David Hume, John Locke and John Rawls on Property
David Hume, John Locke and John Rawls on Property
All the three philosophers, whose work I am going to scrutinize on, have very specific, yet in most cases common views on property. First of all, let me define what the term property means. Property, as I see it, is an object of legal rights that is possessed by an individual or a group of individuals who are directly responsible for this it. In his work Of Justice, David Hume puts great emphasis on distribution of property in society. Hume believes that only the conception of property gives society such social virtue as justice.
Justice, according to Hume, is an important social virtue the sole purpose of which is public utility. To prove his point of view about how property distribution defines the existence of justice in society, David Hume gives several examples. Take an example of utopian society where nature supplies human beings with every convenience in great abundance. It is a state where everyone has anything he/she desires in great amounts. Consequently, there is no any conception of property, because there is no need for it ? you can have everything without putting labor on it.
Of course, in such a state, Hume argues, every virtue will flourish, except justice. Why make separation of property, if everyone has more than enough; where there is no need to label objects “mine” or “yours”, because both of us can have these objects in great amount without any physical or mental exercise? Hume also gives real life examples, of water and air; because of their great amount, no one is trying to control over them, separate them. According to Hume, in such cases justice is no longer exists in the list of virtues. For property, Hume thinks, plays an essential role in making justice useful for people.
OK ? but you quote yourself from a previous paper John Locke, in his work Second Treatise of Government, writes about his views on the conception of property. In the chapter which is titled “Of Property” Locke makes significant points about private property. He, first of all, tells how the right to private property originated. Being a true protestant, Locke believes that the right for the private property is given to human beings from God or as Locke himself writes “that God has given the earth to the children of men; given to mankind in common.
” Since God gave earth (and creatures and plants living and growing on it) in common, there should be some regulations what exactly and when can be called someone’s private ownership. For instance, there is a great territory of uncultivated land. When can it (or part of it) be called one’s private property? When one comes and says the area is his/her, or when one draws borders and claims for ownership? Locke proposes the idea of labor. That only a labor puts a distinction between common and private. And he gives examples of apples picked up from the common apple tree.
The apples become private right after they are picked up by their owner, because the owner put labor on making them private property. Then, very just question arises: what if others will not give their consent in making common resources private? Locke thinks that in this case mankind would starve despite the abundance of resources God gave them. OK There may be an objection to this that if putting labor is the only thing required turning common into private, why not people take advantage of it and put great efforts to gain more private ownership. The answer that Locke gives is very simple ?
?as much as one can make use of to any advantage of life before it spoils, so much he may by labor fix a property in: whatever is beyond this, is more than his share, and belongs to others. ‘ Therefore, the property is whatever one puts his/her labor in and can possess it for his/her convenience, but if some part of this property spoils or perishes, it is great injustice towards other members of society. Locke’s view on property very much resembles Hume’s thought of justice and property. Just like as Hume believes, Lock says that if there is a great deal of some natural resource, let it be land, the inhabitant of land do not value it.
Hume would say that if certain convenience is given in abundance by nature, there is no property, hence no justice. Locke thinks the same that in such cases, the inhabitant do value the land until there is no room enough for them in that space ? problems with this sentence. Only in this case, people start, all in consent, distinguishing the property. So Locke says that one should not possess more than he can afford to possess, i. e. conveniences that will be enough for his comfort.
And he says that if a person gains more, and as a consequence, some part of property perishes, then it is a crime towards others. It is very interesting that Locke says “perishes” or “spoils. ” If it does not perish or spoil, then it is not a crime, as ? the exceeding of bounds of his just property not lying in the largeness of his possession, but the perishing of any thing uselessly in it. And then comes money, being the only mean by which a person can exceed property without spoiling it. Locke thinks that only money made it possible to a person to enlarge his/her possessions without hurting others. And only existence of money make people lust for more, as it was said, it never perishes.
Locke makes a reader imagine of a place, where one has a big fertile land with a lot of conveniences. It is so big that it may perish as it is more than he/she needs. If there is no chance to sell it for money, this person goes back to the common law of nature that is using of conveniences what is enough for one. According to Locke, money, i. e. imperishable matter, is a key factor in peoples act for gaining private property. In explaining social order, John Rawls also gives special emphasis on property as being a part of economic arrangements.
In his work Theory of Justice, Rawls says that everyone is equal in the politico-economic sphere of life. A right for private property is also included to this. Rawls justifies this right on the basis of individual autonomy and integrity, which are also basics of social justice. Rawls’s famous ? two principle of justice’ dictate that everyone must have an access to the basic liberties. Among basic liberties, Rawls include the right to hold personal liberty. He also argues about the economic inequality among those who possess private property.
Rawls, in general, is against some kinds inequalities in possessing property. However, he writes that as long as such inequalities are mutually advantageous and do not exclude on party from benefits, then economic inequality is consistent to what he calls “justice as fairness. ” Summing all the views on property and justice, which, as Hume writes, inseparably bound two each other, I would like to say that the fair distribution of wealth, which is justice, is very important in making the socio-economic life of a state healthy.
Once there is no fair access to property, the society is apt to collapse, as it happened with socialist society of USSR, where all conveniences were common, even those on which a person put his/her labor. This, in contrast to capitalism, does not lead to competition or in other words ? to putting labor on objects to make them property. In such cases, there is no any justice, because those who work and input their labor and those who do not work get the welfare in the same quantities. The idea of property and justice, in general, is closely attached to the capitalist thought.
Capitalism says that everyone has equal access to propertyopportunity? But not outcome?. It is fair to have property more than others if it doesn’t undermine others rights. However, unlike to other philosophers, Rawls in his works debates on capitalism. As an counter argument, he gives the idea of liberal democracy that seeks equality in the distribution of property-owning rights. The equal property distribution (by equal I mean what a person deserves), which is basis of democracy, is essential in building healthy society where all virtues, especially justice, will flourish.
Property is what world progress. Hence, I think, the access to property and rights to equal distribution of property are essential in every society. References: 1. Reading materials of the course “Approaches and Issues in Political Theory” 2. http://www. bu. edu/wcp/Papers/Poli/PoliJung. htm 3. http://www. independent. org/pdf/tir/tir_08_3_taylor. pdf 4. http://links. jstor. org/sici? sici=0748-0814(1992)9%3A2%3C347%3AJLJATS%3E2. 0. CO%3B2-J 5. http://spectrum. troy. edu/~sltaylor/theory/hume-selection. html.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 16 November 2016
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