John Locke: The Father of Liberalism and His Labor Theory of Property

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John Locke: The Father of Liberalism and His Labor Theory of Property

One of the most influential political philosophers, John Locke provided a lot of theories that try to explain the relationship between the state of nature and the government. In his Two Treatises of Government, he tried to prove his claim that men are free and equal by nature but they need the guidance of authority like government or monarch.

What is Jhon Locke's Basic Theory?

John Locke was one of the English philosophers whose theories and works turned out to be highly revolutionary for the world. His initial education had a vast impact on his thoughts on which he had based most of his philosophical approaches.

He studied at Westminster School where he built a positive attitude towards rationality and liberalism. He studied medicine with Robert Boyle, an Irish scientist and famous philosopher who had a great impact on his thought process.

Two Treatises of Government

John Locke wrote the Two Treatises of Government in which he mentioned two discourses on government. In the first one, he shows his dissatisfaction with the idea of absolutism, meaning a system of totalitarianism in which a despot takes over governmental control.

In the second treatise, he has talked about the origin, authority, and purposes of the civil government. Locke was a person, who was totally against the concept of obeying tyrant rulers; rather he advocated the idea of revolutionary movements by the masses.

The State of Nature

Locke’s second work is the heart of the world’s philosophy, in which he has discussed the state of nature.

According to Locke, the state of nature has two characteristics:

  1. Perfect freedom of humans.
  2. Absolute equality among the inhabitants of the state of nature.

A Critic of Arbitrary Rule

Locke claims that in the state of nature, people are governed by laws of nature which can be rightly interpreted only by rational people. He was against the idea that the state of nature leads to war.

According to him, war is an outcome of arbitrary rule whereas in the state of nature people are sane enough to realize that their interest lies in the maintenance of peace. He believes that people are free to accept the rule of government if they want but this was only for those who wish to give consent in submitting themselves to the rulers.

The government isn’t equal to the people rather it has duties towards them. It must be an agent of the people, not a partner. He believes in an absolute democratic form of government, involving the doctrine of separation of powers. In his second work, Locke, later on, talked about the executive, foreign relations, and military affairs as well.

Locke’s Labor Theory

According to Locke, when humans apply their labor to something, that thing can’t be separated from them and rather becomes a part of them. Besides, the value of the goods depends on the amount of effort put into their production and the producers have the sole right of ownership of those goods.

This theory was also followed by Adam Smith and David Ricardo. To date, Locke’s labor theory is used to determine owner and consumer rights in Intellectual and other like properties.

Karl Marx’s theory of surplus value is also an elaborated form of Locke’s labor theory. This means that the impact of Locke’s labor theory was extended to the foundation of capitalism. 

Read More: Child Labor with Facts

The Letter on Toleration

Locke also wrote the Letter on Toleration in which he mentioned that no religion can empower someone to the extent that they require something from the entire community but refuse to give the same.

He was against toleration which the Church demanded itself and refused from the people. According to Locke, the State can withdraw toleration only in the situation of political insecurity. 

Man has inalienable rights

Locke’s ideology that people are endowed by nature with certain rights which nobody can strip them off and are not within the purview of any governmental authority has been incorporated in the fifth and the fourteenth amendments of the Constitution of the USA.

As per these amendments, the central and the national government are not empowered to deprive any person of his life, property, and liberty except with due process of law.

Facts of John Locke’s Theories:

  • John Locke never used the term ‘social contract’ himself through all of his theories revolve around this idea.
  • Jean Paul Rousseau was the first philosopher to use the term ‘social contract’ for explaining the relationship of government with the people.
  • Unlike Rousseau or Hobbes, Locke didn’t go for the extreme theories of benevolence or brutality to describe the state of nature.
  • Rousseau and Hobbes had totally opposite ideas about the state of nature but John Locke provided the most acceptable ideas about state of nature.
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