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Hobbes Was Right
"This fight is my king's will. I cannot stop fighting just because I don't agree with him. If we don't pull together under our new king, Daein will fall apart again, just as it did before its liberation."

The only forces capable of controlling this setting are tyrants, dictators and authoritarian groups. Any attempt at democracy is a doomed enterprise, formulated by Wide Eyed Idealists working under the belief that there is a grain of selflessness in any person.

That this be a benevolent dictatorship is optional (in fact, the presence of a benevolent dictator would suggest Hobbes was wrong).

Named after Thomas Hobbes, who wrote in the 17th-century book Leviathan that strong, centralized government is necessary to protect mankind from its own base nature and self-serving desires. The trope is based on a Flanderized version of his Philosophy. Whether this is sometimes Truth in Television is probably best left alone, though it is worth noting that many medieval kings (as an isolated example) had to be strong and bastardly to be effective. Naturally, this opinion goes hand in hand with the belief that Humans Are Bastards, possibly Humans Are Morons if the arguments are about the reliability of human judgment if power is left in the hands of the many (though when one considers who the only available candidates for rulership are—namely, members of that same species of bastard morons...). Indeed, Rousseau — the chief defender of the contrary position — had some choice words for Hobbes (although Hobbes, being dead, couldn't appreciate the insults).

Contrast Machiavelli Was Wrong and Rousseau Was Right; compare and contrast The Extremist Was Right, Realpolitik and Utopia Justifies the Means. Has nothing to do with Calvin and Hobbes, though that Hobbes was named after this one.

Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Code Geass, Schneizel tries to do this, but loses to Lelouch, who then seemingly does the same thing. Emperor Lelouch uses reprehensible tactics to take over the entire world, uniting every country under his iron first and finally bringing peace to his war-torn planet. In a subversion, Lelouch cultivated a 0% Approval Rating on purpose and then staged his own public assassination, hoping that his stint as an evil overlord would cause the various nations to abandon power-hungry monarchies and dictatorships in favor of diplomatic democracies.
    • In a minor example, the democratic nations in Code Geass found themselves quickly conquered by Britannia due to the inability to muster up a strong motivated army like Britannia nor military progress.
      • On the other hand, the Chinese Federation is an Empire as well and falls to a populist uprising lead by the Black Knights. The EU does pretty good as well, not dissolving until near the end due to precisely what was mentioned above; internal conflicts over raising an army.
  • Played with before being subverted in Death Note, where Light's desire to become a justice-dealing god in an attempt to end crime results in his using increasingly harsh measures, killing innocents, and eventually ruling over a dictatorship based on fear, suspicion, mistrust, and the Internet. After Light's death, mankind returns to normal, in both the good and bad senses.
  • This question constantly dogs Yang Wen-Li in Legend of the Galactic Heroes. When asked by Reinhard von Lohengramm if the corrupt and cowardly Free Planets Alliance is worthy of his substantial abilities, Yang replies that he would prefer the worst democracy to the best dictatorship.
  • In Monster, this is how the series' Big Bad, Johan Liebert, views the world. He at one point even said that humanity would obliterate itself through hatred and he sought to be the last man standing. The protagonist of the series, Kenzo Tenma, holds the view that Rousseau Was Right, and the series is essentially about them trying to prove to the other that their view is correct (with Johan trying to prove it by getting Tenma to kill him).
  • In Gundam SEED Destiny, in the end. Only a beneviolent dictatorship ruled by genetic elite can hope to keep the already dying world alive after two genocidal wars by brutish natural born humans.

