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US Citizenship - Free online Course on US Citizenship

Lesson 1


The Balance between Liberty and Order

Throughout this course, you will be exposed to a variety of arguments about the rationale for government and its various undertakings. You will also begin to understand the complexity of the arguments on both sides of the debates about the creation and implementation of government programs. In almost every case, these arguments come down to a question of balance between two crucial, yet seemingly irreconcilable principles: liberty and order.

In lesson 10 you will read about the views of two important political philosophers, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Both wrote about a “state of nature” in which no government existed and people were left to regulate their interactions with each other based on individual cunning and ability. Think about what life would be like if there was no government; you would have absolute, limitless, individual liberty. You could do anything and everything you wanted. There would be no laws against drug use, speeding, or even stealing.

However, you would not be the only one with absolute freedom. Everyone around you would be similarly free to do whatever they chose to do. Consequently, when someone wanted something that you had in your possession, they could simply take it, assuming they were stronger or faster than you. If they ended up injuring or killing you to get what you had, or if you hurt or killed them protecting your life and property, that would be the end of the conflict. No police officers would come, there would be no charges filed, there would be no trial, no punishment. In the state of nature, each individual is the “police force” that protects his or her own life, liberty, and property.



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