John Locke


ďNature is a state of perfect equality amongst all men. In this state, no one man has more power or jurisdiction than any other man.Ē (Locke 1690)




John Lockeís perception of natural rights and natural law is a better philosophical view because it allows more individual freedom shows that there does exist a rational purpose to government, and provides an absence of politics and encourages the development of oneís mind.


John Locke (1632 - 1704) was one of several political philosophers who focused on the theories of natural rights and natural law during the pre-Enlightenment era of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Lockeís theory of natural law, and of the aims and purposes of government, were detailed in his work, ďTwo Treatises of GovernmentĒ (1690), and proved to be influential, not only in Britain, but across the world, especially in America, where his views formed the foundation of the Declaration of Independence and the American system of government. Locke\'s ďSecond Treatise of GovernmentĒ, by far, is his most influential and important piece of writing. In it he set forth his theory of natural law and natural right. He shows that there does exist a rational purpose to government, and one need not rely on "mysticism and mystery." Against anarchy, Locke saw his job as one who must defend government as an institution. Locke\'s object was to insist not only that the public welfare was the test of good government and the basis for properly imposing obligations on the citizens of a country, but also that the public welfare made government necessary.


Lockeís perception of mankind was an extremely optimistic one, and he viewed natural law and the state of nature as being where all men are naturally moral and reasonable, and are born free, equal and possessing the inalienable rights to protect their life, their freedom, and their property. John Locke believed that men should be virtually unrestricted and free in political society. Locke\'s rational for this position lies in the twin foundation of man\'s naturally good inclinations and the specific and limited ends Locke believes political societies should have. In Locke\'s ideal society this fails to limit or remove any freedom from the individual, it only removes the responsibility of protecting these freedoms from the individual and places it on the state. According to Locke the only freedoms man should lose when entering into a political society are to judge and punish those who infringe on his liberty and estate. (Ebenstein 381) Locke believed that man exists in a state of nature and thus exists in a state of uncontrollable liberty, which has only the law of nature, or reason, to restrict it. (Ebenstein 374) However, Locke does state that man does not have the license to destroy himself or any other creature in his possession unless a legitimate purpose requires it. Locke emphasizes the ability and opportunity to own and profit from property as necessary for being free. The importance and autonomy of the individual in society was of very importance to Locke. The extent to which this was true is that people existed as individuals before societies and governments came into being. They each possessed certain rights, and all had the freedom to do as they pleased, unrestrained and with some restrictions placed upon them by God, according to Locke. This freedom of the individual was important, for it was the foundation for modern liberal democracy.


The contract of society took place when people gave up the total freedom that they enjoyed in the state of nature to form society. This society was made up of two types of people: Property and non property owners. Property owners being rational individuals were given the right of suffrage, while non property owners, viewed as not being industrious, were not. Property owners were further said to be of civil society while non property owners were only considered to be in but not of society. In order to fulfill the contract of the majority of society and government, the society as a whole contracts an impartial third party to act as the government. This agreement is often referred to as a trustee relationship because the government has no rights, only responsibilities to the people, and therefore acts only in the best interest of the members of