John Locke Second Treatise Of Government Analysis Political Science University Of Manitoba Essay

729 words - 3 pages

The Second Treatise of Government remains a
cornerstone of Western political philosophy. Locke's theory
of government based on the sovereignty of the people has
been extraordinarily influential since its publication in
1690--the concept of the modern liberal-democratic state
is rooted in Locke's writings.
Locke's Second Treatise starts with a liberal premise of a
community of free, equal individuals, all possessed of
natural rights. Since these individuals will want to acquire
goods and will come into inevitable conflict, Locke invokes
a natural law of morality to govern them before they enter
into society. Locke presumes people will understand that,
in order to best protect themselves and their property, they
must come together into some sort of body politic and
agree to adhere to certain standards of behavior. Thus,
they relinquish some of their natural rights to enter into a
social compact.
In this civil society, the people submit natural freedoms to
the common laws of the society; in return, they receive the
protection of the government. By coming together, the
people create an executive power to enforce the laws and
punish offenders. The people entrust these laws and the
executive power with authority. When, either through an
abuse of power or an impermissible change, these
governing bodies cease to represent the people and
instead represent either themselves or some foreign
power, the people may--and indeed should--rebel against
their government and replace it with one that will
remember its trust. This is perhaps the most pressing
concern of Locke's Second Treatise, given his motivation
in writing the work (justifying opposition to Charles II) and
publishing it (justifying the revolution of King William)--to
explain the conditions in which a people has the right to
replace one government with another.
Locke links his abstract ideals to a deductive theory of
unlimited personal property wholly protected from
governmental invention; in fact, in some cases Locke
places the sanctity of property over the sanctity of life
(since one can relinquish one's life by engaging in war, but
cannot relinquish one's property, to which others might
have ownership rights). This joining of ideas--consensual,
limited government based upon natural human rights and
dignity, and...

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