Essay Locke On Distribution

Essay Locke On Distribution

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Any Lockeian scholar would be lying if they told you that any topic in
the secondary literature on the Two Treatises of Government was more famous (or
infamousÉdepending on who you talk to), widely debated, or caused more
controversy than the old Oxford gradÕs theory of property. Some are shouting
from the left that Locke argues a rights claim for subsistence for all
individuals, that it may even support MarxÕs theory of exploitation. Yelling
back are those from the right who claim that he formulates a moral
justification for capitalist appropriation of property. Then of course there
are those somewhere in between who are telling everyone to shut up because
Locke wrote the damn thing over three hundred years ago in the political
context of 17th century England and to derive these kinds of modern political
presumptions is ludicrous. They all make fine cases for their respective
theories. This humble treatise, however, will merely essay to provide a fairly
objective explanation of John LockeÕs disputed offering to the political and
economic understanding of property and how it relates to poverty and the
distribution of wealth. It will then continue to examine the two most
preeminent, contemporary champions of welfarist and entitlement theories in
that of John Rawls and Robert Nozick respectively, focusing specifically on
what they, standing on LockeÕs shoulders, offer as an acceptable system of
economic justice.
Locke begins by stating that each person has a natural right to preserve his or
her life. "God has given the Earth to all people in common for their
sustenance." (Locke 310). In the state of nature, each person owns everything
in nature equally with everyone else. However, some things in nature must be
"appropriated" in order for one to derive any sustaining benefit from them. As
an example, Locke says one must take possession of acorns or apples in order to
eat them and, so, derive sustenance from them. But one must do something
positive in order to appropriate the acorns or apples and, thus, make them
one's own. A person possesses his or her own body and the actions of that body.
One owns oneself. By virtue of exercising the labor of one's body in
conjunction with the machinations of nature on land held in common by mankind,
one removes a thing from the state of nature and makes it one's own. Locke says
that one's labors puts a ...


... middle of paper ...


...tion."
Welfarist ethics are not without their own difficulties, however. Many reject
such theories because they do not value rights except to the extent that they
improve the welfare of individuals. Others find the interpersonal comparisons
of utility required by welfarist theories to be not only difficult to make, as
most supporters of welfarism would admit, but also meaningless.
The rejection of an exclusively welfarist ethic does not necessarily imply
acceptance of an ethic that is exclusively entitlement-based. Conceivably, a
just society could consider both the welfare of individuals and entitlements in
determining a fair system of distribution. Optimal taxation analysis should be
of interest to those who believe in a mixed ethic, since it provides insight
into the tax structure inspired by any theory of distributive justice that is
at least partly concerned with individual welfare. Ultimately it is the duty of
society to see how the redistributive features of various progressive rate
structures comport with a wide variety of welfarist ethics, ranging from
utilitarianism to the Rawlsian leximin, in order to discover the best structure
for the society in which we live.

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Essay Locke On Distribution

- Any Lockeian scholar would be lying if they told you that any topic in the secondary literature on the Two Treatises of Government was more famous (or infamousÉdepending on who you talk to), widely debated, or caused more controversy than the old Oxford gradÕs theory of property. Some are shouting from the left that Locke argues a rights claim for subsistence for all individuals, that it may even support MarxÕs theory of exploitation. Yelling back are those from the right who claim that he formulates a moral justification for capitalist appropriation of property....   [tags: Empiricists, Empiricism]

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