Locke Government Theory


John Locke was born on August 29, 1632, into a middle class family during late Renaissance England. Locke started his studies at Christ Church in Oxford. He then went into medical studies and received a medical license, which he practiced under Anthony Cooper. They became friends, and when Cooper became Earl of Shaftesbury, Locke was able to hold minor government jobs and became involved in politics. Shaftesbury steered Locke towards the views of a government whose law was fair to all, and all were under the law.

In 1679, Shaftesbury was tried for treason against James, Duke of York, who would later become King James II. Shaftesbury had tried to prevent James's right of succession, so he fled to Holland, and Locke followed. Locke returned to England with Queen Mary when she overthrew James II in the Glorious Revolution. The support which Locke showed for Mary demonstrates his mindset of politics, and shows his opposition towards despotic rulers and divine right. Locke saw many important men while in England, including Sir Isaac Newton, of whom he wrote. Through Locke's friendships with numerous government officials, Locke became influential in the politics of the seventeenth century. Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding, written in 1690, dealt with the subject of human philosophy, and was written with consistency to the theories of Newton. Locke's views that experience produces ideas led him to believe that people are not aware of physical objects, but rather that they are aware of symbols for those objects, a believe shared by others such as Galileo and Descartes before him.

John Locke became convinced that true knowledge cannot be attained in natural science, but only through concrete mathematics. This theory was later adopted by several other philosophers. Locke was the first theorist of the philosphy of liberalism, which says that the state exists to preserve the natural rights of its citizens.

Locke's philosophical beliefs and theories are the basis of numerous other philosophers, and play an important role in the development of the American judicial system. Some examples of these are the pursuit of happiness and the system of checks and balances throughout the branches of government, known as the separation of powers.

Locke's view of the state of nature is a state of being where all men are created equal, and all men have the right to protect their life, freedom, and possesions. Therefore, no individual has the right to take away the rights of another. If a person commits a crime, the people have a right to punish him. If one man kills another man's sheep, then the people have the right to kill one of his sheep, without commiting a crime.

Locke's theories of government greatly oppose those of Thomas Hobbes, a political philospher who believes in a government headed by an absolute monarch, who has complete control over the entire society. Hobbes says that man is evil, so it is better to give up power to one individual, so that the evil in the society is limited. Locke feels that this system of government is lacking in that the ruler has all control, and may not be stopped in abuses of power, which Locke fears.

Humans beings decide to form a society out of the state of nature because there must be unity among men in order to protect one another, and so that they may punish offenders of the justice. Men do this under the rule of an indivdual who is selected by the people, and to whom the people give up some of their personal rights.

Though humans give up certain rights to the chosen authoriy, they are entitled to certain rights reserved to them alone, which they hold within the society. All members of the society should be equal under the law of justice, and that no man is better than another, since all men are created equal, and all are equal before the laws of nature. The law of nature states that people attain property through the labour they do.

The ruler or authority over a society should be an indivdual chosen by the people, to represent the peoples' ideas, and to use its power to help the citizens of that society. The people consent and agree to repect and obey the authority which they have chosen. The people must, out of common descency, obey the government's law, when it is in harmony with that of the natural law,