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The Two Treatises of Government by John Locke (Book Review Sample)


i had to review the second treatise of the government as explained by John Locke in his book


The Two Treatises of Government by John Locke
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The Two Treatises of Government by John Locke
John Locke (1821) created two treatises of the government, and each treatise focused on a different subject. In the first treatise, John Locke criticizes Patriarcha of Robert Filmer for his argument in support of the divine right placed for the kings. Locke (1821) argues that Filmer is not correct since his theory states that every human being is born a slave to those who have been born naturally as kings. Locke’s refusal to accept the theory is based on his sole belief in reason and the fact that every person is able to govern himself virtuously in accordance with God’s law. The second treatise is concerned with Locke’s proposal of a solution to the political upheaval in all modern countries, specifically England. In the text, readers can find the foundation for the contemporary forms of democracy, as well as, for the constitution of the U.S. This essay focuses on the second treatise in determination of the constitution of the United States and other issues discussed in the nineteen chapters (Locke, 1821).
In the first two chapters, Locke (1821) argues that laws are only applicable because people accept them, and hence they are good for the good of the public. He also claims that citizens are naturally in a state of nature. In an original setting, a man is bound by the laws of nature but has the ability to act, live, dispose of his property as it suits him best. More important, citizens have a duty to protect the interests of each other from the arbitrary laws of other people. They also have a duty to punish those who violate God’s will and those who try to harm each other through comprise of liberty, life or property. This is because they believe that they all are equally children of God. Locke (1821) asserts that Adam was not given the absolute authority to control the world and his God’s children. Therefore, his heirs did not have this authority and no one has the audacity to claim such rights because it is not possible to identify the heirs of Adam currently. Therefore, this is an indication that authority by kings is not divine as filmer’s theory stated (Locke, 1821).
John Locke (1821) argued that a perverted government would be best avoided if there was a constitutional separation of powers. At the moment, the powers known were only two, the executive and the legislature. This formed the basis of the modern separation of powers whose success is attributed to the developers of the classical theory. The three arms of the government to be separated in terms of powers, therefore, became the executive, legislature and the judiciary. He developed a concept that had been created earlier, but had not developed to such a stage. The concept of checks and balances originated from the development of the classical theory of division of powers. The main aim of this was to guarantee that governmental power would not be abused, causing damages to the country, as well as, its citizens. It first developed from social classes before it was adopted in the government. Classical philosophers like Aristotle supported a government that combined elements of monarchy, democracy and aristocracy. However, some opposed it and English theorist James Harrington derived a theory that was similar to separation of powers and did not favor the mixed policy- government (Locke, 1821).
The three branches are distinctively separated by the constitution and each branch has been vested its own powers that it is deemed to use and should not exceed the limits of the powers. Since the power is constitutionally divided between the states and the central government, the federal system is important so that it monitors the use of the powers. The electorate also takes the mandate of checking the executive and the legislature in the direct elections of members of both houses of congress. Each branch of the government has its responsibility in the government and they do not collide at any point. They are such that each branch can make its own decision independently without the assistance of another branch. Therefore, in case a branch has selfish interests, the two branches will have an insight of that and as a result, they will stop the selfish interests. In the same case, no one is allowed to serve in two arms of the government simultaneously. This helps to maintain the independence of the branches of the government (Locke, 1821).
In the third and fourth chapters of the book, Locke discusses about the state of war and slavery. He defines war as a state of destruction and enmity that is caused by pre-meditated attempts of a person upon another’s life. In the definition, it is clear that the presumption that any aggression by a person against another contains a challenge to the freedom of that person (Locke, 1821). Going by this reasoning, it is, therefore, justifiable to kill a thief since his attack on one’s person is an attack to his liberty. In the same chapter, Locke (1821) differentiates between the state of war and the state of nature. The state of nature is where people live together, are governed by reason, and do not have a common superior. The state of war occurs when people make designs of force on other people, yet they do not have a common authority. In this context, the party that has been attacked acquires the right to get involved in war as a way of defense. The war in society can be differentiated from the war in nature depending on their conclusions. While in the society, war ends when the actual force is ended since the warring parties can consult the common authorities as a means of arbitrations of previous wrongs. In nature, war does not come to an end till the aggressive party offers reparations for the damages, as well as, peace. Before that point, the attacked party holds the right to destroy the aggressive party. A note that one of the common reasons why people enter into a society is to evade the state of war ends the third chapter. This is because the presence of a supreme power inhibits the need for war, and also, increases security and stability. Regarding slavery, Locke (1821) bases his idea on the fact that freedom from arbitrary is basic and cannot be relinquished. Slavery is acquired when the extension of the state of war has caused the conqueror to force the captive into obedience. At this point, the master has full control of the liberty of their slaves, where they have to oblige to every command of the master (Locke, 1821).
Chapter five of the book discusses about property with regards to definition and function. Through the word of the Bible or natural reason, the earth can be considered as a universal property where the people of the world should use it collectively for their survival and benefit. However, Locke (1821) also believes in personal property. For an individual to gain property, he must devise a way in which he will take possession of the things around him. The most suitable theory of ownership of property is based on the fact that every person owns his or her body and uses the body to give all sources of labor. Therefore, when a person uses the labor on a property, the amount of the labor input will give the same amount of property. Locke (1821) identifies the role of money as a constant measure in a trading system, which is still based in the property of labor.
The sixth and seventh chapters discuss about paternal power and civil and political society. Locke (1821) equates monarchial power with paternal power. However, he notes a very huge difference between political power and paternal power. People are only freed of paternal power when they seem old enough to manage themselves as individuals. However, political power is established on fully different foundations. In his description of the first society, Locke (1821) describes the conjugal society between men and women. He then differentiates this society from a political society with the assertion that in it, the master and mistress have power over everyone else in the household, despite the fact that the power is neither political nor absolute where they lack power over giving life or causing death. He describes a civil society as a body of united individuals who are under the power of an executive. Its main role is to protect them and their property where legislation is designed to govern their behavior as discussed above (Locke, 1821).
In the following chapters, Locke (1821) argues that the majority is the main governing factor in the civil society. Once a person joins a civil society, he submits him or herself to the rules and decisions of the majority. To prove this, he (1821) addresses the lack of historical superiority for the government by majority rule. He notes that most of the societies forget their origins and states that a politic society begins when individuals consent to make a society. He has stated many examples in support of his idea and then concludes with his paternal theory placing significant credibility in its historical accuracy where people come together and submit themselves to the control of male’s figure. Locke (1821) also considers why people are ready to give up their natural freedom to join the society. This is because they want to be guaranteed of protected lives, estates and liberties, which Locke defines as property.
Locke (1821) explains that people choose their most favorable form of commonwealth. Among the options include democracy, oligarchy, or monarchy. In a democratic government, people retain legislative powers for themselves. In oligarchy,...
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