October 25, 13
The concept of private property is a perplexing topic that has been the center for debate over the last few centuries. Modern political philosophers value its importance so highly they have used property as the foundation to form civil society around. It is able to shape the social, political, and economic forces within an institution. This is perhaps why John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau dedicated much of their life to uncover the origins and implications of it. For Locke, property seemed to be this forced stepping-stone towards capitalism and class structure. Conversely, Rousseau saw property through the naturalistic lens of something similar to socialism. Ultimately, Rousseau’s account of property is stronger then Locke’s because it offers a more logical and historical proposal of where property comes from, why it should be a civil and not a natural right, and how it ought to be distributed.
Locke approaches property rights by starting from assumptions about humankind’s nature. He states that men “have a right to their preservation, and consequently to meat and drink, and other things nature offers that allow man to survive”(18). Locke also gives another important right man has, which is “every man has property in his own person: this no body has a right to but himself” (19). Locke then combines these natural reason with property, making property natural as well, stating, “the labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property” (19). Thus it is labor, which separates, that which is owned “in common” and that which is privately owned. Locke thinks that this property “does not depend on the expressed consent of all the commoners” (19). The social contract only served to preserve property as a constitutional...