John Locke Concept of Ownership

John Locke Concept of Ownership

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

It seems that property is the basis of Locke’s thought. Because he used property in a very broad sense. “Locke uses the words property and estate, meaning property. With the word property, it expresses property in a broad sense that a person has, which will include life and freedom as well as property. He uses Estate for property in the narrow sense we know”[1].

In A Letter on Tolerance, Locke defines property in its broadest sense. According to him, the state is a human society formed only to procure, protect and develop the civil interests of the people. These civic interests are “life, liberty, health and rest of the body; and money is the property of external things such as lands, houses, goods and the like”[2].

Again, Locke states in his Two Treatises of Government that what he collects under the “general name” of property is the “lives, liberties, and property” of people[3].

As can be seen, in Locke’s thought, life, freedom and property are an inseparable whole and are generally explained by the concept of property. However, in studies analyzing Locke’s philosophy, it is seen that the meaning of property in daily use is highlighted[4].

In addition, Locke believed that the right to property can be earned by work. According to him, the earth is a blessing that God offers to people for their collective enjoyment. Man, who is a smart creature, processes and produces this blessing with his work, and this blessing he takes from nature with his own labor becomes his property. The real source of property is the effort of human beings, and no contract, law or authority can have a say other than work on the acquisition of property[5].

Locke argued that man would have a natural right to what he labored, as to the land he surrounded and plowed. Private property arose because, by the labor of man, he spreads his personality over the produced object. By spending his power on the produced object, man makes them a part of himself. Their usefulness is generally proportional to the effort spent on them[6]. On the other hand, man has to do this in order to live. This does not require the consent of others. Because he who was waiting for the consent of other people would die while waiting for a common consent that would probably never appear.

To sum up, it turns out that in the state of nature man’s right to property arises from two places: 1) that he adds his labor, and therefore a part of himself, to the object, 2) that he has to have it in order to live. For the first, property is a kind of contractual right, since everyone has the right to do the same thing. In terms of the second, it is a natural right because it stems from human nature[7].

“Locke also tried to specify the limit of property right. Since it is God who gave the land to man, the right to property is sacred. No one can touch anyone’s land or property. However, since God, who gave the land, wants everyone to benefit from this blessing, it is the right of every person to acquire enough property to meet his needs. Therefore, the property right of each person is limited to the property right of other people. It falls to the laws of society to protect this right, which existed before society. Political power is an authority given by property owners to property owners”[8].

We come across different views on Locke’s understanding of property. This is due to the meaning and importance it gives to the concept of property. For example, he argues that Russell Locke’s understanding of property is sometimes not applicable, sometimes incomplete, and sometimes based on false examples. Moreover, according to Russell, “From what has been said of Locke’s views on property, he was proclaimed champion by the superior capitalists in society; and this championship could be thought of as being won against both the capitalists, the superior and the inferior in the field of society. That would be a perfectly correct thought”[9].

On the other hand, as Sartori states, even today, many writers confuse liberalism with economic liberalism. This is a great injustice to liberalism. Like many liberal thinkers, Locke was not a laissez faire economics theorist. According to these thinkers, liberalism meant the rule of law and the constitutional state. Moreover, freedom did not mean free trade in the economy, especially the survival of the strongest, but political freedom[10].

Ultimately, Locke’s formulation has been, as Barry puts it, “largely the starting point for purely moral theories of the accumulation of property. Because this formulation also forms the basis of individualist opposition to rules that discover property rights for privileged institutions such as the state. But this notion may not seem to have much applicability in the contemporary world, because what Locke was mainly talking about—land/land—is too far-fetched for individual appropriation.