Locke’s Thoughts on Spoiling
In Chapter V: Of Property, in John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, Locke says, “The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being.” (Locke, Second Treatise of Government, 293). This basically means that the earth is the property of man as it can allow them to flourish and survive. In the paragraph after this, Locke brings up the idea that each man is entitled to, and owns his own body and the toil of his hands. In addition, any foreign object that a man applies his own labor too, ultimately becomes his own property. Locke continues to discuss the idea of how much property one can acquire without wasting or spoiling it. According to Locke, a man is entitled to and can call his own property as much land that he can till, improve, and cultivate. This is within reason, because as soon as you acquire more land than you can take care, you are spoiling or wasting it. Based on his ideas, there are a number of scenarios that would be interesting to see what Locke thinks about them.
Suppose a Man A puts his own labor into a piece of land, cultivating and improving it, to the point where he no longer has to work the land in order to survive. Based on Locke’s ideologies, it is clear that Man A who has put his own property (his body and labor) into the land has “thereby [made] it his property.” (Locke, Second Treatise of Government, 293). Since he no longer needs to work and improve the land, is Man A spoiling the land he has acquired? I believe that Locke would agree that Man A is not spoiling the land because he is not trying to acquire more land, simply has applied his labor in such a way that he no longer has to work his land.
However, if his neighbor Man B is in need of more land, and has the will and means of labor to improve the land; is it appropriate for him to take some of Man A’s land on the grounds that he is spoiling it? I believe Man B would not be entitled to Man A’s land because according to Locke, God commanded man to “improve [the land] for the benefit of life” (Locke, Second Treatise of Government, 294).
Locke, John. “Second Treatise of Government.” Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to Nietzsche. By David Wootton. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2008. Print.