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Locke compare to U.S.

October 26, 2010

After reading Machiavelli and Hobbs, I think most citizens of the United States would agree with Locke more than others. Locke’s view of government is the most consistent with our contemporary society; this is probably why he is considered the father of Liberalism. Many branches of our government are modeled after his ideas. In his “Second Treaties of Government,” he portrayed how the government requires an executive and a legislative branch. The legislative makes the laws and the executive enforces them; this is similar to our government except that our government has a judicial branch to check the laws made by the legislative. Locke’s ideas are different from Hobbs in that Hobbs believe that one individual sovereign governs everyone. If there are multiples, then there would be disagreements. But Locke believes that there should be separate branches to check each other. In the readings, Locke also emphasizes the “chief end” of the government, and it is to preserve our property. According to Locke, our properties include our lives, liberties and estates. This is very similar to Thomas Jefferson’s quote “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence. Through the set up of our government and these similar quotes, it is evident that John Locke was an influential philosopher towards our government. To make a government work, we must unite the people from the state of nature, and form a government that represents the people. To be protected by the government, we must give up certain individual rights we would have in the state of nature. We have to abort our right of punishment as an individual. Under the government, we must hand over the people who have done us wrong to the government and allow them to see the punishment fit for their crimes. In his chapter about war, Locke states that wars can destroy the former government, but without the consent of people, it cannot enact another one. This traces back to U.S. democracy. In democracy, the majority people have to give consent to the government otherwise it would be void. When the government exercises control outside of its boundaries, then it becomes a tyrant. If the laws made by the government cease to preserve the properties of the people, then it is considered tyranny. John Locke’s ideas were the base of our constitution. He was influential to many intelligent American philosophers during the construct of the government.

4 Comments
  1. Neil Rabinowicz permalink
    October 26, 2010 10:26 PM

    In high school I remember hearing that Locke had an influence on our founding fathers, and it wasn’t until I learned about him that I realized why. Locke’s ideals of peace, equality, and liberty are very similar to the values that our country is built on. I think that while we might be able to find some of Machiavelli’s or Hobbe’s ideas in our society, they can further be seen in Communist nations, where one person rules and the people just follow, usually living in fear of the leader/government.
    After reading all of their works, I have concluded that I have the most in common with Locke. May be it’s because of the time period that he lived in, but it sounds like Locke’s ideas are more modern and can be related to present day societies, since many of Hobbe’s and Machiavelli’s ideas, specially the ones on the state of nature, sound somewhat barbaric and would not be accepted by today’s norms.

  2. Cesar Ruiz permalink
    October 27, 2010 12:28 AM

    It appears evident that many of the foundations and “doctrines” that Locke claims can be seen in our modern government system, as well as in the foundation of our early government. Our founding fathers had very similar ideas to those expressed by Locke in his “Second Treatises of Government”, making them equivalently agreeable to Locke. The idea of checks and balances clearly demonstrates how power is evenly distributed along various branches of government and not one attains all of it.
    In accordance with the idea of pursuit of happiness, liberty, and safety; Locke makes the point that the “chief end” of government is to preserve our property. We as individuals have a body. Our bodies resemble something of great worth (so worthy that we cannot take it away with suicide, according to Locke). This worth can be considered as our own “expensive” property. With this analogy we can say that governments are also brought up to preserve all individuals (Treatises XIV, 159). With the preservation of individuals, the pursuit of happiness can be found and liberty is applicable to our daily lives

  3. Trevor Cookler permalink
    October 27, 2010 3:05 PM

    What I like about Locke’s ideas is the section in chapter XII where he understands the fact that the legislature may not always be working (to avoid the constant abundance of new laws), but the executive branch must always be enforcing the laws that are already made. I think the reason why so many people agree with Locke is because so many of his ideas (like stated above) are so evident in the way our country is run today. Locke discusses how the body of government forms a “state of nature” in relation to the rest of the world, suggesting that we will just deal with the laws within our society. Also, Locke is a firm believer that the power rests within the people, and the people are the ones who will be able to change laws and make a difference. It is just necessary to question if there are any risks with the way that Locke thinks in terms of society. Although Locke’s ideas are very evident in our systems of government today, do the rules and ideas he created allow too much freedom during this time period? If Locke was around today how would he be viewed? The general post as well as the above comments provide a great insight to these ideas that could probabily be debated for a lifetime.

  4. jaclburr permalink
    October 27, 2010 8:49 PM

    Locke is definitely a more familiar voice to readers who are not well-versed in early political theory. This is, as you have pointed out, because of the influences and similarities in our own country, and the Declaration of Independence. The idea of the people having the power and instituting branches to help us get the job done, as well as having a system of checks and balances are extremely important pillars of the founding of America.

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