Locke Essay, Research Paper
To understand classic liberalism we must focus on Locke’s idea of political power and his political model as well as his economic model. Locke defines political power as ” a right of making laws with penalties of Death, and consequently all less penalties, for regulating and preserving property, and of employing the force of the community, in the execution of such laws, and in the defense of the common-wealth from foreign injury, and all this only for the Publick Good”(Wooten, #2). This idea of thought explains Locke’s main idea in the Second Treatise of Government, that everything is best for the individual rather than for the community.
Locke’s idea of politics starts off with a basis of men and freedom suggested to us in the law of nature. The buffer between man and brutes is the law of nature, which is a law of reason.
“Our faculty of reason is fitted to discover what that law says, what it measures and standards of conduct are (Yolton, 65). Men rise above these beasts only because of that faculty. It is through the law of nature, reason, and humanity that each one of us makes with ” all the rest of Mankind…one community, makes up one society distinct from all other creatures” (1.#128).
So it is people in a community that come together for the strength of the individual. Locke states that man must reside in the community to reap the benefits. If a man opposes this, then he faces the dilemma of giving up power for safety. In leaving the community of mankind in order to form smaller associates of civil societies, natural man gives up the power of preserving himself and mankind, giving that power to the civil society “to be regulated by laws made by society”(1.#129). In the same way, the move into civil society requires each man to give up his right to punish or kill as an individual. Criminals in this society are to be brought forth to the community’s authority. Locke states that in leaving the great community of mankind and joining a civil society, we do not cease to be men, or even cease to be members of mankind (Yolton, 65). He quits his executive power of the law of nature and resigns it to the public. “So each man makes himself subject to the civil law and finds his freedom in voluntary obedience.” (Britannica ,1998.) “The other power a man has in a state of Nature is the power to punish the crimes committed a state of natur In civil society, we are answerable to the whole community. In each community there are rules, these are set forth by authorities. However these rules are made up by the publick, or everyone in the community. These rules are eyed, the whole community is an umpire. “The community must preserve the property, and in order there-unto punish the offences of all those of that society, there, is political society where every one of the members hath quitted this natural power, resigned it up to the hands of the community. And thus all private judgement of every particular member be excluded, the community comes to be a umpire, and by understanding indifferent rules, men authorized by the community, decided all differences, and punishes those offences”(1.#87).
The function and the purpose of Locke’s civil society is protection of life, liberty, and possessions. An essential to making it work is trust between the government in the community and is in place of a ruler who fails to secure the public good. So the rulers authority is conditional rather than absolut. Each man establishes his right to property by “mixing his labour.” So when everyone contributes to the community they in turn are given the fruits of everyone elses labor. He has the right to expect political power to be used to preserve his property, in his own person and in his possessions, and the right to freedom of thought, speech, and worship.
Locke’s political system was one that was considered mixed constitution. The legislative should be an elected body, but the executive remains a single individual, the monarch–and argues for s separation of legislative and executive powers (Britannica, 1998). Locke states that government cannot possess absolute arbitrary power over the lives and property of the people. This limitation of power is to ensure that there is preservation of life, liberty, property cannot be used to destroy, enslave, or impoverish it’s subjects (Hentrich, 775). Locke does state though that people always have the right to withdraw their support and overthrow the government if it fails to fulfill their trust. “To ask how you may be guarded from or injury on that side, where the strongest hand is to do it, is presently the voice of faction and rebellion.
Locke’s model for economics, isn’t discussed much, except in brief periods. Locke’s main focal point for economics was one of property. As before, I have shown that in the community others are obligated to respect private property under the law of nature. His model supports that everyone in the community has a skill and when that skill is harnessed and used, each individual contributes something different to the community Locke says that individuals could give away, exchange, sell, or accumulate property. Locke’s justification for such economic right was that human labor produced almost all value, with nature providing only the raw materials, and the abundance or surplus did not lessen the value, it just increased the amount for the others. “Locke argued against government limitation of interest rates and currency depreciation, contending that civil laws cannot successfully thwart the laws of value or supply and demand resulting from the actions of the individuals” (Hentrich, 774).
