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Answer the following prompt.

Describe and explain the role of property in Locke’s Second Treatise.

A thorough explanation should answer the following questions:

What is the origin of property in the state of nature? At what point does something become “mine”? How does this change once durable money is introduced?

What is the limit to property acquisition?

How is property connected to preservation?

Origin of Property in the State of Nature


John Locke’s fundamental political analysis known as The Two Treaties of Government (1690) has been significantly been recognized as a seminal piece of work in the history of political liberalism (Locke). However, the Second Treatise in particular has been recognized whereby Locke has posed certain significant disagreements related to the case of individual natural rights and privileges, limited government depending on the sanction and approval of the governed, power division within the government and further most importantly the authority of people within the society in order to depose ruling section who have being incapable to preserve their end of social contract (Drahos).  The essay will comprise the origin of property in the state of nature in Locke’s Second Treatise by shedding light on the limitations posed on property acquisition and its association to preservation. The thesis statement of this essay is “the significance of the enhanced productivity caused by labour along with the association between money and property”.

The theoretical understanding of state of nature holds various connotations whereby in the opinion of Hobbes, the state of nature is considered as a state of persistent mutual exploitation, all individuals seeking to govern individuals of the society and to obtain honour and revenues (Ashcraft). However, Hobbes argued that there are no human rights in the state of nature where individuals possess the natural authority to act in order to uphold the individualistic liberty and protection and further implies they way they respond savagely to each other with the intention to preserve their own life (Zwolinski). However, Locke holds a different position in comparison to Hobbes where he believes that individuals could live in a state of nature and further ‘this state of nature’ gives rise to complete autonomy where all individuals are given equal opportunity and can be associated with the ‘bond by the law of nature’ (Locke). In the opinion of Locke, human authorities and rights are regarded as rights which every individual possess and further belong to all humans, thus cannot be transferable to others in the society. Furthermore, Locke has critically argued that initially in the state of nature, there has a lack of incentive for any individual to intend to gather more additional property which an individual could utilize as major proportion of goods were considered to be unpreserved (Locke). Locke had further provided an explicit understanding of an early state of existence where there had been an abundance of resources with scarcity of population although the essential level of wealth was probably very low (Drahos).

Locke holds the assumptions that when individual possesses equal privileges and opportunities to suitable land and further obtain approximate value and revenues from it, an individual has the right to suitable undemanded land as one’s privately owned asset or property and this misuse further establishes indisputable situation to gain full property authorization preserved by the appropriator regarding the specific parcel of property (Locke). Thus it has been noted that from premises related to self-ownership alone nothing can be associated with the liable possession of parts of the earth (Epstein). Furthermore, Locke believed that each individual possess the rightful ownership of one’s own self and further reinforced on the notion of the world as a shared property or belong to Adam’s child Abel and his descendents (Zwolinski). However, under conditions of non-scarcity, individuals can perceive that if an individual has a rightful possession to one’s own self, individuals ought to be able to apposite as much land as possible and further obtain revenues by exerting labour on that land (Locke). Furthermore, if an individual claims his labour to be his own along with the abundance of land, others could demand the justifiable possession to a portion of that individual’s labour on that non-scarce land (Claeys).

Limits to Property Acquisition

However, Locke has evaluated that the spoilage constraint does not bring limitations to the proportion of property which individuals legally obtain and merely prohibits claims of possession to unpreserved goods and property that cause damage while in one’s possessed property, whereby the exceeding of the limits of the individual’s property not dependent on the broader domain of the individual’s property possession (Locke). Furthermore, it has been noted that individual may claim to inflate his own stock of private possession with the exchange of unpreserved or consumable goods which one is unable to utilize for functional purposes or for barter purposes (Epstein). Furthermore, land owners can further exchange perishable goods or properties for durable goods which will not blemish the precious metals. In the opinion of Locke, as precious goods or metals had widely been recognized as monetary matter, it had been able to obtain potentially unconstrained amounts of property without breaching the spoilage inadequacies. However, this form of development had been essentially significant towards land possession (Locke). Prior to the advent of funds or money, individuals showed immense degree of inclination and proclivity to the expansion of the landed property because of the abundance of natural resources which had been utilized as beneficiary factors for land owners and their families. However, a transition had been witnessed with the surplus of land along with its resources which could have been sold for funds or money that is considered as a durable form of wealth which does not violate or create challenges to the spoilage limitation (Locke). Money as a monetary factor had been developed with extensive commerce by further creating enhancement to both diversity and demand for possessions which had been immensely developed with the wealth of nations(Locke).

Locke in his Second Treatise had interpreted the ethical principle whereby an individual owns the natural authority to obtain the major proportion of the property as had been regarded as dependable with the individual’s level of competence to obtain similar proportion of property or land of comparable worth (Locke). However as Locke stated that the natural normative restrictions of the state of nature had been regarded as archaic in the society with the utilization of money and conditionally an acquisition of land and property that is far exceeding that the natural bounds. As acquisition of property had been perceived as an essential right along with the notion of the material of earth to be finite, the fundamental right to extract resources from the earth through labour cannot be unrestrained (Epstein). However, the advent money had effectively conquer the natural limitations of property acquisition whereby it had been possible to create productive use of property far in excess of the limits established by nature by further substituting individual’s abundance of property for money which does not destroy for the excess proportion of others property which further aids the division of labour (Locke). However, the principles stated by Locke had explicitly comprehended the facets which reveal that the individual’s right to obtain or acquire property both in the state of nature as well as in civil society had been restricted by the authorities of all others to be capable to obtain the equivalent property for themselves (Breakey). Under the conceptualization of the divine law Locke has disagreed on the ideas that these limitations towards acquisition of property had been established by nature itself whereas in the civil society Locke explicitly entailed that these forms of constraints had been established by the legislation based on the standards of the collective consent of the society (Locke).

However, Locke had stated that the fundamental reason for the mutual preservation of individual’s lives, autonomy and estates recognized as property whereby property is comprehended as goods or resources. Therefore from the above discussion it can be concluded that the preservation of property had been understood as the safeguard and protection of natural rights. The essay had explicitly evaluated the origin of property in the state of nature and the way forms of authorization had been altered with the advent of money and durable goods.

References

Ashcraft, Richard. Locke's Two Treatises of Government (Routledge Library Editions: Political Science Volume 17). Vol. 17. Routledge, 2013.

Breakey, Hugh. "Parsing Macpherson: The last rites of Locke the possessive individualist." Theoria 80.1 (2014): 62-83.

Claeys, Eric R. "Productive use in acquisition, accession, and labour theory." (2013).

Drahos, Peter. A philosophy of intellectual property. Routledge, 2016.

Epstein, Richard A. "Possession as the Root of Title." Private and Common Property. Routledge, 2013. 195-218.

Locke, John. "Of property." Theoretical and Empirical Studies of Rights. Routledge, 2017. 13-27.

Locke, John. Second treatise of government and a letter concerning toleration. Oxford University Press, 2016.

Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government: An Essay Concerning the True Original, Extent and End of Civil Government. John Wiley & Sons, 2014.

Locke, John. Two Treatises on Government: A Translation Into Modern English. Vol. 5. Industrial Systems Research, 2013.

Zwolinski, Matt. "Property rights, coercion, and the welfare state: The libertarian case for a basic income for all." The Independent Review 19.4 (2015): 515-529.

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