Friday, November 05, 2010

Locke and Leo

Coulda been a gun-pun title. But it's not, really.

Here, Joe Hargrave mentions a few similarities between John Locke's and Leo XIII's writings on political economies.

Of particular note:

Locke, along with other social contract theorists, is often criticized for his account of the "state of nature," his term for the time before the formation of political societies. The criticism often lies in a misinterpretation of this state of nature as both individualistic and anarchistic, which is rightly said to have never actually existed.

The real importance of positing a state of nature is to set the stage for natural rights: If man exists before the state exists, then the state is the rational creation of man. It exists to provide him with something, rather than man existing to provide something for the state. Thus, both Locke and Leo hold that not only individual men, but their families and even households, exist prior to any political community (ST, 2; RN, 12-13)

Which is to say that Statists have it exactly backwards. (Doh.)

Thus, Locke's take on property rights:

In the Christian natural law tradition, and especially in the work of Aquinas, private property is justified mostly on the pragmatic social grounds set forth by Aristotle in his Politics, though a derivation from individual necessity is also present (Summa Theologica, Part II-II, q.66, Art. 7, Obj. 2). Locke does not bring Aristotle into his account of private property at all; nor does he rely on his predecessor Hobbes, who finds no right to property at all in a state of nature, it coming into existence only when there is a sovereign power to protect it. Thus Locke's theory of property is unique, combining elements of traditional natural law with his own innovations. It is also the theory that is manifestly at work in Rerum Novarum.

Lots more, including the requirement for charity, at the link.

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