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Hobbes Was Right

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"The people, they know where I stand. They need rules to live by—I provide them. They break the rules, I break them. That's the way it works. Rights? Sure, I'm all for rights. But not at the expense of order."
Judge Dredd, Judge Dredd: America

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.

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. 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).


However, Hobbes was actually arguing that Humans Are Divided and that even the most noble of us will end up fighting over something, and he thought an all-powerful authoritarian government was the solution. It should be remembered that he fought in the English Civil War as a Royalist and it was very likely his experiences of it that shaped his views- in that regard, he was ultimately arguing that War Is Hell and was firmly on the side of Order over Freedom because of it.

Contrast Machiavelli Was Wrong and Rousseau Was Right; compare and contrast The Extremist Was Right, The Evils of Free Will, Realpolitik and Utopia Justifies the Means. Has nothing to do with Calvin and Hobbes, though that Hobbes was named after this one. For Hobbes' views on the supernatural, see Devil, but No God and Burn the Witch!



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    Anime and Manga 
  • 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 fist 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 led 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 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).
  • Technically, almost every problem in the Cross Ange is solved with Hobbes' philosophy, by both (anti)-heroes and villains alike. The main warden heartlessly tortures her recruits to toughen them up as soldiers. The complicent majority of the human populace has to be shot at just to listen. The Big Bad personally admits he designed the Mana users to be submissive because the previous generation was too selfish and engulfed in war.

    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.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us deconstructs this idea. After the Joker nukes Metropolis and kills Lois Lane and Superman's unborn child, Superman kills the Joker in a fit of anger and grief. After improperly mourning his loss, he comes to the conclusion that humanity needs to conquered and criminals need the death penalty since too many people have suffered because of the heroes' mercy. While the crime does drop and the wars do stop, Superman is easily corrupted by the likes of Sinestro and Wonder Woman and he starts killing anyone who disagrees with him.

    Comic Strips 
  • In a Bloom County strip seen here, Binkley is pondering his faith in humanity (as he tends to do a lot), not knowing that Portnoy is about to play a rather nasty prank on him for no real reason, which could possibly prove Hobbes right; however, when Binkley askes the question, "Do you think, deep in our hearts, we're basically evil?" Portnoy stops, thinks about it, and changes his mind. "Nah…" he replies.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Minor example in Men in Black; Kay's explanation as to why the secrecy is important had shades of Hobbes's 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 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 this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow.
  • Master and Commander. Aubrey argues with Maturin over this issue, after ordering a man flogged for insubordination. As The Captain he takes the view that "Men must be governed. Often not wisely, I will grant you, but they must be governed nonetheless."
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Loki espouses this view during a speech in The Avengers.
    • And then Captain America: The Winter Soldier reveals he was neither the first, nor was he alone. According to Arnim Zola, the MCU incarnation of "HYDRA was founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom."