    Comic Books 
  • Judge Dredd enforces this trope. The campaign to return democracy to Mega-City One ended miserably, as almost everyone who voted chose the judges, and the Judges have been shown to deliberately sabotage any efforts to campaign for democracy. Justified in that the Mega-City societies are already an unsafe place without judges to begin with anyways, and will quickly turn into an anarchic city-state if there weren't any Judges or other sensible [order-minded] forms of authority around. The possibility of voting in a non Judge is basically willingly giving up power to a criminal, who now has the political clout to make the city their own criminal stronghold. It is also for the same reason why Humans Are Morons in this story.
  • Not done for laughs, but something similar happens in Kingdom Come, where Orion has overthrown Darkseid as ruler of Apokolips and offers the people liberty. They immediately turn around and elect him leader, much to his chagrin, and his efforts to educate them to the value of independence and liberty go nowhere. In the novelization, not even Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, and Mikhail Gorbechev could help the "lowlies" hold free elections. Orion allows Scott Free and Big Barda to insult him openly while they teach the "lowlies" art and culture, however, to attempt to stir independent spirit. It hardly works.
    • Realistic, too. The thing that political activists and utopians of all flavors often overlook is that culture matters. The exact same political or economic system, applied to two different social/religious substrates, will tend to produce totally different results... and it's far, far easier to change a political system or an economic system than to induce any intentional change in an extant culture.
  • Hobbes's famous phrase, "nasty, brutish, and short," describes Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes to a T.
    • Hobbes the tiger himself, not being a man, is refined, well-mannered, and tall - though he does still have those "pouncing" and "hunt, chase, kill" instincts.

