John Locke

John Locke (1632-1704) was a political thinker in England who was critical of the idea of absolute power held by a king. He had the idea of a “state of nature”, which was a society that lacked a government power, or rather preceded any established authority. In the state of nature everyone enjoys natural rights, derived from natural law. People have the ownership of themselves, and from this Locke derived the legitimacy of private property. He said that people can acquire property by “mixing their labor” with previously unowned property. What this means is that the thing which is desired has been in some way enhanced or improved so that it may be more useful. However, the state of nature has what Locke called “inconveniences”, such as the fact that there would be no universally recognized body of law that people could appeal to, there would be no authority to enforce this law, and people would have to be judges in their own cases. Locke said that society remedies theses inconveniences with government. In the establishment of a government, the people give up a portion of the rights that they would enjoy in the state of nature to the government so that they could enjoy the rest of their rights more securely. Locke went further to say that the government of an absolute monarch fails to remedy the inconveniences of the state of nature, chiefly because the monarch must be a judge in his own cases. Since there is no higher authority than a king in an absolute monarchy, the king has no one to appeal to if he has a dispute with one of his subjects. John Locke was a very important thinker, and his ideas have come down through the ages and have influenced modern political thought.


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