Mill, 1806-1873, Inspired by the happenings in America, wrote one of
the MOST ELOQUENT AND PERSUASIVE ESSAYS EVER about social and political
freedoms. ON LIBERTY
Locke: Second Treatise
elements in the Second Treatise:
is Right of resistance to unjust authority
Locke begin his discussion of a Political System? Just as with Hobbes
he begins with an account of the state of nature. He treats this account
of humans in the state of nature as a natural stepping off place to
discuss human beings in civil society, IE. in a political system. Just
as with Hobbes, Locke's account of human nature in the state of nature
will shape his picture of the political system. What are human being
like trustworthy, deceitful, greed or generous, honest or liars, cooperative
Locke portray the State of Nature?
nature is a state of perfect freedom
Nature are used to regulate and guide our behavior in the state of nature
of Equality "No one being more than another"
wish to be loved.
not Licence. Liberty is not the right to do whatever you wish free of
all self-constraints [Militias out West often seem to collapse any distinction
between liberty and license.] Crucial component of the classic liberal
view is that along with rights there are duties and obligations.
reading of human nature and the state of nature people don't live in
constant fear of violent death. Life is not "solitary, mean, poor, nasty,
brutish, and short." Perfect freedom in the state of nature works fairly
well. Men don't abuse their liberty and go about threatening the well
being of their neighbors.
when disputes arise? Who adjudicates Them?
how idyllic the state of nature or no matter how pacific one's picture
of human nature disputes will arise. There will be argument about property
lines, about infidelity of the wife or husband, of children traumatizing
the neighbor's cat, etc. Life goes on in paradise. How are disputes
handled when are actions clash with claims of others? Locke's answer
might seem quite surprising even naive, but he feels that:
Humans will willingly regulate their own behavior.
* -- He
rather pointedly insists that the state of nature is not a state of
war. Quoting from the Second Treatise: And here we have the plain difference
between the state of nature and state of war, which however some men
have confounded, area as far distant as a state of peace, goodwill,
mutual assistance, and preservation, and a state of enmity, malice,
violence and mutual destruction are one from another." [Locke, Second
Treatise, Wooton, ed. p. 317b]
in the state of nature are rational and responsible. Rationality is
intrinsic to human beings. While we can train and develop our reasoning
abilities we all possess certain capacities simply because we are human.
[Another important step in the defense of equality, even while Locke
is not and egalitarian democrat.
Hobbes and Locke on the State of Nature. Perhaps the basic difference
between Locke and Hobbes is that Locke believes that the state of nature
need not be warlike because he has faith in man's in men's willingness
to forbear from resorting to force. Despite the lack of a common judge
in the state of nature to resolve the inevitable disputes humans will
normally settle their differences amicably. It will not be a state of
discussion topics: How would we try and settle on which picture is more
accurate? Who has it right Locke, Hobbes, or later Rousseau? Where would
we look for evidence? Is this question so lost in the shrouds of the
state of nature that there is no real answer that is possible? This
is a good question for the social sciences, how should we go about trying
to answer it? There is no one single or knock down answer that we can
offer: Locke and Hobbes offer several possible clues. Let's begin with
both suggest that we look into ourselves. How would we describe our
own feelings, fears, violent tendencies, etc.? Perform a thought experiment,
suppose that we had Gyges Ring that made us invisible, how would we
act? Would we steel, rob, become a peeping Tom or Alice? If we would
not, why not? What would keep our behavior in check? Is it because of
our religious values, moral values, conscience, have a reasoning capacity,
sense of dignity and integrity? That just pushes the question up or
down another level. There would probably be considerable variation in
how people would respond. Some would lie and cheat others would "violently"
resist it. Why the differences? Obviously it has to do with our upbringing,
the values are parents tried to instill, the effect on us of a friend,
our girl friend or boy friend and their expectations.