  • 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.
  • Discworld:
    • The series 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's "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. C.f. 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 God-Emperor of Dune, 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 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, and, notably, he hated becoming the God Emperor and doing what he did. He did it anyway because it was what had to happen for humanity to survive.
  • 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. 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).
  • Brandon Sanderson:
    • Mistborn: The Original Trilogy:
      • A running theme in the second book, Well of Ascension. 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. Even when the bad guys start corrupting the government with spies and astro-turfed "popular revolts," no one suggests democracy itself is the problem. An immortal who has been around since the original trilogy points out that the real source of the problem is that the original founders were all cityfolk, and had no idea how to handle rural villages and people. This resulted in a lot of resentment towards the capital city and its government, which the bad guys took advantage of.
    • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: The series as a whole shows how dangerous factionalism and personal ambition are to society. Throughout the world of the series, whenever there is no strong central authority, factions will war with each other for dominance, ultimately making everyone caught in the middle suffer. The series is notably kicked off by the death of the King of the Seven Kingdoms, leading to the War of the Five Kings in the ensuing scramble for power. Providing a counterpoint to the trope is the Free Folk, who rarely submit to any authority, but live in an inhospitable wasteland and are particularly warlike due to necessity.
  • In The Zombie Knight Helen the queen of Atreya believes this. When her brother Luther reveals his disdain for monarchies to be the reason why he attempted to bring war to the country she sees him as naive.
    Helen: Do you honestly believe such governments can last in earnest? They can be founded on such idealism, perhaps, but it is inevitable that they will give rise to new royalty and be ruled by it. The only difference is that the kings of democracy can hide themselves behind a veil of elected figureheads.
    Luther: Did you know she was this cynical?
    David: Yes, I did. You would have known as well, if you had ever bothered to get to know her the way a brother should.
  • Invoked by Machine General Wheeler in Starchild when he explains (or diatribes) why men cannot be allowed to live in freedom in the reefs of space. Mankind is inherently evil, and only the great Planning Machine can be trusted to make them do the right thing.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: Like the medieval societies it is based on, Westeros is very prone to violent upheaval in the absence of strong, unified authority.
  • Our Miss Brooks: This is Mr. Conklin's belief, leastways when it comes to running a high school. Mr. Conklin essentially says as much to Miss Brooks in "Spare That Rod!". Mr. Conklin's military strictness would later put him under the opprobrium of the school board president, Mr. Stone, in the theatrical series finale.
  • 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.
  • The Doctor Who episode "Midnight", where the main conflict comes from the fact that Humans Are Bastards. One of the characters is even named Professor Hobbes.
  • Played with on Legends of Tomorrow. In season 4's "Dancing Queen," a rebellious shapeshifter, just for fun, poses as Queen Elizabeth II and goes on a wild night at a punk nightclub. The Time Burera notes that if this isn't fixed, then the reports of the incident and the real Queen naturally denying it was her will lead to Elizabeth put into a mental hospital which will cause the monarchy to fail which will then throw all of Great Britain into utter chaos.

  • According to the Book of Judges, in the days before Israel had a king to rule over them, everyone did as they pleased, and the result was chaos and complete vulnerability to pagan oppression.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.
  • Leviathan: The Tempest: The Wake of a Tannim Leviathan strips away the consciences of those under its influence, reducing them to sociopathic killers and warlords kept in line only by the fear of punishment.

  • Transformers Megatron, in all of his incarnations, agrees with Hobbes that it is better off if for everyone if the strong are able to rule. His motto on the card where his first action figure was introduced was simply, "Peace through tyranny." Unfortunately, he tends to stray from this goal and start others out of revenge or lust for power, becoming the usual definition of tyranny.

    Video Games 
  • 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. Its 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 Total War: Shogun 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).
  • Seems to be the reason Kyros decided to Take Over the World in Tyranny. Their laws are harsh, draconian, and occasionally seem arbitrary, but Kyros has plenty of supporters because before they came along, the world was a patchwork of constantly-warring states. Kyros' laws are ruthless, the logic goes, but they are fairly applied, and they prevent bloodshed in the long run.
  • 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.
  • In the fourth season of Criminal Case, this was the ideology held by the new mayor of Concordia, Justin Lawson, who have seen too much corruption in the law enforcement and began enforcing increasingly strict regulation once he came into power. The measures he takes to ensure justice includes banning free press and reinstating the death penalty. And when these seemingly fail to reduce the city's murder/crime rate, he ramps up the laws to prohibit parties and other form of social functions.
  • City of Villains gives us The Etolie Isles - AKA The Rogue Isles - AKA the titular City of Villains, which is ruled by Big Bad, Lord Recluse. Fact is as a country, it would not hold without him. For just one example, he has no civilian death policy, and without that A. No one would pay the taxes that keep the country running, B. The people might have rebelled by now and C. the meta-human population would go full psycho; All this kept in check thanks to him and his army of doom there to maintain the pecking order.

    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.

