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POLS 2900 Lecture Notes - Body Politic

Political Science
Course Code
POLS 2900
Stephen Newman

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POLS 2900
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
The State of Nature
The way Hobbes talks about the state of nature changes from chapter II to chapter IX
Locke refutes the absence of private property. He refutes that there is no private property
and that the king owns it. Locke argues that God gave property to everyone. He argues
that we do have a right as all others to enjoy nature’s abundance. But each person has
their own right to enjoy the fruits of their own labour. E.g. anyone can pick an apple
from an apple tree. But only the person who did the picking is entitled to the apple that he
has picked. It is the labour that distinguishes the common from private. It is my apple
because I picked it from the tree.
One can only take what one can make use of. It does not make sense to take more than
you can use. What is the point of hording them if they will rot before you can use them?
In Locke’s language, the right thing to do is also the convenient thing to do. In other
words, the right thing to do coincides with what a rational, self-interested person would
do. Then, there could be little quarrels about the rules established.
The law of nature says: 1) you cannot take more than you can use 2) you should not take
more because the nature belongs to everyone and not just you – leave some for everyone
Private Property and Money
The invention of money made all the difference in history
There is a virtue of having gold and silver coins- they are imperishable. That means we
can horde money without violating natural law. It will never rot and you will never run
afoul of the spoilage limitation.
A money economy means that a person can buy a hundred acres, plant and grow food.
Whatever the person does not need, he can sell it for money. He can then use the money
to buy more land, grow more food and sell it for more money.
Nature, which had been a common stock for everyone, is closed and privatized for certain
people. For those without land, who are denied access to the commons because the
commons have disappeared, must work for wages. They must then use those wages to
purchase goods for their lives and livelihood.
Locke: the closing of the commons actually increases the supply of goods in the world. If
you had to wander through the forests for your dinner, it would take longer and be harder
than purchasing it from the market. He argues that you now have more stuffs than before.
So even the poor, who work for a wage, have access to more and better stuff than before.
A working man is better fed, better clothed and better housed than a prince in one
of the Indian tribes in North America. He means to say that this money and materials
economy is better for everyone than the state of nature is for even the richest man. Even
the poorest do better than if the world was still a wilderness.
The poor now have an incentive to become thieves. The wealthy compete with one
another and inevitably come into conflict. Men now have incentive to behave in ways
that may cause conflict with one another.
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