes up in this case, the question of whether governments should impose obligations questions the role of the sovereign in the society. Hobbes, in his theory, believes that the nature of humans is violent. In his solution to this problem, he asserts that only a non-accountable sovereign authority should be incorporated. Rousseau, on the other hand, believes in a democratic representation, whereby, the government power is vested in the will of the public.
The government in a bid to stop the fatalities associated with traffic accidents imposed the seatbelt law on the citizens. This law not only protects the individual but also the society as well from loss and injury. The natural condition of human beings is to be in a state of insecurity, constant threat and violence. These characteristics of human nature are threatening to the community. The seat belt law tries to resolve these conditions by ensuring a sense of safety and responsibility for others in the community. Therefore, an individual who is not willing to follow through with the law is being unethical.
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