this question to a higher, or different level would there be varying
responses dependent on different cultures? Why for example are the frequency
of certain crimes -- rape, murder, robbery, child molestation, serial
killers -- different from culture to culture? Why have there been periods
of history in which the level of violence has been extremely high and
other times in which it drops significantly? Are there biological differences
between cultures which explain these variations? (It might be quite
useful to have some slides of comparative figures on murder, robbery,
etc. amongst other Western developed countries and conversely with developing
countries.) It is also relevant to possible raise questions about differences
between races on such measures. For example, the recent book the Bell
Curve has argued for a variation amongst Asians, Whites and Blacks on
IQ. These have a genetic basis and that this has real implications for
social policy. (Use your notes). Most Americans probably disagree with
the argument in the Bell Curve about IQ, but suppose we shift the argument
to violence or the tendency to violence. Don't many Americans hold rather
definite views about the differences between various races and the likelihood
that they will commit crime. (It might be relevant to bring in figures
here about the differential penalties for Blacks and Whites for similar
crimes. Are there similar figures for Hispanics?) Isn't this another
way of saying how crucial are implicit assumptions about human nature
Studies -- We might add further evidence here from studies in psychology
which suggest variations between boys and girls on how they resolve
differences. Girls play more of a role of getting the group to work
together of helping people to feel comfortable.
Studies -- Again returning to both Hobbes and Locke they point to the
Indians of American. They are assuming that they are somehow more primitive
and therefore closer to nature. We can read from their behavior what
is more natural before civilization and culture so reshaped their behavior.
There are some famous studies by Turnball about tribes in Africa that
seem incredibly violent. There are also studies that suggest much more
pacific types of people. Why the differences? Is one tribe more primitive,
and what does primitive and civilized mean in this context?
the basic difference between Locke and Hobbes is that Locke believes
that the state of nature need not be warlike because he has faith in
men's willingness to forbear from resorting to violence. Despite the
lack of a common judge the result need not be a violent anarchy. How
does Locke Try to Prove that his Discussion of the State of Nature and
Human Nature is Correct?
-- He cites the bible in particular sections from King David
Hooker -- He refers to the "Judicious Hooker" Poor Hooker, an English
political theorist, is known for a little more than this citation from
Locke. [Wooton, p. 742]
-- He tells us just as did Hobbes look inward. Man's Inward Sense tells
us what we are really like. Unfortunately the inward picture of Hobbes
and Locke is very different.
in America -- Just as with Hobbes he refers to accounts that are just
appearing in Europe about the Wild Indians of American. Since they are
more primitive and therefore closer to nature they can tell us something
of what we were once like before society and civilization. Again Hobbes
has also referred to similar reports, but seems to find quite a different
picture of the violent or non-violent nature of these Indians.
as an Empirical Question
is great controversy about how to conceive of human nature. How violent
or pacific are we? Do we seek live alone or in groups? Are we self-interested
or capable of co-operative behavior? Can we be educated or modified
if the conditions are right? And then most fundamentally, just what
follows from these accounts of human nature? what in the impact on social
policy? For example in the Bell Curve they argue that the efforts to
aid minorities is doomed to failure, throwing good money after bad.
two central questions that Locke raises about Property:
have property rights at all?
can those who have attained to the status of property ownership justify
their privileged position?
his discussion of property in a quite interesting fashion: God, who
hath given the world to men in common, hath also given them reason to
make use of it to the best advantage of life and convenience. The earth
and all that is therein is given to men for the support and comfort
of their being. And though all the fruits it naturally produces, and
beasts it feeds, belong to mankind in common, as they produced by the
spontaneous bond of nature, and no body has originally a private dominion
exclusive of the rest of mankind in them, as they are thus in their
natural state, yet being given for the use of men, there must of necessity
be a means to appropriate them some way on other before they can be
of any use, or at all beneficial, to any particular men. [Wooton, ed.
ownership is the most appropriate way to turn God's resources into human
benefits. It is better that men act involuntarily, to carry out a task
then it be left to collective ownership and operation. What things do
we have the right to possess? How do we declare the rights of ownership?
we have mixed our labor with then becomes our possession. We earn the
right to property by mixing our labor with inert materials, and thereby
giving those materials a higher value and greater usefulness. We take
a tree from nature and change ti into a chair. We add value by mixing
our labor with agriculture products, mining, manufacturing. World was
given to us in common, but it is not supposed that it was meant to stay
the limits to What we Can Possess?
take only so much as we can make use of. We can take any more than will
rot. This is not to say that everyone would have the exact same amount.
People vary in size, weight, metabolism, but still for everyone they
are limited to appropriating only so much as they can use. Locke is
setting out what is often called and Entitlement Theory of Property.
Ownership is justified by its productive character. By mixing our labor
with these goods the overall value is increased to the society and the
individual retains the right to ownership.
