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John Locke and the Right to Property

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1 John Locke: Basis of the Right to Property John Locke was considered highly influential in establishing grounds, conceptually at least, for the constitution of the United States of America. The basis for understanding Locke is that he sees all people as having natural God given rights. This religious backdrop acts as the foundation for all of Locke's theories, including his theories of individuality, private property, and the state. Through Locke's Second Treatise of Government, an explanation as to how and why people have a natural right to property, along with the way government pertains to property, can be determined. In addition, the differences between property in the state of nature and under a government are presented in Locke's text. Locke believed that humans were independent individuals who had an ability to reflect, think, and reason intellectually, which was one of the many gifts from God. This was a gift which separated humans from the domain of the beast (Section 26). All reason and reflection is based on personal experience and reference (Section 26). Personal experience must be completely individual as no one can experience anything quite the same as another. ...read more.


Because property production or the use of labor was completely individualistic, a person should not be able to control another's labor. Committing such an act would be an infringement on their natural rights (Section 36). Natural rights in the Second Treatise of Government derive from the "independence" and "equality" that constitute the state of nature (Section 6). Without the right of every individual to own, protect, and punish offenders "law of nature," there can be no individual freedom (Section 7). The state of nature is the collection of individual property. It consists of owners who posses and protect these rights without fear of the loss of their wealth and life by any other individual or a government (Section 6). In this society, the individual is governed by Reason, given to mankind by "one omnipotent, and infinitely wise maker" (Section 6). Locke's understanding is that in the state of nature, everyone has the "executive power" and even duty to punish offenders of natural liberty. In addition, every individual also has the ability to use their reason to judge the accused, and legislate the punishment of the convicted (Section 13). ...read more.


Locke believed that the role of the sovereign and its authority is in serving the people and that there must not be absolute authority (Section 137). In this way, Locke is seen as a person who wants to limit the power of the sovereign over the individual. Locke's ideas of property are based on God given rights. Each person has been given a body, with certain abilities and potentials, to use by God. The use of this body is called labor and its product is called property (Section 27). Since each person has a body and a level of potential, everyone is capable of producing property. The purpose of the sovereign is to protect the individuals right to property (Section 135). The sovereign is limited in its power, and does not have the right to take or interfere with any man's property, since to do so would be an interference with the right's of man as given by God (Section 135). It was Locke's hope that with such beliefs behind people and their government, they might achieve and preserve Locke's version of the good life which consists of a right to life, liberty, and property. ...read more.

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