    Literature 
  • In Lord of the Flies, Jack and his band of hunters show how futile it was for ideas such as democracy to exist, due to the presence of the armed forces and how Roger was a means to keep everyone in check as he shows how willing he is to murder a person without flinching.
  • The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett has a strand of Hobbes Was Right: The Lord Vetinari is a long-running benign tyrant character, who at one point is shown to be drawing a picture of a crowned man made of thousands of smaller men—a reference to the cover illustration of Hobbes' "Leviathan." It's suggested in several places that no other form of rule would work in Ankh-Morpork. Succession in Ankh-Morpork means that when the old ruler dies, whoever had the second greatest amount of political influence in the city becomes the new one, provided that the guilds approve; Vetinari's system relies on making sure that nobody powerful would benefit more from his death than they would lose in the ensuing power vaccuum. On the other hand, Vetinari is the first benevolent tyrant Ankh-Morpork has had; the previous ones ranged from venal opportunists to raving madmen.
    Ankh-Morpork is a democracy - they believe in One Man, One Vote. Vetinari is the Man and he gets the Vote.
    • It's worth noting that Ankh-Morpork is an incredibly dysfunctional near-anarchy that, thanks to Vetinari's economic genius, has also ended up immensely overpopulated considering its technology level. The city doesn't necessarily need a tyrant to effectively rule it, but it does need Vetinari (or a close equivalent) if it's to survive and retain its current greatness.
    • According to Sam Vimes, his regicidal ancestor brought democracy to Ankh-Morpork, and they voted against it. And then had him hung, drawn and quartered as a tyrant. Cf Oliver Cromwell, although he at least made Britain a much more democratic place even after the monarchy came back.
    • In Lancre, the progressively-minded King Verence I tried to introduce a Parliament, but the people don't approve; they think the King is trying to con them into doing his work for him.
    • Democracy, however, does work in Ephebe; their democratically elected, constitutionally limited leader (unique for the Disc) is called The Tyrant. The people are happy, because they have someone everyone distrusts equally, which mirrors Vetinari's position quite closely. They also have slaves that get health benefits and vacation time... it's a weird place.
    • XXXX does have 'elected' politicians and PMs... who are put in jail as soon as they're elected, to save time.
  • In the Dune series, Leto II determines that the only way to prevent an energy crisis and galactic war leading to the extinction of mankind is to establish himself as a tyrannical, semi-immortal God Emperor. Though this is a bit of a subversion, since the problem was that humans wouldn't leave their safety zone of the known star systems unless they were oppressed and forced to stay there for a couple centuries 3,500 years. Once Leto died, every major human civilization was then free to explore the universe again, in a bit of reverse psychology. Of course he knew it would happen that way.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love has Secundus set up (by Lazarus Long) as a benevolent tyranny where the ruler has little legal power and "the people, bless their flabby little black hearts, get none." Those "Equalitarians" who protest the setup get scooped up without trial and exiled to a primitive planet — he has that much power, at least.
    • The government of Secundus is probably the most fantastical bit of political nonsense RAH ever posited, and he posited some doozies. I doubt if even he really took it seriously. Which was somewhat lampshaded by Lazarus himself when he said that he hadn't expected it to last more than a couple centuries, instead of nearly two thousand years (a near-immortal population may have helped)
  • Running theme in Brandon Sanderson's Well of Ascension (Mistborn Book 2). After the assassination of the nigh-godlike Lord Ruler, Elend steps in as the new king of Luthadel and promptly begins trying out these republican ideas from his favorite philosophy books. Unfortunately, his father (and a few other factions, all tyrannic slavedrivers) are preparing to besiege the city, and the parliament he established would like nothing more than to surrender to one of them and get back to life as usual.
    • Though this is depicted less as a function of human nature in general and more that the only sort of government most people in this world are familiar with is the Lord Ruler's totalitarian theocracy. Hard to have a democracy when the average person on the street doesn't know or care what voting is...
      • Culture matters. In fact, it's probably the thing that matters most in how a society works and how its government operates and behaves.
      • In The Alloy of Law, set in the same world several centuries down the line, the human civilization has developed into a functioning democracy with no monarch or dictator in sight. The world just seemed to need to get used to the idea as more than a theoretical absurdity.
    • This concept plays up in another of Sanderson's works, The Stormlight Archive. In the backstory, a number of warlords worked together to forcibly unite their region into a single kingdom. They did this with good intentions, and hoped to introduce the realm to more peaceful forms of rule in the future, but their habits got the better of them. Nevertheless, it seems that a unified military culture is just what the world needs in the face of the reemerging Big Bad, a God of Evil.
  • Jonathan Swift is cynical about most human attributes and pursuits throughout Gulliver's Travels, but the end of the book devolves into a tirade against humanity in general. Swift depicts the ideal species as Houyhnhnm, a species of super-intelligent pacifist horses. These noble, rational equines starkly contrast the 'Yahoos,' brutal, savage animals that look exactly like humans. George Orwell argued that the supposedly Utopian society of the Houyhnhnm is ridiculous, and that Swift's "aim, as usual, is to humiliate Man by reminding him that he is weak and ridiculous, and above all that he stinks."
    • This assumes that you take the book at face value and assume Gulliver's adoration of the horse-people accurately reflects Swift's view. Swift's portrayal of this so-called Utopian society is actually pretty bleak and unpleasant if you look closely; individuals do only what they need to survive, with strict and dull diets, engage in sex only so far as is necessary to preserve the species, appear to exhibit zero attachment to their own children (any extras are given to smaller/infertile families without a thought), lack empathy towards other creatures (see their proposals to exterminate Yahoos and rejection of Gulliver for his resemblance to them) and lack any language besides what is required to exchange information (meaning while while there are no lies there is also no creativity or imagination). It can essentially be seen as a passionless and cold existence so we should not assume Swift supports it. The contrast between the bestial passion-ruled Yahoos and the cold passionless Houynhnms can be seen as a warning of going towards either extreme.
      • The depiction of the Houynhnms has often been taken as a Take That against Enlightenment ideals (at least when taken too far).
    • While Gulliver becomes enamored of this society he ends up as a shell of a man who rejects his own family as beasts, cannot stand to be in a room with them and spends all his time talking to horses, perhaps suggesting we are not intended to view him as a particularly reliable assessor of the merits of this system. Swift has also been known to use a similar approach; he wrote "A Modest Proposal", proposing the Irish famine should be solved by having the Irish population eat their own babies, as a satire of the horrendous discriminatory and patronizing attitude taken by many people in power at the time. Many people missed the point then too and regarded this as a serious proposal.
    • Gulliver is rescued at sea after his time with them. The captain and crew treat him very humanely. He tries to get to a boat and escape — to the middle of the ocean. He's caught and they conclude that his wits had been disordered by his sufferings.
  • Played with in New Spring, where Moiraine has no desire to become Queen of Cairhien, because even if the people accept an Aes Sedai as queen no ruler of Cairhien has ever lasted long without being at least a benevolent tyrant. The "playing with" part comes from the fact that the Cairhienin are in fact extremely sophisticated and intelligent rather than a rabble; the problem is that the whole country is a Deadly Decadent Court.
  • The position of the Andermani Empire in Honor Harrington. They are more likely to trust the Manticorans (a constitutional monarchy) then the "Republic" of Haven, despite their rivalry. Of course, said "Republic" was for many centuries a brutal People's Republic of Tyranny anyway.
  • While it should not be taken as an accurate reflection of the political views of GRRM, A Song of Ice and Fire is an apt illustration of the inherent fallibility and inevitable failure of Man without a strong, central authority - that is, Hobbesian philosophy. When King Robert I Baratheon dies without a legitimate heir, the Seven Kingdoms collapse into chaos and five men step forward, each proclaiming themselves the rightful king. None of them succeed in putting things to right, and all but one of them is now dead.
    • While King Robert managed to keep things well in-hand, the first signs of trouble were already evident toward the end of his reign.
    • The same could be said for his predecessor, Aerys II, the 'Mad King' - the last of the Targaryen dragon kings. Aerys began his reign with great promise, and by the end had descended into homicidal madness.
    • In the time when the Seven Kingdoms really were seven, petty kingdoms - Aegon Targaryen, the Lord of Dragonstone, landed in Westeros with his sister-wives, their three dragons, and twelve hundred swordsmen. He proceeded to conquer six of the seven kingdoms in the most efficient and brutal fashion - including having his dragon and personal mount burn down the great castle of Harren the Black, with Harren and all his family and retainers sealed inside. After the Conquest, King Aegon I was ever after known as Aegon the Conqueror; he melted down the blades of his foes to forge the Iron Throne and built his capital, King's Landing, on the spot where he landed on the coast with his host. Aegon was successful because he was charismatic, able, and single-minded. His son and heir, Aenys the Weak, proved to be none of these things and nearly lost everything his father had ever achieved because of such. The reason he did not was because his half-brother, Maegor the Cruel, proved to be even more ruthless than their royal sire when dealing with the enemies of House Targaryen.
    • The series has featured several characters, often POV characters, who've tried to achieve goals for the greater good and/or by methods other than an iron fist. Rate of success: Zero. Odds of survival for the poor schmuck who tried it: About 50/50 ( Tyrion and Daenerys survived, Ned and Rob didn't, Jon's and Brienne's deaths were heavily implied but are considered Like You Would Really Do It )

