Locke – Unlocked.

The last few days of this campaign will be reduced to GOTV (get out the vote) efforts and personal appeals by the candidates. There are no scheduled major national events by either candidate and it is likely that there will be a deluge of advertising and focus on just closing the deal with the “undecideds”.

I’m going to be re-posting key ideological and philosophical stuff that I have written over the past couple of years as a reminder of what is at stake a week from Tuesday, sort of a “Utah’s greatest hits” version – I would ask the co-bloggers to select items that they feel particularly poignant to re-post as well.

Originally posted on February 4, 2012:

I’ve asked the question before about what the moral responsibility of the recipient of government largess has to those who fund it. I and others have made the case that the welfare state is inherently immoral for what it does to the human condition.

I have been reading Mark Levin’s new book, Ameritopia (and I highly recommend it), and this book has triggered something of a John Locke-a-palooza at my house. I have read large selections of Locke’s work before but never the whole first and second treatises of civil government in total…working on that now.

Locke would have found our descent into what I would call “il-liberty” astonishing. I wanted to post some of his thoughts that are clearly relevant to what its truly an assault on our individual rights and liberty from our own government.

Following are selected sections from Locke’s Second Treatise of Civil Government:

First, Locke stated that it is a natural right of man to own property, to take command by God given right of the means necessary to provide for his sustenance.

Sec. 25. Whether we consider natural reason, which tells us, that men, being once born, have a right to their preservation, and consequently to meat and drink, and such other things as nature affords for their subsistence: or revelation, which gives us an account of those grants God made of the world to Adam, and to Noah, and his sons, it is very clear, that God, as king David says, Psal. cxv. 16. has given the earth to the children of men; given it to mankind in common. But this being supposed, it seems to some a very great difficulty, how any one should ever come to have a property in any thing: I will not content myself to answer, that if it be difficult to make out property, upon a supposition that God gave the world to Adam, and his posterity in common, it is impossible that any man, but one universal monarch, should have any property upon a supposition, that God gave the world to Adam, and his heirs in succession, exclusive of all the rest of his posterity. But I shall endeavour to shew, how men might come to have a property in several parts of that which God gave to mankind in common, and that without any express compact of all the commoners.

Sec. 26. God, who hath given the world to men in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of life, and convenience. The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being. And tho’ all the fruits it naturally produces, and beasts it feeds, belong to mankind in common, as they are produced by the spontaneous hand of nature; and no body has originally a private dominion, exclusive of the rest of mankind, in any of them, as they are thus in their natural state: yet being given for the use of men, there must of necessity be a means to appropriate them some way or other, before they can be of any use, or at all beneficial to any particular man. The fruit, or venison, which nourishes the wild Indian, who knows no enclosure, and is still a tenant in common, must be his, and so his, i.e. a part of him, that another can no longer have any right to it, before it can do him any good for the support of his life.

A man has the sole rights to the fruits of his labor:

Sec. 27. Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men: for this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others.

And note that the covetous and quarrelsome have no right to claim any product of that labor, nor do they have a right to claim that the industrious are required to provide for those who are not productive in the use of the skills and faculties that God has given them.

Sec. 34. God gave the world to men in common; but since he gave it them for their benefit, and the greatest conveniencies of life they were capable to draw from it, it cannot be supposed he meant it should always remain common and uncultivated. He gave it to the use of the industrious and rational, (and labour was to be his title to it;) not to the fancy or covetousness of the quarrelsome and contentious. He that had as good left for his improvement, as was already taken up, needed not complain, ought not to meddle with what was already improved by another’s labour: if he did, it is plain he desired the benefit of another’s pains, which he had no right to, and not the ground which God had given him in common with others to labour on, and whereof there was as good left, as that already possessed, and more than he knew what to do with, or his industry could reach to.

So suffice it to say, Locke would not have been down with the Occupy Wall Street “movement”, Obama’s administration or any of the “progressives” for that matter. Ole John was not a big fan of redistributin’.

Locke is saying that the only reason that man needs government is to protect these very rights to the fruits of his own labor… to be an impartial arbiter with the power to apply laws equally and impartially to every citizen – but even he recognizes that governments are naturally self-perpetuating and because of that self-interest, are dangerous to liberty.

So what about a government that fosters redistribution, strips individual rights and sets itself up as a tyrannical overlord?

It should be dissolved – by revolution if necessary:

