Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Critique on John Locke: Second Treatise of Civil Government

In the Second Treatise of Civil Government, John Locke asks a very important question to the reader "if man in the state of nature be so free, as has been said; if he be absolute lord of his own person and possessions, equal to the greatest, and subject to no body, why will he part with his freedom?" His question is meant address motives of man, why would a man give up his freedoms for a the idea of a commonwealth, when currently his right to do as he pleases? The answer is as simple as security, with total freedom man has the ability to do as he please. The conflict begins with the idea of total freedom, because one man's idea of freedom would differ from another man's idea of freedom, this is the simple root of conflict. The idea of security makes him question the value of total freedom. When man has total freedom, there is that constant fear that freedom would be taken away. A man joins a society for "preservation of their lives, liberties, and estates," a rational man would pick a life of security which liberties such as, and property would be protected over a life of insecurity. A classic story would be of King John and the Magna Carta, King John had a different perspective of what freedom was, where as, King John's Barons did too. King John had been banned from the church, and because he was banned he used it as a motive to get rid of the church. In that action the reader can see that the King's actions are only benefitting himself, which goes away from the idea of unity that Locke writes about, one that all men are created equal and have equal rights. One of the major problems of having total freedom is the security aspect, in this case, King John was given an ultimatum, that he signs the Magna Carta or he is killed. If King John didn't sign he would have been killed, which reaffirms the fact with total freedom, the risk of danger increases tenfold. By King John practicing his total freedom, doing as he pleases, he was threaten to be killed. (1)

The major goal in a commonwealth is the "preservation of property." Locke speaks generously about how it is the the commonwealth job to protect the property. The government has the ability to control a solider, to give the commands, and essentially has the right to send soldiers to fight the wars that they started, but government doesn't have the right to the property of the solider. Locke definition of property is not limited to the estate, but to their mutual preservations of lives and simple liberties.

For a commonwealth to be good, it needs 3 essential things. One is that the commonwealth needs standards, standards would be its laws. The laws would have to apply to the common consent and set the bar to what is right and wrong. The laws have to be objective, simple, and unbiassed for all members of the commonwealth. The next essential aspect would be the judge. The commonwealth has set the standard, now an interpreter is needed for the application of this said standard. A indifferent judge is needed, one that isn't fueled by revenge, or passion, but is guided by the law book. The commonwealth has the laws, has the indifferent judge, now that is left a way to back up the laws. Locke's position on punishment is spot on as he states that when a law a broken that the worst possible punishment should be used first to make the wrong doer repent and to scare others. The commonwealth should have the ability to punish when a law has been broken.

Locke spends some time towards the end of Second Treatise of Civil Government, about the role of the legislator. He states that the legislator has one of the most important jobs, in that they are the ones that preserve the society. That the legislative powers should never be challenged, and that it is essential to have a good legislator for a successful commonwealth.



1 comment:

  1. Great stuff. You really appear to have loved Locke and explained his positions very well. It was very clear from what you wrote that you have read Locke. Great stuff.