Conflicting Ideologies Concerning the Right for Organized Rebellion

Hobbes and Locke’s conflicting ideologies largely center around the concept of what gives a government its authority. Hobbes believed that human beings were “organisms in motion” who need a governmental authority construct to prevent them from solely living for selfish means. The selfish nature of human beings is visible in the actions of the dictatorship in Syria in the years prior to the entire Syrian conflict. In addition, it is also visible currently in the actions of certain individuals who are setting themselves on fire for political gains. These actions are selfishly fueled and demonstrate Hobbes’ idea that human beings need a governmental authority to keep their selfish natures in check. On the other hand, Locke believes in human agency that is “lent” to governments to protect the inherent rights of its people. This concept can be seen throughout the Syrian conflict. People are uprising in the first place because they feel that their inherent rights are being violated. Locke stated that if a government were violating the rights of its people, then the people had the right to change or overthrow it. Therefore, Locke’s assertions justify the Syrian conflict as a whole.

John Locke and Justice

Group 6

In looking at how Locke’s Treatise is still in circulation today, an article was found about the Ferguson case. About the issue in discussion, Michael Brown was a black teen that was shot dead by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. Racial protests and injustice screams were heard around the states. The author of this article, Ta-Nehisi Coates, brings up a quote from Locke’s Treatise to help prove his point about how Wilson got off on a lesser punishment than an ordinary citizen would have received. The part quoted was in Chapter XVI, Section 176:

The injury and the crime is equal, whether committed by the wearer of a crown, or some petty villain. The title of the offender, and the number of his followers, make no difference in the offence, unless it be to aggravate it. The only difference is, great robbers punish little ones, to keep them in their obedience; but the great ones are rewarded with laurels and triumphs, because they are too big for the weak hands of justice in this world, and have the power in their own possession, which should punish offenders. What is my remedy against a robber, that so broke into my house?”

In this context, the Ferguson’s trial outcome violated Locke’s way of thinking. Locke says that the title of the offender should make no difference, yet Coates is arguing that in this case it did. There is an absence of justice that is occurring in Ferguson. Coates agrees with Locke, and says that the government needs to put as much pressure on the law enforces as they do the law followers.

Locke also states in his Treatise that if  justice is denied, appeals should be made. His feelings that no one should be exempt from the law and that people need to be brought to justice so that everyone else can feel protected of their lives and property apply to this situation. If everyone was to go free like Wilson, it would be a disgrace to the government that Locke was trying to establish.

John Locke and Gun Control

Group 5 Humn 221-09

John Locke’s ideas for a stable and fair society influenced the principles the United States was built upon. In reading “The Second Treatise of Civil Government” Locke emphasizes the natural right people have to protect themselves and their private property. Anyone who challenges this has declared “war” and the victim is able to use force to protect themselves. A big issue today is gun control in America with people debating how the constitutional right to own guns should be regulated if at all. An article called “Locke ‘N Load: John Locke and Your Second Amendment Rights” explains how John Locke’s philosophy can be applied to the right to own weapons in a civil society such as the United States. The article uses John Locke’s idea of preserving private property and health by any means when someone else tries to invade on that right. The post is saying we have a right to use weapons when our life or natural rights are being threatened.

Another article “Freedom and Gun Control” also uses Locke’s ideas to explain our right to bear arms. This article took into account the entire  issue of gun control and not just the idea of using lethal force when necessary. An important quote from this , “You can not privately own a nuclear weapon just because you happen to think that it’s good for your own self preservation. Thus, gun-control is justified to the extent that it’s for the good of the public.” Locke did emphasize the importance of self preservation, but his idea differed slightly when people came into a united society. The idea of a society is we have to abide by certain laws and regulations all for the good of the public. The importance of this is that overbearing weapons is not for the good of a society and same with weapons that are too dangerous. It is meant for the preservation of yourself  as well as society and when too many people accumulate weapons, violence increases.

Our group saw an important tie in of the ideas in the Second Treatise and some problems we face in a more modern world. It’s difficult to say how Locke would approach this situation because it is a right to protect oneself, but also necessary to keep the public safe. His principles underline an idea that it may be better to regulate this kind of power so community members feel protected rather than threatened.

John Locke: For or Against Austerity?

