Wrote Locke to justify private property

John Locke, The Second Treatise of Government, Chapter V: Property

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Background and intention of the property theory

3 Ownership and Labor
3.1 The state of nature
3.2 The working theory
3.3 Evaluation of the work

4 barriers to employment
4.1 The sufficiency clause
4.2 a hidden barrier to acquisition?
4.3 The spoilation clause

5 The meaning and function of money

6 Criticism of John Locke's justification of property

7 Conclusion

8 Bibliography

1 Introduction

In today's consumer society, material things play an important, and for some people even the most important, role in their lives. Many people define themselves through their possessions, such as their own house, a car or their clothes. The economy in the modern countries of our world benefits from the increased consumer behavior of our society and has a direct effect on it with the help of advertising. Even in childhood, our offspring come into contact with the importance of branded clothing or money-intensive hobbies in elementary schools or kindergarten. In the youth, too, the private property of our parents and their capital has a decisive impact on our later life, be it through the financing of our further education or through the establishment of important contacts in relation to professional life. Now the question is how only certain people get these benefits and others don't, and how did this start? Nowadays one can acquire goods with the help of the money that one receives and can also increase through the work done. However, the exchange or appropriation of goods has not always been carried out using money as a means of payment. Before the introduction of money, goods were measured according to their actual intrinsic value, which means that firewood, for example, had a higher exchange value in winter than in summer. If you now go back to the cradle of mankind, the question arises: How was the appropriation of goods then justified and how it happened? Through simple occupation or through contractual agreements with the rest of the people, which is very unlikely. Or was a justification to the rest of humanity, e.g. when picking an apple, even necessary?

According to the Bible, God gave the world to mankind and gave it to them together, which means that no one had a privilege to certain things. When people have acted according to this belief, the problem discussed above is the justification and approval of the appropriation of a good by the rest of humanity. How is this problem to be solved?

Grotius, Pufendorf and John Locke, who all imagined a situation where everyone has everything in common, try to solve this problem in different ways. How should one imagine a state in which everyone possesses everything? Aristotle thinks that the idea that everyone collectively has the same thing is a good idea, but it cannot be realized. Can use anything at all

be made and used without moving from common ownership to private ownership? When property rights include total freedom of disposition and total property protection for everyone, it becomes difficult to imagine a state in which everyone owns everything.

Grotius, Pufendorf and John Locke tried to solve this problem using different approaches. In my work I will examine and analyze John Locke's approach and property theory in more detail, since theorists of the French Revolution, early socialists as well as the fathers of the American constitution, invoked his intellectual heritage. I will first work out the background and the intention that moved John Locke to your drafting of the Two Treatises of Government, and then, through the presentation of his theory of property, I will come to an examination of his theory for consistency. Thus, a picture of the establishment of property will emerge, which at that time meant a revolutionary step in relation to the previous occupation theory.

2 Background and intention of the property theory

After John Locke had completed the Two Tracts of Government and the Essays on the Law of Nature in 1664, he initially turned away from politics and devoted himself to natural science and phenomenological medicine. When he left Oxford in 1667 and entered the service of the future Earl of Shaftesbury, an influential politician, it was only with the intention of pursuing the teaching of medicine. Locke spent the following 12 years, including his stay in France, with problems of religion, pedagogy, philosophy and epistemology, but by no means with natural law or property theory. It was only when his friend and patron Shaftesbury summoned him to London in 1679 and induced him to write a treatise on the origin, scope and purpose of state government and political rule that Lock began to reflect on the structure and relationship of individual rights of citizens. Between 1679 and 1683, parallel to the open confrontation between the Protestant Lord of Shaftesbury and the Catholic-oriented English heir to the throne, the Two Treatises of Government emerged. In the course of this confrontation, the Tories (supporters of the king) tried to justify the monarch's rights over his subjects theoretically, with the help of Sir Robert Filmer's remarks from the forties and fifties of the 17th century. During this time John Locke must have received the order from the Whigs, i.e. Shaftesbury, to refute Filmer's arguments and to lay down the rights of citizens to property independent of the monarch and the associated right of resistance. With which Shaftesbury could then pull public opinion on his side in order to win you over to his cause, a rebellion against the Crown. The Two Treatises of Government are thus to be seen as a political support for the Wighs, who ideologically prepared a planned rebellion.[1]

3 Ownership and Labor

"Property I have nowhere found more clearly explained, than in a book entitled, Two Treatises of Government".[2] From this quote from John Locke it can be seen that his presentation and justification of the natural individual right to property was at the core of his theory of civil society and government.[3] He wrote the right to own private property in the section “Of Property” in “The Second Treatise of Civil Government and a Letter Concerning Toleration”.[4] The primary goal of humanity, which is why it unites itself into a state and places itself under a government, is the preservation of its property. This sentence, which is written down several times in the "Second Treatise", clearly requires a natural right of people to property, a right that precedes and is independent of the existence of civil society and government. Already at the beginning of “Treatise” Locke assumes that everyone has a natural right to property. The state in which all people find themselves is characterized by complete freedom to arrange their actions in such a way and to dispose of their property and their person as they see fit, independently of the rest of humanity.[5]

3.1 The state of nature

In any case, it is clear that, as King David says in Psalm 115:16, God gave the earth to the children of men and gave it to them together.[6] He gave it to them so that it would be of use to them to the greatest advantage and convenience of their lives, since he did not, however, assign any particular person a special claim to goods (“nobody originally has a private Dominion, exclusive of the rest of the mankind “II§26), ways and means were needed that would enable them to come into possession of external goods.[7] Because only when, for example, an Indian can claim a fruit to which no other hunter has a claim, then it can be of use for the maintenance of his life.[8] In order to clarify the conditions of the natural state described by Locke, the most important properties are noted below: There is an abundance of material goods, the number of people is small in relation to the area available to them, life corresponds to pre-industrial conditions, es there is no state organization, the monetary system has not yet been introduced, the intrinsic value of things depends on their use, nobody wants more than they need.[9] Now the question is how can a single person get private property without the consent of all humanity?


[1] Brocker, Manfred: Work and Property. The paradigm shift in modern property theory. Darmstadt 1992, 137-147.

[2] Hahn, Johannes: The concept of property with John Locke. Frankfurt am Main 1984, 9.

[3] Macpherson, C.B .: The Political Theory of Possession Individualism. Frankfurt am Main 1980, p.223.

[4] Diss .: Lantz, Göran, Property Law-a Right or Wrong. A critical assessment of the ethical arguments for private property in Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Grotius, Locke, Hegel, Marx and in the modern Catholic social encyclics. Uppsala 1977, p.73.

[5] Macpherson, Possession Individualism, 224.

[6] Locke, John: About the government. Stuttgart 1980, p.217

[7] Brocker, property, p.167f.

[8] Locke, Government, p.217f.

[9] Lantz, Property Law, 75.

End of the reading sample from 18 pages