Theory of Value
we determine the value of a good? The Laws of Supply and Demand. The
value of a good is dependent upon the price that the consumer is willing
to pay for it. Look at what follows from that. No matter what amount
of labor we have put into the good that will not determine whether we
will sell it or what price it will get. The Labor Theory of Value has
a certain appeal. The value is dependent upon our labor. We are being
rewarded for our contribution. Supply and demand often seems to reward
us for rather arbitrary reasons that we have no control over.
Distribution of Property
early arguments of Locke in defense of property ownership there are
clear limits to what we can possess. The earth is held in common and
we can only acquire as much property as we can use. Clearly Locke is
well aware that in contemporary society -- England in mid-Seventeenth
Century -- there is no equality in the distribution and ownership of
property. There are great differences between rich and poor and Locke
is not arguing against that.
and Money: Use and Rot
on the ownership of property were altered with the appearance of money
and Gold. Gold does not rot. We can acquire as much as we like and like
Midas hoard it in our cellar. But the crux of Locke's argument is not
over rotting or not it turns rather on how money acquires value. The
value of gold depends on the value that we give it. Money has an arbitrary
value dependent on its role a medium of exchange. By agreeing to establish
a monetary system we are also agreeing to the unequal distribution of
money. Inequality in the distribution is a natural result of a money
system. Some people are going to be cleverer, brighter, luckier and
they will acquire more. Locke defends the unequal distribution of property
under his theory of consent. We are consenting to the unequal distribution
of property. Why is it legitimate, or is it, for some people to be millionaires
and others paupers? Is Locke's argument for the unequal distribution
of property a defensible one?
Link to the Present Context: How Do We Justify the Ownership of Property?
is Unequally Distribute because it has always been that Way Many people
simply take it as a given. What really lies behind that for some people
is an argument about how they acquired that wealth.
and Hard Work Hard work, schooling, intelligence entitle people to the
money that they work for. The doctor of lawyer who spends long years
in school and incurs large debts. They deserve some recompense for all
the hard work
of Opportunity Underpinning many of these arguments is a theory of justice
-- Equality of Opportunity -- that says that we all start the race at
the same point. Even while we all begin the race at the same point we
are not equally successful. Some are brighter, sharper and they should
with our Conception of Justice and Distribution Inheritance and Passing
the classic problems for any theory of justice is how to handle the
ability of the wealthy to make it much easier for their children to
succeed. Where does the argument about skill, ability and hard work
fit in here? Some people do begin the proverbial race of life with considerable
advantage. How would we justify this in a theory of justice. 1) We have
the right to retain what we have made with our own hard work and to
pass that on to our children. 2) While some might begin the race with
a real advantage it would require a too intrusive state to try and make
right this inequality. 3) The state can try to partially level the field
by providing an equal education for all. It can also try and assure
that everyone has an equal chance to get a job. Decisions about who
is qualified rest solely on their merit and skills rather than race,
gender, sex, or class.
Even while we pay considerable lip service to equality of opportunity
there are many ways in which such equality is made very problematic.
are not equal. In the state of Illinois there are sharp differences
between Collar County schools and down state schools.
2. It can
matter significantly in terms of our home life. What sort of milieu
or atmosphere is set in the home? What sort of expectations? Parents
can pass on very different values.
neighborhood can shape our chances greatly. If there is considerable
violence, drugs, etc. the chances for children are reduced significantly.
and Good Looks John Rawls has raised the disturbing argument that there
is a basic sense in which we are not responsible for our intelligence
and cleverness. Some people are simply smarter and clever that others.
Just like good looks it is not something we accomplished. It is something
that we were born with and we just happened to be luckier than many
the question of the justification of ownership of property an important
one for a just society?
Theorists, at least since Aristotle, have argued that classes differentiated
by income are at the root of violence in society. The Oligarchy tries
to solidify its wealth and the masses in a Democratic society seek to
2. If we
take seriously questions of justice and fairness then we must provide
some rationale in defense of our position.
inequality bears on political inequality, particularly so in a Democratic
society. To take one small example Campaign Finance Abuses are tied
to the millions that some individuals can pour into a campaign.
in Locke: What are the Questions that he is Addressing? Authority, Power,
Property Ownership, the State are the result of human action. They are
not to be explained in terms of direct origin from God. God oversees
the process, Christianity is the backdrop, but human choice is central.
