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  • today we turn to John Locke

  • on the face of it

  • Locke is a powerful ally

  • of the libertarian

  • first

  • he believes,

  • as libertarians today maintain

  • that there are certain fundamental individual rights

  • that are so important

  • that no government

  • even a representative government even a democratically elected government

  • can override them.

  • not only that

  • he believes

  • that those fundamental rights include

  • a natural right

  • to life liberty and property

  • and

  • furthermore he argues

  • that the right to property

  • is not just the creation

  • of government

  • or of law

  • the right to property is a natural right

  • in the sense that

  • it is pre-political

  • it is a right

  • that attaches to individuals

  • as human beings

  • even before government comes on the scene

  • even before parliaments and legislatures enact laws to define rights

  • and to enforce them

  • Locke says in order to think about

  • what it means to have a natural right

  • we have to imagine

  • the way things are

  • before government

  • before law

  • and that's what Locke means

  • by the state of nature.

  • he says the state of nature is the state of liberty

  • human beings are free and equal beings

  • there is no natural hierarchy

  • it's not the case that some people are born to be kings and others were born to be

  • serfs

  • we're free and equal in the state of nature

  • and yet

  • he makes the point

  • but there's a difference between a state of liberty and the state of

  • license

  • and the reason is that even in the state of nature there is a kind of the law it's not

  • the kind of law the legislatures enact

  • it's the law of nature

  • and this law of nature

  • constrains

  • what we can do

  • even though we're free

  • even though we're in the state of nature

  • well what are the constraints?

  • the only constraint

  • given by the laws of nature

  • is that

  • the rights we have

  • the national rights we have

  • we can't give up

  • nor can we take them from somebody else

  • under the law of nature I'm not free

  • take somebody else's

  • life or liberty

  • or property

  • nor am I

  • free

  • to take my own

  • life liberty or property

  • even though I'm free,

  • I'm not free

  • to violate the laws of nature, I'm not free to

  • take my own life

  • or to sell myself into slavery

  • or to give to somebody else

  • arbitrary absolute power

  • over me

  • so where does this constraint

  • you may think it's a fairly minimal constraint, but where does it come from?

  • Well Locke tells us where it comes from

  • and he gives two answers

  • here's the first answer

  • for men

  • being all the workmanship

  • of one

  • omnipotent and infinitely wise maker, namely God,

  • they're his property

  • whose workmanship they are, made to last during his,

  • not one another's pleasure.

  • so one answer the question is why can't I give up my

  • natural rights to life liberty and property

  • well they're not strictly speaking yours

  • after all

  • you are

  • the creature of God.

  • God has a

  • bigger property right in us

  • a prior priority right

  • now you might say that

  • an unsatisfying unconvincing answer at least for those who don't believe in God

  • what did Locke have to say to them

  • well here's where Locke appeals to the idea

  • of reason

  • and this is the idea

  • that if we properly reflect

  • on what it means to be free

  • we will be lead to the conclusion

  • that freedom can't just be a matter of doing whatever we want

  • I think this is what Locke means

  • when he says

  • the state of nature has a law of nature to govern it which obliges everyone

  • and reason

  • which is that law

  • teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent

  • no one ought to harm another in his life health liberty for possessions

  • this leads

  • to a puzzling paradoxical

  • feature to Locke's account of rights

  • familiar in one sense

  • but strange in another

  • it's the idea

  • that out natural rights are inalienable

  • what does unalienable mean?

  • it's not for us to alienate them or to get them up to give them a way to trade them the way

  • to sell them

  • consider an airline ticket

  • airline tickets are nontransferable

  • or tickets to the patriots or to the red sox

  • nontransferable tickets

  • are unalienable

  • I own them

  • in the limited sense

  • that I can use them for myself but I can't trade them away

  • so in one sense an unalienable right, a nontransferable right

  • makes something I own

  • less

  • fully mine

  • but in another sense

  • of unalienable

  • rights

  • especially where we're thinking about life liberty and property

  • for a right to be unalienable, makes it more deeply more profoundly mine

  • and that's Locke's

  • sense

  • of unalienable

  • we see it in the American declaration of independence Thomas Jefferson

  • drew on this idea of Locke

  • unalienable rights

  • to life liberty

  • and as Jefferson amended Locke,

  • to the pursuit of happiness. unalienable rights

  • rights that are so

  • essentially mine

  • that even I can't trade them away or give them up

  • so these are the rights we have in the state of nature

  • before there is any government

  • in the case of life and liberty I can't take my own life I can't sell myself into slavery

  • anymore than I can take somebody else's life or take someone else as a slave by force

  • but how does that work in the case of property?

  • because it's essential to Locke's case

  • that private property

  • can arise

  • even before there is any government

  • how can there be a right to private property

  • even before there is any

  • government?

  • Locke's famous answer

  • comes in section twenty seven

  • every man has a property in his own person

  • this nobody has any right to but himself

  • the labor of his body

  • the work of his hands

  • we may say are properly his

  • so he moves

  • as the libertarians later of would move

  • from the idea

  • that we own ourselves

  • that we have property in our persons

  • to the closely connected idea that we own our own labor

  • and from that

  • to the further claim

  • that whatever we mix our labor with

  • is unowned

  • becomes our property

  • whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature has provided, and left it in,

  • he has mixed his labor with, and joined to it something that is his own,

  • and thereby makes it his property

  • why?

  • because the labor

  • is the questionable property of the laborer

  • and therefore

  • no one

  • but the laborer can have a right

  • to what is joined to or mixed with

  • his labor

  • and then he adds this important provision

  • at least where there is enough and as good left in common

  • for others.

  • but we not only

  • acquire our property in the fruits of the earth

  • in the deer that we hunt

  • in the fish that we catch

  • but also

  • if we till and plow and enclose the land and grow potatoes

  • we own not only the potatoes

  • but the land

  • the earth

  • as much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use

  • the product of, so much is his property.

  • he by his labor

  • encloses it from the commons. so

  • the idea is that rights are unalienable seems to distance Locke from a libertarian

  • libertarian

  • wants to say we have

  • an absolute property rate in our selves

  • and therefore we can do with ourselves whatever we want

  • Locke is not a sturdy ally for that view

  • in fact he says if you take

  • natural rights seriously you'll be led to the idea that there are certain

  • constraints on what we can do with our natural rights, constraints given

  • either by God

  • or by reason reflecting on what it means really to be free and really to be free

  • means recognizing

  • that our rights are unalienable

  • so here's the difference between Locke and the libertarians but

  • when it comes

  • the Locke's account of private property

  • he begins to look again

  • like a pretty good ally

  • because he's argument for private property

  • begins with the idea that we are the proprietors of our own person

  • and therefore of our labor and there of the fruits of our labor

  • including not only the things

  • we gather

  • and hunt

  • in the state of nature

  • but also we acquire a property right in the land that we enclosed and cultivate and improve

  • there are some examples that can bring out the

  • the moral intuition

  • that our labor

  • can take something that is unowned

  • and make it ours

  • though sometimes there are disputes about this

  • there's a debate among

  • rich countries and developing countries

  • about trade related intellectual property rights

  • it came to a head recently

  • over drug patent laws

  • western countries and especially the united states say

  • we have a big pharmaceutical industry that develops

  • new drugs

  • we want

  • all countries in the world

  • to agree

  • to respect the patents

  • then there came along the aids crisis in south Africa

  • and the American

  • aids drugs

  • were hugely expensive

  • far more than could be afforded by most Africans

  • so the south African government said