    Live-Action TV 
  • Revolution: This seems to be the Militia's justification of their actions. The episode "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" shows the Georgia Federation to be a much nicer place to live in comparison to the Monroe Republic, both in terms of rights and technology, making the justification pretty hollow. Now, it's not yet clear how democratic the Georgia Federation is, but President Kelly Foster thinks of the Monroe Republic as a third-world country.
  • Coalition faction leader Hayne in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Legacy" seems to adopt this general philosophy, as he repeatedly states that he and his violent gang are just "keeping the peace" on Turkana IV in their picket-sniping against the rival Alliance faction. For all that he's rather negatively portrayed as a liar and treacherous dealer, the episode does offer some hints that he's right, though he's pretty obviously only maintaining order to further his own interests.

    Film 
  • The Purge is an extreme version. In the future world, it shows that if people are allowed to get away with murder for one night a year, most will take advantage of that opportunity, for no reason other than the fact that they can.
  • Minor example in Men In Black; Kay's explanation as to why the secrecy is important had shades of Hobbes' theory:
    Jay: Why the big secret? People are smart, they can handle it.
    Kay: A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it. Everything they've ever "known" has been proven to be wrong. A thousand years ago everybody knew as a fact, that the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on it. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow.

    Tabletop RP Gs 
  • Warhammer 40,000, without the autocratic Imperium. Its bureaucracy will not be able to prevent the fall of humanity as we know it.
    • Somewhat justified, in that it's a state of continuous emergency martial law. Without the constant threat, the Imperium would probably be torn apart by rebellion, or collapse under the weight of its own rotten bureaucracy.
      • It already spends as much time and energy on infighting as it does on genuine defense. The largely-autonomous Space Marines and Inquisition are the only reason it can effectively defend itself until the real military gets in gear for each threat.
    • The question of whether the Imperium in its current state is helping or hindering the human race is a vexed one among those of its citizens given to pondering such matters. This theme is explored in the Inquisitor game, where two of the rival factions in the Imperial Inquisition - the Amalathians and the Recongregators - hold opposing views. The Amalathians hold to this trope, believing that it is only the absolute authority of the vast, Byzantine Imperium as it is today that can keep Humanity safe. The Recongregators, on the other hand, believe that the Imperium in its current authoritarian state is a massive and dangerous hindrance, which needs radical reform to make it fit for purpose.

    Videogames 
  • Fallout: New Vegas uses this trope, depending on the actions of the player. Choosing to side with Mr. House puts in place a benevolent dictatorship, where the leader is not afraid to trample on the rights and lives of New Vegas citizens for the greater good. Ultimately Mr. House sees himself and his plan as the only long-term survival option for humanity. The endings where the player takes control or Caesar (and his legion) rules also have shades of this, but less explicitly than the Mr. House ending.
  • The Qunari of Dragon Age dogmatically follow a philosophy/religion called The Qun. It's basic principle is that everyone must have a certain role to fulfill in life, therefore every child is evaluated while growing up, to gauge what role s/he would be best suited for, be it warrior, baker, trader, leader or something else. Once a role is assigned it can never be changed. They see the human/elven/dwarven society spread throughout the world as inherently chaotic and corrupt, and in need of correction via imposing the way of The Qun on them. Wether they convert willingly or by force is entirely up to them
  • In The World Ends with You, Joshua's plan was to destroy Shibuya, as he believed that different ideas by the populace would only cause conflicts. Neku initially believes this, but as the game progresses, he changes his mind.
  • Fable already referenced Hobbes with the monsters of the same name, but in III, Logan believes in his ideals, and this is in fact the easiest (but not best) way to save your people: by oppressing them to raise money to fight the Crawler.
  • Shin Megami Tensei's neutral (and lawful) path basically support this. The Lawful path is essentially a Bittersweet Ending where everyone lives under YHVH's tyranny, whereas the neutral path states that laws are necessary if you don't want to devolve into a Darwinist barbarian society.
  • In Shogun Total War 2, where a ruler's ability to rule is determined by the Repression Rating and must enact harsh policies to maintain authority (such as sword hunts to disarm the rebellious population for example).
  • The entire {{4X}} genre is built around Hobbes' philosophy gameplay-wise. Whether it espouses or condemns authoritarianism in its Encyclopedia Exposita, the entire genre is essentially about being the single authoritarian leader — Hobbes' "sovereign" — and seeking to win by being the best at controlling every aspect of your chosen faction.

    Visual Novels 
  • Not actually demonstrated in Socrates Jones Pro Philosopher, but the title character does have a debate with Hobbes himself about his perspectives; discussion and deconstruction of this trope is inevitable.

