Reading John Locke

My MLK Day will be spent finishing up an assigned reading project for a political theory course: John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government.  Most of the arguments seem pretty self-evident to me, a testament to the soundness of his writings.

But I know that there is much more to Locke than meets the undergraduate’s eye.  Does anybody out there have any thoughts (or tips on what to keep an eye out for) about John Locke’s musings on private property?  Are there any closet monarchists out there who believe that Locke was wrong about the beginnings of political society?

Happy MLK Day folks!

5 thoughts on “Reading John Locke

    • Robert,

      Thanks for sharing! Rothbard was fun as a historian. However, I can see why many libertarians did not like his scholarship. My favorite excerpt of this link:

      In fact, by the 17th century, the case could be made that the most prosperous country in Europe which was also the freest — in economics, in civil liberties, in a decentralized polity, and in abstinence from imperial adventures — was Protestant Holland.

      Holland was not actually a country but the largest state within a confederation of states, known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, although Rothbard’s overall point about decentralization and freedom remains. Also, the 17th century Dutch did not abstain from imperialism at all. In fact, in the 17th century the Dutch had one of the largest empires of the world, and it is largely considered the precursor to the British empire of the 18th and 19th centuries.

      On a different note, I have been fascinated by Dutch history ever I chose to write an Honors paper on the founding of the Dutch Republic in 2010 (it was rightly rejected for being “too broad” by my favorite history professor, so I wrote this instead). I think there is a very solid case to be made that the polities which most influenced the framers of our federal republic were the ones residing in the lowlands, as well as the Swiss cantons and the German confederations, rather than England.

      In fact, if you want to read something on just this topic, I highly recommend Peace Pact: The Lost World of the American Founding. It was written in 2006 by a scholar who sometimes contributes to the flagship publication of the Council on Foreign Relations, Foreign Affairs, but don’t let that stop you! This book, along with Charles C. Mann’s 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, have heavily influenced my thoughts about the world.

  1. From my presentation at :

    As John Locke recognized, the earth is “common to all men,” but in order to live, one must have the right to appropriate goods that nature has provided so long as (quoting from Locke) “there is enough and as good left in common for others.” This is the famous Lockean proviso. So long as other land of equal quality is available gratis, it harms no one to take and use a natural resource. A person thus has a historic or homesteading claim to a plot of land so long as other land of equal quality is available for homesteading.

    If other land of equal quality is not freely available, the equality premise implies that the benefit of land be shared as equally as is feasible. That benefit is manifested as rent. One would not pay extra rent from the improvement of land, since the yield of the improvement is a return on labor and capital goods, and distinct from the rent due to the natural and original land.

    • Ah! Gotcha. So rent would be paid for using extra land that could otherwise be used by somebody else? And this rent, I assume, would go a government, right?

  2. Rent would be paid not for using extra land area but for any land that has a rent greater than zero. The rent properly belongs to the individuals of the relevant community in equal shares. Second best is land rent as a better alternative to the taxation of income, sales, and buildings..

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