Humn 221-09 Group 1

This article  in the New York Times quickly covers the history of austerity in the West. At one point it suggests that John Locke and his political philosophy are still used as a basis for austerity policies. The argument is that Locke’s emphasis on the need for a limited government uninvolved in politics ends with the government not interacting at all in the economy.

The challenge, however, is that Locke never properly addresses any full economic topics. He does suggest in one chapter that taxation approved by the people is acceptable, but he does not explore the issue much farther. At the same time, it is possible to describe Locke’s philosophy as having a moral or ethical aspect to it. Locke sees certain actions as being “right,” or more acceptable or correct than others. These actions include recognizing the rights of individuals and the establishment of a government to protect these rights.

Thus, we quickly recognized the difficulty involved in using Locke and his philosophy as a basis for austerity. Austerity, certainly, can be used as a method for protecting personal property for those who own property, a concept that Locke seems to firmly believe in. However, austerity can also easily prevent those individuals in the lowest classes of society from gaining property and economic advancement, facets of life that Locke strongly supports. Based on our own discussion, which struggled to develop a solution that seemed to satisfy both sides of the argument, it seems almost impossible to satisfy all of Locke’s philosophy when arguing for or against austerity. Perhaps, the most important take away, then, should be that governing is not as simple as we would like to imagine or as Locke’s writing would sometimes make it seem. Many of the situations Locke describes and either vocally supports or opposes are generalities that can be hard to recognize in specific contemporary situations.

John Locke: Strife between Property and Currency

Humn 221-09 group 4 (Plus Aliza)

Passage 37 of John Lockes Second Treatise of Civil Government talks about the use of currency allowing man to hold more property than he needs, so long as he sells perishable goods in exchange for money, something nonperishable. This notion seems to directly contradict some of the statements previously expounded by Locke.

Previously in paragraph 32 Locke had stated, that so long as enough land was left for someone else to use then man could enclose their own parcel of land. However if every man takes more than his fair share, more than he could possibly use, there is not enough left over for every man to have a piece. Locke was writing this closely around the discovery of America, clearly thinking that there could never be a shortage of land. In this year of 2015 though everything is claimed or owned. So here Lockes ideas come into conflict, because businesses and corporations hold more property than any one entity should ever have and therefore make others unable to hold on to land. Yet they trade the goods they create from these natural resources for money therefore not wasting any decaying material.

Earlier in the same chapter he explained that men should not take more than is needed by their person alone because “Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy”. Companies that own more land and goods than they could possibly use, destroy other businesses and livelihoods, not to mention most of the natural resources they’re abusing. This is because over cultivating of land, and simply trying to reach some natural resources destroys the land around it, or potentially harms our atmosphere and/or water sources. Large companies such as Walt-Mart also negatively affect others, especially in small communities, it can shut down local businesses. Essentially this “destroys” their business, and in effect their livelihoods.

One could also propose that this is why we have intellectual property now. Since we’ve practically ran out of land to simply “claim”, we can now claim the right to certain ideas. Especially with new technologies and the internet, there are constantly new programs, theories, inventions and so on being created. But this also raises an issue because anyone can claim ideas, and get a copyright or trademark for it. A lot of technological advances are based off of preexisting technology and therefore someone is unable to create something unique without offering to pay whoever owns the copyright, or they might not even be able to create it at all. Thus again leading to the issue of someone owning to much of something so that it infringes upon others wellbeing, and creativity in this instance.

It seems strange to me that John Locke so often advocates for the good of the commonwealth, but does not see a problem with gross economic inequality. In my opinion the two should go hand in hand, otherwise the argument for the good of all becomes muddled. To be fair though, Locke couldn’t have had any idea how society would change and grow over the centuries, which makes you wonder what he would say if he saw things now.

John Locke and Moderate Monarchies

Group 3

John Locke goes into great detail to explain the flaws and short comings of a monarchy as a form of government. Then later in chapter 14 while discussing the new roles and limitations the government should bare, Locke uses the term moderate monarchy claiming it is a well framed form of government (Section 159). With this statement, Locke enters a new idea of political views. The word moderate comes with illusion of limitations, which Locke uses when describing this new Moderate Monarchy. Limitations on laws and power helped him create the ideals that have helped shape many different governments even centuries later.

