COMIC-STRIP CALVINISM Eugene Volokh proposes


Eugene Volokh proposes that Calvin’s pet stuffed tiger and imaginary friend is named Hobbes because Calvin himself is “nasty, brutish, and short.” I have to disagree.

[Those who remember the outcome of our set-to about Thucydides (see here and here and here) may be surprised to find me willing to join another literary battle, but though my Greek is marginal at best, I can usually get through the funny pages without moving my lips.]

Hobbes the Tiger, I claim, represents the State of Nature, the war of all against all, but also the insight that peace is necessary for survival. (Note that Hobbes, despite his tigerish form, is actually Calvin’s better angel, constantly warning him against rash action.)

Calvin, by contrast, represents his namesake’s view of the Total Depravity of human nature.

That the (apparently) totally depraved Calvin has invented himself such a wise and loving imaginary friend suggests that Watterson actually dissents from the grim Calvinistic way of looking at the world. Or perhaps the overwhelming force with which Hobbes, as a whirlwind, strikes Calvin again and again is meant to represent Irresistable Grace.

[Extra credit for whoever can recall the other three key tenets of Calvinism.

Hint: the acronym is TULIP.]

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: