Locke Vs. Locke Essay

1174 words - 5 pages


For many political theorists and thinkers, the ideas of labor and property are central to the evolution of governments or states, and henceforth, very important aspects of human life. For some writers, the development of property is a direct result of labor, and government is set up to ensure the property rights of those who own property. Some view property and labor fundamentally or naturally connected aspects of human life, while others see it as merely a social convention. Each thinker also has different opinions about how property is acquired, as well as what the limits to property acquisition are. While one writer may provide the most fair account of property, another may provide a more feasible account of property acquisition and its limits. This essay will attempt to compare and contrast the beliefs of John Locke and Karl Marx on the ideas of labor and property with their connections to the aspects of the human condition, as well as determine who holds the most feasible or fair account of property.
To begin, Locke believes that property is not a "thing", rather, it is a relationship between an individual and an item. Property is a natural condition in John Locke’s state of nature, meaning it was present since the beginning. "Thus labor, in the beginning, gave a right of property, wherever anyone was pleased to employ it upon what was common, which remained a long while the far greater part, and is yet more than mankind makes use of." (Locke, 27). In order for property rights to exist, they must be recognized by other individuals through the act of mixing physical labor with nature. The most fundamental and natural forms of the property of man are "The labor of his body, and the work of his hands…" (Locke, 19.) These fundamental properties, according to Locke, cannot be stripped from any man "…nor could without injury take from him." (Locke, 21). By mixing nature with this fundamental form of property, or labor, man can appropriate property to himself. "His labor hath taken it out of the hands of nature, where it was common, and belonged equally to all her children, and hath hereby appropriated it to himself" (Locke, 20). Here, Locke explains that by mixing one’s physical labor with, for example, an apple from a tree, one removes the apple from the common cache of apples in the tree, and the apple becomes his own personal property.
Locke believes that the law of nature also sets limits for property acquisition. "The same law of nature that does by this means give us property, does also bound that property too." (Locke, 20). According to Locke, there are three limits to how much property one can acquire. First, deals with taking so many items, that they spoil from being hoarded and not used. "Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy." (Locke, 21). The second says that one should not be a glutton and leave an abundance...

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