Locke shows great examples of foresight when explaining his moderate monarchy. Stating that laws should be transformable for the common good. With this Locke believes a certain amount of power should be given to the monarch to change laws that may be passed, or reinterpret them if beneficial to society. This is what Locke would call Prerogative; the power to acting according to discretion while dealing with laws for the overall common good. This would be exclusive to the most powerful forms of government.

Locke also talks about the power of checks and balances with law and then introduces an executive branch and a legislative branch. Locke claims that the executive branch should have the most power but also be checked heavily. This example of government would support a more moderate monarchy than an anti monarchy that Locke originally supported. Furthermore, this example of branches and checks and balances is familiar to our form of government today. It has always been said that John Locke was a strong influence in government, but is this suggesting that most governments tried to move away from a monarchy and ended up at a moderate monarchy? Are most governments today still Locke’s moderate monarchy just operating under a different name?

John Locke and Escaping Monarchy

HUMN 221-09, Group 3

(Sec. 159-160)

Locke’s Two Treatises of Government being a challenge to the legitimacy of monarchies, it is surprising the amount of power he is willing to invest in an “executor of the laws” in his vision of a better government. In Locke’s ideal government, a legislative body is responsible for creating laws, but an executive branch is given quite a bit of power. Locke even uses the term “moderated monarch[y].” He justifies the executive’s power to go around the legislature by saying that the legislators are not able to “foresee…all that may be useful to the community,” which seems to put the executor on the same sort of übermenschlich level that some of Locke’s pro-monarchy contemporaries, like Robert Filmer, did by citing the divine right of kings. Rather than creating an entirely new form of government, it could be argued that Locke is describing a parliamentary monarchy in which the king simply has a little less power than he did in 17th century Britain (which included a transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy), but replacing “monarch” with “executive”, “parliament” with “legislators”, and “power” with “prerogative.”

(Sec. 168)

Understanding the potential risks of giving one person this power, Locke tackles the problem of how to deal with abuse of prerogative. It is good that he accounted for this, but it is surprising nevertheless that Locke would be willing to create a system in which abuses could happen and be dealt with after the fact, rather than one in which abuses couldn’t happen at all.

John Locke: Who Shall Be Judge?

Locke asks the following question: what happens when the executive branch and the legislative branch are joined together against the people?  What happens when the executive and legislative branch step outside the realm of their given power and/or go against the well-being of the people?  Locke’s proposed solution, to appeal to heaven, is a surprising one.  Why ask us to turn to religion for help?  Rarely does Locke broach the topic of religion in this chapter, or the Treatise as a whole for that matter.  So, why bring it up now?  It seems unnecessary given the fact that his reasoning is based on the following statement: “between an executive power in being, with such a prerogative, and a legislative that depends upon his will for their convening, there can be no judge on earth.” What about the judicial branch, whose purpose is to literally judge?  Relying on a judicial branch to play mediator and protector of the people’s rights seems a more logical solution to such a problem and one more befitting the overall idea of the Second Treatise of Government.  

John Locke’s Ideas on Natural Law Between Societies

In class, our group was asked to pick out a passage from John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government that brought questions to us and then to take a deeper look at the passage to try and answer our questions. Our group chose passage 145 from chapter 12. This passage stumped us because Locke expresses that individual societies have laws that stops at the boarders of that society, and laws from one society to another are left to natural law. Before doing research our first thoughts were that this could not be exactly true, because in today’s society there are international relations that regulate our international laws. We live in a world where nations are interdependent on each other for things such as trade, and alliances that are formed between nations. Natural law seemed to be only regulated at an individual level and we did not see how it could be the main source of international relations. Once we took a deeper look we realized even in today’s world natural law really is what we have to depend on between societies. There have been great attempts to make laws such as the United Nations but not all nations belong to the UN.  However, at a global scale we do not have a legislative branch to make laws, or an executive branch to enforce the laws. Nations break commitments to each other regularly and there is really no justice system that can do anything about this between nations. Therefore, natural law really is what we have to depend on between societies. In today’s society there are many cases in which natural laws do not stop individuals of crime. For example, in recent years there has been a lot of interest on the drug trafficking industry. Between nations drugs are being transported in numerous amounts, and although border controls are trying to prevent it as much as possible, it is not putting a complete stop to it. This brings to question, what exactly is being done at an international level, and at a society level. Drug trafficking is just a single small example of what is happening without control. This leads to the larger question of how can the world work together on an international level to have more regulations and actually follow through on these.