Passage: “It will, perhaps, be objected to this, that if gathering the acorns
or other fruits of the earth, etc., makes a right to them, then any one may
engross as much as he will. To which I answer, Not so….But how far has He given it us—“to enjoy”?
As much as any one can make use of to any advantage of life before it
spoils, so much he may by his labour fix a property in. Whatever is
beyond this is more than his share, and belongs to others. Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy.” (Locke, paragraph 30)
Rationale: The reason Locke’s argument originally confused me was twofold. Firstly, he suggests that Earth’s resources are endless and available for all men to take. While men are able to exercise their liberty and take as much as they can labour for, this concept of unlimited materials is flawed because population growth will eventually lead to a depletion of natural resources. Secondly, Locke proposes that men won’t take more than they need for survival. While this idea is noble in concept, it is naive in practice as men are naturally greedy. To better understand Locke’s logic, I reviewed notes from Professor Quillen’s lecture when we talked about the concept of equality in a world of private property. How can there be equality if a person can have more assets than another? If the amount of resources available in the State of Nature is infinite, then why don’t all men have equal property? Locke says the amount of property a person acquires is directly proportional to the level of labour a person exerts, so the responsibility to gain equality is shouldered by the individual.
Connection: By emphasizing the boundless availability of natural resources and the ability of men to get as much as he needs, Locke is trying to inform readers of their right to private property. Locke needs his pupils to understand this fundamental human right in order to convince them that the current form of patriarchal despotism is unfavorable because the king is not accurately protecting their private property. To argue against Filmer, Locke reiterates that God gave Earth to all of mankind for all men to use and enjoy (paragraph 33). In other words, private property is given to men by God. Therefore, if the current king is restricting a man’s ability to gain more private property and/or is not adequately protecting private property, then the king is not a proper ruler.
Question: How can the accumulation of property influence a person’s identity in the eyes of others?