The Justice of Private Property:
analysis of Locke, Smith, and Marx
Mount Vernon Nazarene University
Dr. Lincoln Stevens
Private property and in a sense distribution of wealth have been key topics of social justice debate for centuries. John Locke, Adam Smith, and Karl Marx had differing and sometimes overlapping ideologies when it comes to property acquisition, economics, and property ownership. I assert though, that though it has not be put into practice in way matching the theory, Marx had the greatest ideas towards the creation and sustainment of harmony between men in his economic theory.
Probably some of Locke's greatest contributions were his ideas regarding property. In the time of Locke it was believed that the Bible declared the earth was made for humanity in common. Locke argued that though the earth is for all people, this does not imply one giant communal use but instead permits the acquisition of private property. Locke believed that God, being the creator had control over creation in the sense that he could work to create and manipulate/own/improve creation. Since we are made in the image of God we share (to a lesser extent) that power. Even though creation was possibly made for the common in the beginning we as humans inherently own our bodies. This ownership of our bodies includes our actions/works. This is similar with Marxist thought regarding the interrelationship between man, labor, and products we create. 1)"Whatsoever then he removes out of the state of nature… he hath mixed his labour with, and joined it with something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property." Assuming we do truly own our work/efforts, Locke believed that when we applied our work (ourselves) to the rest of creation, we in a way put ourselves into creation and more or less made creation a part of us therefore owned whatever we had work to improve/subdue. This is a simple break down of his acquisition of property theory. For Locke, any individual who put work into
1) John Locke, "Second treatise of government". Raleigh, N.C.: Alex Catalogue, 1776
(unowned) land justly acquired it. Locke seemed to believe one can also acquire property through the work of others if the person somehow submits to or benefits from the original owner. This opens Locke's theory to being a pro-capitalist theory. For example if a man has a servant, his servants work becomes his property. When the servant harvests crops out of the masters property, even if to sustain themselves, there is a gain in property fort he master. Arguably an individual can work as hard as they want and therefore acquire as much (if not all) the land there is as well as gain as many people for whom will acquire more property in his/her name. There were a couple of stipulations though to combat the possibility of a single person or few people owning all property.
Locke said that act of acquisition, an individual must only...