John Lock and Liberalism essay

In justifying the natural character of individual freedom (including ideological and religious spheres), Lock as the main guarantee of the independence of the individual calls the possession of a property. He was not the first one who spoke about the mutual freedom and ownership. The issue was acted as one of the development mainstreams throughout the world of philosophical, political, and legal thought. However, in the XVII - XIX centuries, the concept of property received a new meaning, greatly thanked Lock. In the Two Treaties of Government, the philosopher argued that the right to property is a natural right of every human being, and the state is created to protect freedoms and human rights, including the right to ownership.


The Natural Right to Property

According to the teachings of Lock, a person enters society together with innate and inalienable rights, which include freedom, equality, and even property. The philosopher mentions: “Men, being once born, have a right to their Preservation,”. Such statement gives reasons to claim that the right to life and well-being is given to a man by birth. Moreover, people actually have to live in dignity. For this case, God “has given the Earth to the Children of Men, given it to Mankind in common,”. All the creature comforts are a common property and given in the sharing right of all humans. It proves the equality between people.

Before Lock’s conception was developed, the right of ownership was concluded from the initial capture (jus primi occupantis) of an ownerless thing (res nullius), or from the state’s transfer of this right to a person. Lock, however, did not support a point of view according to which the property right is stemmed from the personal arbitrariness of the first one, who arrogated a thing. Instead of that, he created own individualistic explanations of the ownership.

Lock noted: “The Earth, and all that is therein, is given to Men for the Support and Comfort of their being,”. Thus, the philosopher declares that a man is the supreme creation of God, who has the right to control other forms of life and to dispose of them at his discretion. However, in a state of nature, where everything belongs to everyone: “every Man has a Property in his own Person,”.  It means that a human is a master of his activity and functions of the body. Efforts attached to raise an acorn or disrupt an apple entitle a right to take an ownerless thing in possession. I support Lock’s considerations because labor can modify the item and make it differ from the original one. The right to own land is proclaimed as the highest expression of human rights and freedoms. Earth as the supreme value in the hierarchy of the ownership could belong to anyone who is eager to handle it, fertilize, and protect.

Lock has stressed that the labor creates a difference in the value of things: “That added something to them more than Nature, the common Mother of all, had done; and so they became his private right,”. Lock says that God has given to a man more than he really needs. It has been done for the pleasure of humans. At the same time, a man has the right to get by his labor as much property as he can consume to any needs of his life before the item is corrupted. Thus, the right of each property in its natural state is limited to spoilage of the items subjected to consumption. Lock highlights: “Got has given us all things richly… to enjoy,”. Nevertheless, I agree with the philosopher that a person cannot accumulate more that it is required. It explains the fact that the natural sources are distributed among all people. However, the possibility of exchanging them for precious metals is provided as a right of accumulation (as stated in the following parts of the Two Treaties of Government).

The ownership of land and movable property establishes the personal use of the results of individual labor. Lock also stresses that the earth is a greater worth than anything else: “But the chief matter of Property being now not the Fruits of the Earth, and the Beasts that subsist on it, but the Earth itself,”. Therefore, the rights to possess it should be matched with other people, and the very part of the common land should be fenced. Thus, the person gets the land and must take care of it and enrich by the hard work. As a result, a man will get fruits. I think, Lock describes a realization of the great divine brainchild - humans must work and benefit from everything created by God.

State as the Guarantor of the Right to Property

The next section is devoted to the role of the state. According to Lock’s convictions does not possess comprehensive power. The government enjoys a right to punish violators of the natural law defining the crime and the extent of their punishment (legislative power), providing the execution (executive power), and protecting society from the assault by other entities. Lock considers dome kind of the social contract, under which people create a state for the protection of common rights and freedoms. From my point of view, it is a progressive position, which really captures the essence of liberalism. For example, Hobbes thought that state institution could be established on the basis of fear. In contrast, Lock observed it as a way to create an exceptional property protection. The authorities, who are elected by the persons, must justify the people’s trust.

Lock believes that legislators who are trying to take away and destroy the people’s property or to plunge them into slavery become despots. Thus, they put themselves in a state of war with the nation, which is consequently released from the obligation of any further obedience. I believe that Lock’s statement that “people are left to the common Refuge, which God hath provided for all Men, against Force and Violence,” is a bold and far-sighted claim. The philosopher emphasizes the interconnection of a state and a person, indicating peoples as the sole source of power. Thus, it is the right given them by God.

Lock defines trust as a significant component of the state unity. According to his position, the government must justify the confidence in the same way as every honest member of society must prove his loyalty. Trust is a link that makes the public exists as a single organism. If members of society do not justify the confidence, they are subject to punishment. If the government does not justify the trust, it may be displaced by the uprising. Lock justifies the rebellion but not a reckless one: “Revolutions happen not upon every little mismanagement,”. The thinker explains that people can tolerate mistakes of the authorities as long as they are done unintentionally. However, if malicious intent is viewed in the actions of rulers, people quite rightly get rid of malicious power. For this reason, Lock proves the supreme role of the state, which is intended to serve the people.


Lock’s philosophical writings caught my attention by the naturally brave train of thought, which can be seen in every line. The core tenets of liberalism described in the studied passage of text are reduced to the following ideas: all men are equal by nature and have equal rights to the property, all good is created by God for the man’s benefit, honest work gives the right to assign ownerless things and a part of land as the highest material value, and a state is created for the protection of private property and liberties of people. If the elected government does not justify confidence, it is removed by a just revolution. I fully support the position of Lock’s philosophy, because I consider it progressive and fair.

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John Lock and Liberalism essay

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