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John Locke and the Limits of Liberty

John Locke argues that there are limits of liberty and of property in the ideal political system, and his limits are relatively reasonable. The limits are reasonable because they provide for as much liberty as possible without creating a disorderly society in which the ownership of private property could not be guaranteed. Of course, the view that Locke does indeed find a reasonable balance is based on the belief that private property is an essential element of any society, if not the most essential element. Clearly, to Locke, such private property is such a central element of society. The limits are unreasonable in that too much of the power in the society is inevitably concentrated in the hands of those who own that property. In other words, because he starts with the idea of property as the central basis of society, it is inevitable that Locke creates a society which will be run by those with property, for such property-owners will be most likely to ensure the security of property.

Locke wants to define a government which will avoid the violence of the state of nature and at the same time will cut only minimally into the freedoms which he believes people have according to nature. Locke did not mean only material property, but life itself, although Locke's writings clearly mean to set up a government which will ensure the protection of the ownership of material property. Locke believes that the laws which find expression in the civil government exist already in the state of nature but human beings do not follow that law, which requires codification of laws in the civil government. The basis of law is God who places the knowledge of laws in men even in the state of nature, and in the civil government as well:

God hath certainly appointed government to restrain the partiality and violence of men. . . . Civil government is the proper remedy for the inconveniences of the state of nature (345).

Therefore, Locke would establish...

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John Locke and the Limits of Liberty. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 10:30, December 01, 2023, from