    Webcomics 
  • In Girl Genius, the iron-fisted dictator Baron Wulfenbach is widely accepted as being the only thing standing between Europa and a new age of anarchy.
    • That's not due to the average voter, just the Sparks. Wulfenbach fits many, many villain tropes, but he doesn't seem to actually oppress his people. Sparks are not all evil, but they are potentially dangerous enough in general to warrant some caution. A dictator, but not a tyrant.
      Wulfenbach: I swear, it's like running a kindergarten.
    • Additionally, he doesn't really act as a central government in any way, he's more just the enforcer for the 'benevolent' part of the benevolent anarchy that is Europa. There aren't really 'laws' so much as 'rules', with number one being "if the Baron shows up to fix it, you've screwed up beyond recovery; update your will."

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • The Trope Namer is Thomas Hobbes, who said that all humans are naturally entitled to everything, and that when two humans try to assert their right to the same thing, conflicts ensue. The result is a "state of nature" in which every individual becomes a judge of what is right based on their own beliefs. The only solution that will allow humans to co-exist peacefully is for humans to agree to relinquish nearly all of those natural rights, on the condition that everyone else do so as well. In order to ensure that everyone plays nice, a Sovereign, which can be either an individual or an assembly, has to be given enough power to browbeat people back into line. As soon as people agree to follow the rules laid down in this "social contract", they are free to assert their right to whatever they can, within that framework. Not everyone has to agree, but as soon as a majority signs up, the rest will follow, either by application of carrot or by application of stick. And considering the alternative is a life that is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short", most people will agree. It is worthwhile to note that Hobbes never stated that a ruler must be autocratic, positing that an assembly could do the job as well. He also never stated that the Sovereign could not be democratically elected. On the other hand, he did insist that the Sovereign—be it an assembly or a single person—have absolute power.
    • He got his wish shortly after his death: after the "Glorious Revolution" in 1688, the British monarchy became thoroughly subordinated to the Parliament—a figurehead, with minute and highly contingent power (that would be gone within a century), subject to the authority of Parliament. As for Parliament, under the doctrine of Parliamentary supremacy, it could do whatever it liked, subject only to political restraints. It's worked marvellously for Britain.
  • Somewhat amusingly in hindsight, the theologian John Calvin had a similarly pessimistic view of humanity. His Doctrine of Total Depravity maintained that people have a natural, innate inclination to do evil of every sort. It's probable that Calvin's ideas had a significant influence on Hobbes; Hobbes also thought long and hard about theology, almost certainly read Calvin, and of course Calvinist ideas were "in the air" when Hobbes was writing (remember, the Parliamentary faction in the English Civil War had a leading Puritan—i.e. Calvinist—contingent). The key difference between Calvin and Hobbes was that Calvin denied any possibility that this could be countered by mere human authority.
  • The United States government is based more on the ideas of John Locke than Thomas Hobbes (which were Lighter and Softer versions of things Hobbes said for the most part), but it gives lip service to the idea that Humans Are Bastards by way of a "checks and balances" system in which the government's powers are divided amongst branches with different aims, scope, and oversight, essentially forcing them all to work together if they want to get anything done. In theory it's not impossible for the President of the United States to assume autocratic power, but in practice it would require far, far too many people to be on board with the idea to ever be practical.
  • Over 2,000 years before Hobbes, The Book of Lord Shang advised rulers to be cruel and ruthless to keep people in line. The one dynasty that tried to rule by these principles lasted only 15 years.
  • Plato's Republic also argues that democracy, rule of the "hoi polloi" (unwashed masses) is tantamount to mob rule and the best way to go is rule by an enlightened monarch (philosopher-king).
  • In many cases, the Internet and online gaming. Let everyone be free and things tend to get crazy due to the anonymous and consequence-free interactions. The usual method of maintaining civility on sites that care about protecting it is to maintain dictatorships that firmly squash feuds before they get out of hand.
  • Niccolo Machiavelli is often accused of being an adherent of this trope, due to The Prince. Others believe that The Prince was a government-mandated Stealth Parody, and Machiavelli himself supported republicanism.
  • Disturbingly, studies have been conducted which find that informing the populace of facts actually reinforces their manifestly-incorrect beliefs, which seems to refute the major principle of democratic societies that, in a free exchange of ideas, the good ones will always win out.

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