John Locke: 2nd Treatise Civil Govt

locke

A book much talked about (sometimes maligned) but rarely read. There are several good reasons to read this book: namely, Locke articulates a rather clear and logically coherent theory of resistance–but more on that later.

Like Hobbes and Rousseau, albeit with different and more godly conclusions, Locke analyzes man in his state of nature. What is this state of nature? It is men living together in reason without a common superior (III.19). If that is so, then why would anyone surrender a portion of his liberty and authority to incorporate into a state? Locke gives a clear, if not entirely consistent answer: men incorporate together because of the precariousness of solitary existence. Agreed, but if the state of nature is what it is, then why do men have to worry?

Labour as Distinction and Valuation: Labour creates a distinction between “his” and “common.” Labour begins the distinction of property.

Whatever a man cannot use for himself returns to the realm of “common” (V.29). Locke argues, contra later libertarians, that things have an intrinsic value, though not absolutely so (V.37). Their value depends on their usefulness to the life of man. Labour puts the difference of value on everything (V.40). Labour puts the value on land. Labour gives the right of property (V.45).

Money, however, has subjective value (V.47). It Has value from the consent of men. I think Locke has struck a good balance here. His emphasis on labour and the land maintains a healthy work ethic (a point Adam Smith capitalized on, much to the anger and ire of the Misesian School, though the Austrian school’s understanding of marginal utility far superior).

He ends his treatise with a discussion of representative government and the right and limits of resistance.  Below is an outline:

  1. State of Nature
    1. equality; reciprocity; men living together in reason without a common superior (III.19).
    2. Natural Rights
      1. Punish crime (every man in the state of nature has the right to kill a murderer).
      2. reparation
    3. All men are naturally in this state and remain so, until by their own consent they make themselves members of a political society (II.15).
  2. State of War
  3. Slavery
    1. “Nobody can give more power than he has himself,” and since we cannot take away our own lives, we cannot give our lives to others (IV.22)
    2. Slavery is the continuation of the state of war
  4. Property
    1. Mankind living in State of Nature has all things in common.
      1. Yet this is not an absolute commonality.
      2. Every man has property in his own person.
        1. His “labour” is an extension of that person.  
    2. Labour creates a distinction between “his” and “common.”
      1. Labour begins the distinction of property.
      2. Whatever a man cannot use for himself returns to the realm of “common” (V.29).  
      3. God commanded men to be industrious.  
    3. Labour as Valuation
      1. things have an intrinsic value, though not absolutely so (V.37)
        1. Their value depends on their usefulness to the life of man.
        2. Labour puts the difference of value on everything (V.40).
          1. Labour puts the value on land.
          2. Labour gives the right of property (V.45).
      2. Money, however, has subjective value (V.47).
        1. Has value from the consent of men.
  5. Paternal Power
    1. Law is not the limitation of freedom, but its direction to the proper interest (VI.57).
    2. Liberty is to be free from restraint and violence.
  6. Political and Civil Society

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