keskiviikko 8. syyskuuta 2010

John Locke on Ownership

John Locke (1632-1704)

First Appropriationist

Not many philosophers have written as much on ownership as John Locke has. Locke created one of the first theories of ownership. Locke's theory was based on the right of the first appropriator. It says that the first appropriation of an unowned object is considered to be sufficient reason to justify the private ownership of the object by the first appropriator. The central idea in first appropriation is that the object is unowned. The appropriator performs an act which constitutes his claim to the object, i.e. which functions as the criterion of title for the object. Then, according to first appropriation theory, all rights of the vest in the appropriator.

Labor makes object privately owned

Locke argues that laboring in the state of nature upon some unowned object, land, resources, or goods, makes that object privately owned by the laborer if enough and as good as is left for others to appropriate. Things which require no effort to locate or to appropriate, need not be the object of any ownership relations. Locke also defined the principle of "spoilation limitation". It means that no one ought to appropriate more than he can make use of before it spoils. According to Locke no possible specific form of ownership produces greater utility in the state of nature than private ownership.

Locke's logic

One way to present Locke's logic of thinking is that:

(1) Every man has a right to own his person
therefore (2) Every man has a right to own the labor of his person
therefore (3) Every man has a right to own that which he has mixed the labor of his person with

The utilitarian interpretation of Locke's state of nature justification of private ownership is usually based upon the passage which says:

God, who hath given the world to all men in common, hath also given them reason to make use of it to the best advantage of life and convenience... yet being given for the use of man, there must of necessity be a means to appropriate them in some way or other before they can be of any use, or at all beneficial, to any particular man.

The rights of an owner

Owners may do whatever they wish with what they own within only those limits which are imposed by natural law. A possible specification of the rights of innocent use would include at least the following: the right to possess, the right to use, the right to manage, the right to income, the right to the capital, the right to security, and the rights of alienation by gift, bequest, and exchange. No other specific form of ownership has such a broad range of rights of title.

Source: James O. Grunebaum. 1987. Private Ownership 52-69

Further reading

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