How can a private property be legitimately acquired from the commons?
According to Locke, God created property, which He gave man in common, to care for and improve for daily living. All property created by God is for common good and is to be used by all men. God also commanded man to subdue the earth and also to subject himself to labor to enable him improve the earth for his own benefits. For this reason, the best way for man to improve his status on earth is to earn part of what is considered common property and combine it with the part of the common property that is currently sustaining him. Man sets property apart from the common through labor. Locke questions at what point property belongs to a man. In his conclusion, it is the gathering process that makes a given property to be under one man’s ownership. Consequently, the only way for man to acquire property from the commons is to obtain it by laboring for it (Lamb 128). While doing this, man should ensure that the activities he undertakes do not cause harm to others. While working for some property however, privatization does not invalidate the owner’s right to say that all men have equal rights to the property owned. This implies that as much as a man may labor for certain property, the agreement between him and the other commoners prior to laboring is what will give him the right to appropriate and labor for or to enclose a particular property. The consent of other commoners therefore determines whether the man has succeeded in his labor for property or not.
Why does Locke think that acquiring property in this manner will not harm others
From Locke’s argument on man’s acquisition of property, “Whatsoever he tilled and reaped, laid up and made use of before it spoiled, that was his peculiar right; whatsoever he enclosed, and could feed and make use of, the cattle and product was also his (Chapter 5).” This means that by virtue of the fact that the man has labored for that property has used it before, or if he had enclosed the property and could feed and make use of for himself and his cattle was his. For the commoners, this somewhat eliminates any potential for complaint as the one who labors has all rights to the property. Moreover, Locke argues that God gave the world in common to all men but he most likely did not intend it to remain common and uncultivated (Layman 152). It was meant for the benefit of men who are industrious and rational rather than quarrelsome or contentious, hence any labor to own property would not harm others.
Do you find Locke’s Points Plausible?
Considering God’s intentions in giving man property to use in common and for cultivation, it is arguable that Locke’s points are plausible as long as acquisition of common property is done within the confines of God’s laws of ownership. If those who wish to privatize common property are able to do so without being covetous as to harm others, quarrelsome or contentious, then it could be a perfect recipe for balance. Also, acquiring more property than one can utilize while imposing harm on the environment and on others could potentially cause an imbalance in the ecosystem, which is definitely not God’s aim.
Lamb, Robert. “Locke on ownership, imperfect duties and ‘the art of governing’.” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations, vol. 12, no. 1, 2020, pp. 126- 141. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-856X.2009.00397.x. Accessed 31 January 2019.
Layman, Daniel M. “Sufficiency and freedom in Locke’s theory of property.” European Journal of Political Theory, Vol. 17, no. 2, 2018, pp. 152- 173. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1474885115587118#articleCitationDownloadContainer. Accessed 31 January 2019.