    Web Comics 
  • 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."
  • Freefall has the Mayor, who's both at a loss as to how to govern a society of robots who are dedicated to being civil, law-abiding citizens, and believes the act of the liberation of the robots via a concerted effort from honest politicians and honest corporate executives working together for the greater good to be an exception, not the rule.
  • As far as the Big Bad of We Are The Wyrecats is concerned, controlling all of humanity through staged wars is a perfectly fine way to handle things.

    Western Animation 
  • Played for Laughs in an episode of the Earthworm Jim animated series. Princess Whatshername establishes a democracy on her homeworld after overthrowing Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-Filled, Malformed Slug-for-a-butt. The newly liberated aliens all just vote Slugforabutt in as queen again. (It didn't occur to anyone that they could or should run against her.)
  • Goliad retains this philosophy in Adventure Time. She was created as Princess Bubblegum's immortal replacement and was being taught by Finn and Jake to make her learn how to lead. After Jake yells at a bunch of rowdy children at a daycare, Goliad thinks that society is full of evil people and needs a strong leader to keep them in line. Her modus operandi happens to be mind-control.
  • South Park: Word of God says that this is what they believe, that humans are "born fucked up" and society just barely keeps them in check. In the show itself, the kids swear a lot and say a lot of sexist, racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and sociopathic things out of their parents' earshot, and more often than not, they're repeating terrible things they've overheard their parents say.
  • In The Legend of Korra, the Earth Kingdom is ruled by a tyrannical monarchy. Then, political extremists topple the monarchy in the name of freedom—and end up with a lawless anarchy and civil war. Eventually, order is reestablished... under a fascist dictatorship.
  • Similarly, an early episode of The Loud House has Lori act like a tyrannical dictator of a Babysitter from Hell. When the other Loud kids rebel against her and nominate Lincoln as their new leader, the result is anarchy. Within five minutes, order is restored... under the dictatorship of Lori!

    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 Hobbes and Calvin was that Calvin denied any possibility that this could be countered by mere human authority, while Hobbes view of a properly empowered state was depicted as "Leviathan", in which the body of the ruler is made up of the bodies of his subjects - which can be read as suggesting we can solve our problems if we just work together.
  • 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. Ultimately, subverted: Many founders were skeptical that, if people are truly cynical and devoid of virtue, the entire republican enterprise was doomed to fail. The best summation of this concession is found in James Madison's speech before the Virginia Ratifying Convention, where he said, "Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks—no form of government can render us secure. To suppose that any form of government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea."
  • 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 yearsnote . But also played straight: that dynasty, though brief in itself, set the pattern for every government of China for more than two thousand years thereafter. This includes Modern China as well - military dictator Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Zedong are infamous today for getting millions killed through ruthless domestic policies or repression.
  • Plato's The 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 aristocracy (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 Trolls and Flame Wars before they get out of hand.
  • Niccolò 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.
  • Edward Bernays, the founder of public relations and the nephew of Sigmund Freud, believed that society had to be manipulated through propaganda for its own good to preserve democracy.
  • This idea is the cornerstone why few believed in the success of Wikipedia when it started (and some still don't), and why its business and operational model ultimately proving viable was such a sensation.
  • Marxism-Leninism AKA Stalinism is a sort of Hobbesian variant of Marxism, it states that an authoritarian government is needed to suppress counterrevolutionaries and that without a strong government crushing dissent, the old ruling class will grab power back either through subversion or force, unlike anarcho-communism, the end goal is a bit different, it believes that authoritarian nationalist politics will eventually condition the people into being able to police their own into providing for everyone while maintaining order without the state needed to enforce it, and that the state will wither away simply by being redundant, that any hierarchies that form will be natural and fitting the situation and not in the sense of a state or a class, essentially authoritarian anarchism will be the end goal.
    • Hobbesian-minded people have cited that this authoritarian strain of Marxism being the only one to succeed proves them right, and some actually consider communist states preferable to democracies because of that.


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