Ownership as the “Chief End” of Society
In discussing the “chief end” of civil society, Hobbes mentions that the “chief end” is the “protection of lives” while Locke argues that the “protection of property” is the aim of society.
When comparing and contrasting Hobbes and Locke, I came to question the differing ideas of the “chief end” stated by these two theorists. Hobbes focuses on the fact that civil society is in place to protect people from an untimely death. In the state of nature, according to Hobbes there is a “continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” And thus, it is the “chief end” of society to protect people from perpetual fear and worry of death. Conversely, Locke claims that the main goal of society is the protection of property. I would venture to say that in Locke’s argument of the main aim of society, Locke includes the ownership of one’s own body in the idea of ownership of property. After all, a body has been used, although wrongly, as property in the past. In this sense, Locke is not only taking what Hobbes says as the “chief end”, but also adding onto it.
I think in today’s modern times and back when Locke was writing, owning property (as in land) was imperative to making a living. Although, less emphasis may be put on farming today, owning land is still of utmost importance to the feeling of true stability and security. If you own your own home, you know you have shelter, the ability to produce food, and a place of solitude if necessary. However, this is all superfluous if you do not own your own body. Without ownership of ones own body, they cannot feasibly own anything else.
I think that it is the ability to have ownership that is the chief end of society. Without the idea of ownership for each person, there would be no ownership of either property or body. So, I agree that Locke and Hobbes both discuss the “chief end” having to do with ownership of property / ownership of oneself; but, I think that the “chief end” of society is the ability of people in the society to have personal ownership. This idea would then encompass ownership of material property and body, which Hobbes and Locke discuss, as well as ownership of intangible property – like intellectual property.
So I ask you the question does society in the USA achieve this aim, that citizens have the ability to true ownership – be it property, material or intangible, and oneself? Does society anywhere?