This picture of human volition as the origin of authority, power, property,
the state poses a similar conundrum for a seventeenth thinker. There
are at least related problems that Locke must answer in his political
can you derive a secure, stable noting of a right to property from something
as fickle as human choice?
second problem his theory of property must confront is how do you move
from a theory which says property is held in common to a theory in which
property is distributed very unequally?
how do You pass on contract signed in one generation to generations
in the future? Whether Locke's answers here are in the end convincing
and adequate that is arguable. They are subtle and shrewd. As we have
argued the earth just as its inhabitants all belong to God. God has
given property to humans to hold in common and given it to them to enjoy.
We acquire a private right to property even while we have acquired it
in common because of the mixing of our labor with the goods of the earth.
Labor as a form of Property Locke sees our labor as part of the right
to property that all human creatures have from birth. Our labor is like
a personal possession, a piece of land, and it can not be taken from
which enables humans to escape from a Communist utopia of common ownership
is Gold. Locke's theory of money is an extension of his theory of consent.
Money acquires its value arbitrarily. We set certain limits on what
a dollar or piece of gold is worth. By consenting to money we are also
consenting to the unequal ownership of property. It is important to
remember that property like all rights exist in the state of nature.
They are not something that we acquire from government and as a consequence
can not be taken away from government.
Property as a Right in the State of Nature Conservatives have taken
Locks's discussion of property as a right acquired from the state of
nature and therefore not subject to government as the basis for an argument
about limited government and more particularly as a limitation to limit
the taxing and regulatory power of the government. While Locke is clearly
setting limits on the regulatory power of government he does allow for
the state to regulate property. There is no absolute right to property.
Property rights are limited by the law. The state can not arbitrarily
or unjustly take or deny the property rights of its citizens, but it
can still regulate that right.
as an Entitlement
has provided a theory of entitlement about the ownership of property.
Without entitlements there is no theory of justice. Injustice is to
take away something to which a person has a right or is entitled. For
example, the right to life, liberty, or material possessions are things
to which we are entitled. Any theory of entitlement to a right must
set certain bounds and limits. It is not an absolute right. We live
and interact amongst others and must adjust our demands and claims to
rights. For example is the entitlement to property of the same importance
as entitlement to life and liberty? Can we make the same claim for all
forms of property whether it is ten thousand dollars worth or ten million.
As to the first question whether liberty is more fundamental than property,
in a basic sense they are not severable for Locke. The justification
for the right to property is that is protects our liberty. Property
rights are a check on the power of the sovereign. It is part of the
power of the purse. Property and liberty elide together.
to Property and the Welfare State
is seldom cited Locke is a frequent backdrop to the contemporary arguments
about reducing the size of the welfare state. But again how absolute
is the right to property? Are all forms of property protected whether
we are talking about those making less than 10,000 or those making 1,000,000.?
Is the large corporation under the same protections as the smallest
business? If the arbitrary use of power is central to the protection
offered by the right to property does the actions of a GM or GE fill
the bill of arbitrary use of power? If we are all god's creatures with
a set of rights, the capacity to reason, and property held in common
in the state of nature is there not a minimal entitlement to some property?
right to a minimal amount of material possessions which would necessitate
a taking of property in the form of taxes more fundamental then the
right to a beach house, a second Roles Royce, etc. I don't think that
Locke offers any clear answer here about how far the protection to the
right to property goes. What can we say with some certainty about Locke's
theory of property?
is using it to deny the right of a sovereign/monarch to do as he chose
with material possessions. King Charles I had precipitated a Civil War
by arbitrarily taking his subjects property in the name of national
h as entitled us to the fruits of our labor. The state in contrast is
a contract a human invention and convention. God's will in the form
of property rights has priority over man's will.
it is not clear that Locke is saying that the state can not try and
insure a basic minimum for all citizens. Profit derived from the fruits
of out labor is clearly protected, but what about profits made from
speculation, royal favoritism, or a large inheritance? Locke is a Christian
like St. Thomas Aquinas who felt that the right to physical subsistence
overrode the property rights of others. The refusal of a merchant to
sell a good below market price or someone starving Locke would have
said is immoral. In old age people deserve not only subsistence but
a decent standard of living. God gave the world to humans in common
distributed and they all have some claim on its benefit.