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Two Treatises of Government Essay

In chapter V of The Second Treatise of Government by John Locke, he begins by explaining that God has given earth to all man in “common”. Meaning everyone equally owns all of the earth and its fruits. How can we humans, fairly distribute this land? What gives one man the right to a deer over every other person on earth? Labor, Locke states “The labor that was mine removing them out of that common state they were in, hath fixed my property in them”(13). This meaning that once you put work and physical labor into some sort of land or animal, it is then yours to own out of the common land.

For example, a man sees a deer on the side of the road and uses his weapon to kill it. He has used his recourses and skill to take that deer out of the common and made it his property. The same can be said for land. You work on the land and use it to grow crops. Therefore, the crops are yours. Locke follows up this view he has by saying you can only take so much, because then you will be taking for spoils. “Nothing was made by god for man to spoil and destroy. ” (Locke 14) I believe this is the part we as habitants of this earth have disregarded. In today’s world, we constantly spoil land and recourses.

For a little money, we are willing to ruin habitats to the point of extinction or complete eradication. I feel as if Locke wrote this as a warning, stating, yes you may own all land that you labor on but do not spoil it. What makes us as humans ignore this? Greed is a very powerful thing and if we allow man to own all land in which he works in, what is to stop him from abusing it to receive riches? There wouldn’t be a need to spoil the land for riches, if gold didn’t have such a high value in society. Locke is very much aware that the balance can be broke fairly easy.

At the end of section 50 he states “But since gold and silver, being little useful to the life of man in proportion to food, raiment, and carriage, has its value only from the consent of men, whereof labor yet makes, in great part, the measure, it is plain, that men have agreed to a disproportionate and unequal possession of the earth, they having, by a tacit and voluntary consent, found out, a way how a man may fairly possess more land than he himself can use the product of, by receiving in exchange for the over plus gold and silver, which may be hoarded up without injury to any one; these metals not spoiling or decaying in the hands of the possessor” (23).

After stating what he believes is the best way to distribute land, this is his way of warning us how easily this balance can be broken. He means to show everything he explained doesn’t matter because we have allowed value to be given to something, which cannot feed man and does not spoil in the hands of man. Therefore, unbalancing nature and allowing certain men in power to posses a disproportionate amount of this earth only because they own more gold and silver.

By us as a society agreeing blindly to give gold such high value, we have changed the ways of life from wanting to obtain cattle, land, and natural goods. To in turn only chasing gold and silver (money). This only hurts the earth that has been given to all men in common by God. It allows men with wealth and power to spoil lands and destroy habitats only because they choose to obtain absurd amounts of gold to let decay and spoil in their hands. Take for example all the animals, which go extinct by allowing certain men with enough money to go out with multimillion-dollar machines and completely wipe out forests.

Which is as Locke states given to all men in common. So what is Locke’s purpose in making us realize this? Its feels like a warning, letting you see the way earth should really be distributed and then by explaining how gold has ruined that. It plants a thought in your head that makes one wonder if we truly are equal and if the earth truly does belong to us all in common. It seems like land it’s only owned by those who have been successful in obtaining gold in one form or another. Even if it means spoiling the land that belongs to all humans in common, not to just them. I believe Locke was way ahead of his time.

He is predicting how the world is in a society where gold and silver are the important possession. The combination of the way Locke believes land should be distributed, and the value we have agreed to give gold in society. Locke states “Right and convenience went together; for as a man had a right to all he could employ his labor upon, so he had no temptation to labor for more than he could make use of”(23). Here at the end of Chapter V is where Locke believes if we as men only take what we need to survive it would be highly convenient and the distribution of land would work out perfectly.

We all know in the world we live in today that will never happen. Man will take as much as he desires till the land is too spoiled to take anymore. These two separate views on property that we as a society have agreed to live under only hurt us further. The combination of them is what causes a heavily unequal society. That is why we see some men own enormous amounts of land and property, while others don’t even have a box to sleep in. Bibliography Locke, John. The Second Treatise of Government and a Letter Concerning Toleration. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 2002. Print.


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