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John Locke

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Wilfrid Laurier University
Byron Williston

John Locke (1632-1704) Locke’s Importance: He had a profound influence on the frames of the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution. He provides a key alternative to Hobbes absolutism. He believes in the state of nature – nobody should harm anybody else. Hobbes and Locke on Equality: Hobbes thinks we are all equal in the state of nature in virtue of the relative equality of power among agents. Locke thinks we are equal in the state of nature in virtue of our common origin in God. Locke believes we are born with an innate morality. Morality in the State of Nature: From this it follows (for Locke) that there are moral principles binding us in a state of nature. Lockes believes in a state of nature, people won’t act in our moral principles, therefore need society and law. Without law, there will be some people who won’t recognize these binding laws. Lockes main purpose of government is the protection of private property. This is important because Locke thinks that ownership – both of myself and my stuff is sacrosanct. Lockes believes that your body and anything that your body has adds value. We all own our bodies and we also own the fruit of our bodies (what our bodies make). Lockes on siding with the parlimentarians: Government is there to protect your ownership. What follows? The right to revolution over unjust taxation. Hobbes vs Locke: Couldn’t revolt over tax in Hobbes theory of the Leviathan. Can revolt over tax in Lockes theory. Distributive Justice The Entitlement Theory/Libertarianism Key exponent: Robert Norick (1938-2002) What is Distributive Justice? How scarce goods, like money and property, are spread among the members of a specific political community. Example: in the US, 20% of the population own as much as the remaining 80% The Entitlement Theory is Historical You have a right to your holdings, if you acquired them be they were transferred to you by legal means. It can allow for extreme inequality. Negative/Positive Rights: Negative rights: concerning with life, liberty, and property. These specify things that nobody should intervene with. Positive rights: concerned with education, health, material welfare. These specify things you ought to be supplied with. Summary: The government has no business enforcing “positive rights,” especially through aggressive redistribution of tax revenues. Pattern Theories Definition: Theories about the distribution of scarce resources that are future directed. Look towards the ideal fu
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