One key point mentioned is he says that the reason for someone’s failure in the community is because they are lazy, and not a hard worker. He feels the more you contribute to the community, the more you get back. “Whoever has employed so much labour about any of that kind as to find and pursue here wherein she was comm but a barter ship only works so much. A problem stated with barter ship is the fact that wealth is a division of labour. Some things take longer or harder labour, but aren’t worth as much. For whatever bread is more worth than acorns, wine than water, and cloth or silk than leaves, skins or moss, that is wholly owing to labour and industry” (1.#42). With perishable items only being able to last such a short life that coined money is best for value. “Gold, Silver, and diamonds are things that fancy or agreement hath put the value on, more than real use and the necessary support of life” (1.#46). When people have actual tangible money, this allows people to save for future wealth as stated here by Locke. And thus came in the use of money; some lasting thing that men might keep without spoiling, and that, by mutual consent, men would take in exchange for the truly useful but perishable supports of life. He goes on to say different degrees of industry and labor were able to give men different proportions of wealth now, so the invention of money gave them the opportunity to become wealthy.
I think that this design is preferred by my standpoint better than the liberal welfare state of today. Before I attempt to explain why, there should be some major differences noted and stated before I make my case. First, technology being so advanced and rapidly dynamic, Locke’s system would never work. Secondly, America and the world are way too big to implement a community based political idea today; it is impossible. I think that states could implement policies, and procedures as they do today, but it would take forever to take effect. There are too many buffers or middle men to go through before anything is done.
I think that our modern day welfare liberalism is in total shambles. It is based on the middle class working and contributing to society. The middle class is hit the hardest with taxes, and they are the hardest working class. The poor receive benefits and they don’t put anything back into the system. The rich however, pay minimal taxes, and may be inventive but never really work hard. However, if someone is rich they do contribute to society and keep the industries and companies running.
I will break down my answer into 4 categories: family, politics, economics, and judicial system.
One focal point of this discussion is Locke’s views on children and liberalism. Locke states that the first society was between man and wife, which was made for parents and children. One of his basis for liberalism though was the family. He says “this conjunction betwixt male and female ought to last, even after procreation, so long as is necessary to the nourishment and support of the young ones, who are to be sustained by those that got them till they are able to shift and provide for themselves” (#79). This shows us that a family is needed in order for a society to work at all. Parents must provide for themselves and when they have children, take care and provide for them too. I think society in general has lost that today and is so caught up in everything else that they don’t value “the family”. It is my belief this is why America today has many of its problems.
As for his economic policy, I agree with the way of the modern liberal state. Computers, ATM machines,. banking, stocks, these are all necessary to function today. Locke’s system of, the harder a man works the wealthier he will be just doesn’t work today. This came about with the vast amount of ways that money can now be made. Through an inheritance, a lottery, or even landing a really good job, you can be rich. This doesn’t mean you work harder for it or deserve it because you are going to contribute it to society, it just means you’re lucky or educated or you have immense wealth another way, rather than just harvesting more crops or plowing more fields. As for his judicial system, it would be more effective in some ways, n we run into the problem of too many people for a community to watch over, and the evolution of communications and technology has advanced so much it would be hard to implement. Locke’s theory of death to all who are guilty system just wouldn’t work. You would see people being killed for running a stop sign and committing murder placed in the same cell. However both systems have similarities such as being judged by peers and the right to appeal. “Those who are united in one body, and have a common established law and judicature to appeal to, with authority to decide controversies between them and punish offenders, are in civil society one with another” (1.#87).
It is hard to connect the two systems and compare and contrast them because of so many different factors that could be listed. It’s just too bad society isn’t as simple in life as it is on paper.
1. Wooten, David. Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche.
Indianapolis: Hacket, 1996.
2. Yolton, John. Locke an Introduction Oxford, Blackwell, 1985.
3. “Locke, John.” Brittanica Online Encyclopedia, 1999
4. Hentrich, Charles. Sources of Philosophy. NY, NY: Sanders, 1997.