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John Locke: SoN, SoW & Property PHIL 2345: 2008-09.

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Presentation on theme: "John Locke: SoN, SoW & Property PHIL 2345: 2008-09."— Presentation transcript:

1 John Locke: SoN, SoW & Property PHIL 2345:

2 State of Nature (‘SON’), ch. 2 All men are under laws of nature –Reciprocal equality –Perfect freedom –Reason: ‘no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions’ (2.6) ‘…a state of liberty, yet…not a state of licence’ (emph. orig.; 2.6) Each acts as his own judge, jury and executioner (2.7); –just like Hobbes’s SoN.

3 Has SON ever existed? Yes, in international sphere: –states are in SON w/ each other! Treaties, agreements are possible in SoN: –Promise b/w a Swiss and an Indian ‘in the woods of America’ (2.14), i.e. a contract (cf. Hobbes); –What does ‘America’ represent? Thus, business can be conducted in SON! This has implications for establishment of property in SoN, before social contract (ch. 5)!

4 Implications of 2.7 Punishment should be proportionate: –‘reparation and restraint’ (2.8) –yet one may kill a thief—why? ( ) Punishment: –deterrence, retribution, reparation Offender trespasses –‘against the whole species’ (2.8); –‘quits the principles of human nature’ (2.10); –becomes a ‘noxious creature’ (2.10); –may be destroyed like a wild beast (emph. added; 2.11) –Offender violates natural law and reason implanted in us by God (2.11); Offender places himself in SoW w/ others (ch. 3).

5 SoW (ch. 3) ‘And here we have the plain difference between the state of nature and the state of war, which however some men [who?] have confounded, are as far distant, as a state of peace, good will, mutual assistance, preservation, and a state of enmity, malice, violence and mutual destruction, are from one another’ (3.19).

6 Justification for death penalty Punishment must be deterrent— sufficiently severe to prevent repetition Rational agent will be deterred— –’an ill bargain to the offender…and [it will] terrify others from doing the like’; –What about non-rational or irrational agents? We act in self-interest when we judge in SoN: –civil govt = better way (2.13).

7 Death penalty under civil gov’t ‘Political power, then, I take to be a right of making laws with penalties of death, and consequently all less penalties, for the regulating and preserving of property, and of employing the force of the community, in the execution of such laws, and in the defence of the common-wealth from foreign injury; and all this only for the public good’ (1.3).

8 Question John Locke believes that the death penalty in both SoN/W and under civil gov’t is a deterrent and therefore a good way to prevent repetition of crime. What is your opinion?

9 Property, ch. 5 In the beginning ( ): –Enough resources for everyone—earth given to all to use in common (cites ‘natural reason’ and Bible); –each takes only what he needs—acorns, apples, the Indian’s deer = hunting-gathering (5.33); –To take more than one can use is WASTE (5.31); –We own what we appropriate through our labour (Marx: labour theory of value); –Man’s labour is 99% of the value of any thing.

10 The Problem of the Commons ‘God gave the world…to the industrious and rational’ (5.34); –Protestant work ethic (Max Weber’s phrase). Our needs compel us to appropriate resources (5.35); Initially we may do this in common –sharing as we once did in the hunter-gatherer band. –each appropriates only w/ agreement of fellow-commoners; –individual accumulation must somehow be restrained so that all the resources are not consumed; –this may require coercion; –because rational choice of each is to use all s/he can (Garrett Hardin, ‘Tragedy of the Commons’, Science, 1968).

11 Invention of a means of exchange Solves the problem of the commons Money transforms the world: –Earth can now be divided into parcels of individual property (5.37); –Waste/spoilage restriction is still satisfied; –the perishable is thereby converted into the durable.

12 Implications of money economy Appropriation ad infinitum Economic inequality (Gini coefficient) Privatisation (‘enclosure’) of commons Market dictates Gov’t = ‘nightwatchman state’ Cf. Plato, Aristotle and Marx –who consider economic inequality to be a political problem, the problem of the ‘two cities’ (Plato).

13 Locke’s ‘possessive individualism’ C.B. Macpherson

14 Appropriation is good ‘…he who appropriates land to himself by his labour, does not lessen, but increase the common stock of mankind: for the provisions serving to the support of human life, produced by one acre of inclosed and cultivated land, are…ten times more than those which are yielded by an acre of land of an equal richness lying waste in common’ (5.37).

15 This explains why ‘America’ is poor ‘There cannot be a clearer demonstration of any thing, than several nations of the Americans are of this, who are rich in land, and poor in all the comforts of life…for want of improving it by labour’ (5.41). Who are these ‘Americans’? What is their way of life? Why is England is rich (5.37)? What is England’s secret?

16 Locke’s argument for inequality Labour creates title to land Uncultivated land = waste; –may be used by another (squatters’ rights) Money is based on consent; Enables accumulation beyond subsistence level Property is unequally distributed: –Earth given to industrious and rational (5.34) –Value comes from labour (5.50) –Labour includes that of employees: ‘The turfs my servant has cut’ (5.28).

17 Locke’s argument for inequality ‘In the beginning all the world was America’ (49); Institution of money: –‘a man may fairly possess more land than he himself can use the product of’ (50); Compacts and agreements regulated property; Population increases: –‘…it is plain, that men have agreed to a disproportionate and unequal possession of the earth’ (emph. orig.; 50).

18 Locke’s cardinal tenets Labour theory of value Prohibition against waste/spoilage Property Cash nexus (money/means of exchange) Government to protect all this. Are you satisfied? Is this what gov’t should do?

19 Question In Locke’s state of nature, without society, without money, people can have private property by adding their own labor to a certain property (e.g. land). That property then becomes private property. The only restriction is people may not own more than they can use. But once money is created and accepted, they can store up the purchasing power by selling perishable goods and keeping money as a way of storing up value. They can therefore labor and own more than they can use. Does this imply that people can labor and own however much they want, on the condition that the goods can be sold and transferred into money, so that the goods will not go to waste?


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