John Locke Provisos

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John Locke was an English philosopher who had the idea that all people have natural rights. Their natural rights included that of life, liberty and property and the idea of these rights being held by each individual is often said to be the primary influence of the American Declaration of Independence. Locke further explains his rationale behind natural rights in Two Treatises of Government and particularly property right in his “Provisos,” stating the conditions the make property public or private.

Locke’s “Provisos” discusses the idea that property becomes private when a person labors upon the property. His reasoning that the land becomes the person’s private property is that a person has the right to the fruits of his labor, and he also has the right to the resource that bore his fruits, in this case the property. As Locke says, “He by his labor does, as it were, enclose it from the common” (page 437). By this he means that by laboring over the land, the land is taken away from the rest of society, the common, and becomes the private property of the individual. Locke also believes that “as much as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the product of, so much is his property” (page 437). In this, he is stating that a man can own as much as can be useful to him; claiming property in excess and not being able to make it productive is wrong because the property will then go to waste instead of bearing fruit. This is wrong because “nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy” (page 436) and having land lying to waste is along the same lines as ruining the land.

This idea from Locke’s “Provisos” follows from his idea of general property rights. He believes that land that has not been influenced by an individual’s labor is land available for all of society. Man should still respect the land and not exploit it, but “were it not for the corruption and viciousness of degenerate man, there would be no need of any other, no necessity that men...
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