Sec. 222 (Chapter 19). The reason why men enter into society, is the preservation of their property; and the end why they chuse and authorize a legislative, is, that there may be laws made, and rules set, as guards and fences to the properties of all the members of the society, to limit the power, and moderate the dominion, of every part and member of the society: for since it can never be supposed to be the will of the society, that the legislative should have a power to destroy that which every one designs to secure, by entering into society, and for which the people submitted themselves to legislators of their own making; whenever the legislators endeavour to take away, and destroy the property of the people, or to reduce them to slavery under arbitrary power, they put themselves into a state of war with the people, who are thereupon absolved from any farther obedience, and are left to the common refuge, which God hath provided for all men, against force and violence. Whensoever therefore the legislative shall transgress this fundamental rule of society; and either by ambition, fear, folly or corruption, endeavour to grasp themselves, or put into the hands of any other, an absolute power over the lives, liberties, and estates of the people; by this breach of trust they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the people, who. have a right to resume their original liberty, and, by the establishment of a new legislative, (such as they shall think fit) provide for their own safety and security, which is the end for which they are in society. What I have said here, concerning the legislative in general, holds true also concerning the supreme executor, who having a double trust put in him, both to have a part in the legislative, and the supreme execution of the law, acts against both, when he goes about to set up his own arbitrary will as the law of the society. He acts also contrary to his trust, when he either employs the force, treasure, and offices of the society, to corrupt the representatives, and gain them to his purposes; or openly preengages the electors, and prescribes to their choice, such, whom he has, by sollicitations, threats, promises, or otherwise, won to his designs; and employs them to bring in such, who have promised before-hand what to vote, and what to enact. Thus to regulate candidates and electors, and new-model the ways of election, what is it but to cut up the government by the roots, and poison the very fountain of public security? for the people having reserved to themselves the choice of their representatives, as the fence to their properties, could do it for no other end, but that they might always be freely chosen, and so chosen, freely act, and advise, as the necessity of the common-wealth, and the public good should, upon examination, and mature debate, be judged to require. This, those who give their votes before they hear the debate, and have weighed the reasons on all sides, are not capable of doing. To prepare such an assembly as this, and endeavour to set up the declared abettors of his own will, for the true representatives of the people, and the law-makers of the society, is certainly as great a breach of trust, and as perfect a declaration of a design to subvert the government, as is possible to be met with. To which, if one shall add rewards and punishments visibly employed to the same end, and all the arts of perverted law made use of, to take off and destroy all that stand in the way of such a design, and will not comply and consent to betray the liberties of their country, it will be past doubt what is doing. What power they ought to have in the society, who thus employ it contrary to the trust went along with it in its first institution, is easy to determine; and one cannot but see, that he, who has once attempted any such thing as this, cannot any longer be trusted.

Isn’t this where we are?

Isn’t it a bit disheartening (and embarrassing) that our rhetoric about things like Obamacare, religious freedom and tax policies aren’t put forward at this intellectual level? Compared to this, our current political debates have the philosophical heft of a Doritos or a GoDaddy commercial during the Super Bowl.

Keep in mind that Locke wrote these words in 1690, 322 years ago. Locke was a scholar but also a keen observer of human nature and social currents. In 1690, the majority of the world was governed by undemocratic and authoritarian governmental systems and Locke was observing the birth of multiple avenues of thoughts on liberty, freedom and how governance could be structured to preserve them.

322 years has done nothing to change the nature of man, his interaction with his fellow man or the nature of those who seek to govern. It is remarkable and tragic at the same time that we still commit the same errors as in Locke’s time. Understanding these facts alone should be a complete and perfect vindication and approbation of Locke’s observations and postulates.

Written in the grammatical and syntactic style of the times, Locke’s original works are sometimes difficult and often torturous to read but the concepts are so simple and complete that they are easy to contemplate. If you are like me, as you read it (and you should read it if you endeavor to understand the basis of the founding of our country and the men who risked life and property to form our marvelous experiment in Liberty), you will find yourself nodding in agreement.

If you don’t want to tackle all of it, get Levin’s book…please.

It is the responsibility of all of us, as individual citizens to fill in the gaps left in our educations. No matter the level of formal schooling, Locke’s philosophical points are easy to understand and his observations of human behavior are represented in all strata of society. We simply must know our own history, we must persevere; we must not give in to the forces that seek to destroy her, this, the greatest nation in all of history, the United States of America.

20 thoughts on “Locke – Unlocked.

  1. I have only read the passages by Locke that y’all have been gracious enough to post in your articles, but I do have Levin’s “Ameritopia” coming in the mail, as well as ” Liberty Defined” by Ron Paul. I just finished Levin’s “Liberty And Tyranny.”

    Appreciate the work you fellas do in bringing all this information to our attention.

    • Mr. G,

      Locke is a very important character in the formation of this nation. Today, we are taught he was just another deist. But he was anything but. He not only defended Christianity VIGOROUSLY, he wrote that science supported and complimented the Christian faith. Anyone who has bothered to read his works would be forced to admit this. Just in the works Utah is reading, I believe Locke affirmatively references the Bible some 1,500 times.

      Now, to those who are not particularly inclined toward faith, this might not matter – but it should. It is crucial to understanding the difference between this nation and France. Our founders went in the direction of Locke, who argued Natural Rights and Natural Law as derived from the Bible (Locke wrote a lengthy, verse-by-verse piece on Romans, from which he derived the majority of his thinking in the field of Natural Rights and Natural Law). The French, on the other hand, went with Hobbs, who believed we have ONLY that which the State feels fit to allow us, and we have NO authority to alter or abolish govt. once instituted. In short, Hobbs was a “might-makes-right” sort of guy.

      When we understand all of this, something that would have been as obvious to our founders as the fact that we all breath air, we can easily look back and see that our nation went off the rails when we left Locke and started following Hobbs.

      I would suggest you try to get around to reading Locke sometime. From what I have read from you on the blogs, I think you would find him FASCINATING! But – and Utah, you should consider this, too – if you want to have even MORE fun, AFTER you read Locke’s two treatises on govt., read Hobbs’ “Leviathan” immediately afterward. Just be sure to keep some duct tape handy….you’ll need it 😉

      • But – and Utah, you should consider this, too – if you want to have even MORE fun, AFTER you read Locke’s two treatises on govt., read Hobbs’ “Leviathan” immediately afterward. Just be sure to keep some duct tape handy….you’ll need it 😉

        Are you suggesting that we might start breaking stuff after reading Hobbes? 😉

        Mike G.

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