John Locke was an English philosopher who lived from 1632 to 1704 AD. He wrote and discussed his views of anti-absolutism—meaning no absolute government or monarchy.
Locke believes in the state of nature. This state of nature, he claims, is ideal. In his state of nature there is no government. If there is no government there are no taxes, no oppression. People have their own rights. Total rights.
Locke wrote two Treatises on Civil Government. These are books that explain his theories and beliefs.
Locke is convinced about self-ownership. His reasoning is that you own your own body. He goes on to say that if you own your own body, you can own property. He claims that you can only own your own property if you put your own labor into it and improve it. It’s not enough just to work it, you have to improve it. This is called homesteading.
Once you have homesteaded something it never needs to be homesteaded again. When the property passes on, the person who now owns it does not need to homestead it. It is already worked with, already improved and he could sit around all day and do nothing, and the property would still be his because it was already homesteaded.
Locke states that there are inconveniences in the state of nature. There are three main inconveniences, which I will state here:
- There is no universally recognized body of law.
- There is no reliable law enforcement.
- You are a bad judge in your own case.
For the first he says that if there is no universally recognized body of law, there are no overall legal standards that everyone can follow. For the second, if there is no reliable law enforcement and somebody wrongs you, you have to go chase after that person yourself. There are no police you can call. You can’t just dial 911 and tell the law that a robber just broke into your house and stole your jewelry. You have to go after him yourself.
If you’re a bad judge in your own case, how can you judge a dispute? Naturally, if the case includes you, you side with yourself, not with the other person.
So Locke decides that it is necessary to have a minimal government, a government that can judge cases and solve disputes. If the government does not judge rightly, the people have a right to overthrow the government.
However, I believe that the person who loses the case will always think that he is wrongly judged, so he will overthrow the government. This is one flaw in Locke’s reasoning.
Locke believes in religious toleration to a certain extent. He believes that all Christians who are not Catholics should be allowed. He also believes that no atheists should be allowed to abide in the realm. Locke wrote three pamphlets on religious toleration and started a fourth, but he died before he could finish it.
Locke is considered one of the greatest libertarian thinkers of all time. He believed in his ideas, offered them to other people and stood by them through thick and thin. He was, to his fellow libertarians, an example that needed to be followed.