We have almost completely lost the understanding of the purpose of government. Republicans and Democrats alike, fight over policy, but who is right? We have plenty of sources we can look to to find our path to prosperity. And I don’t just mean financially, but morally & spiritually.
The founding fathers are a fantastic source to attain guidance. But there’s one man who fundamentally understood the intent and purpose of government.
Why is John Locke important?
John Locke wrote many different books on a variety of topics. His most notable are his First and Second Treatises on Government. Locke was one of the most influential minds of his era, as his writings helped lay the foundation for our constitutional republic. Many of the founders quoted Locke in their essays and letters to one another. Benjamin Rush referred to Locke, as well as Noah Webster. Even Adam Smith, author of Wealth of Nations, cited Locke. Although, while Noah Webster and Adam Smith are not founding fathers of America, they contributed significantly to the birth and growth of the nation.
Locke’s first treatise focused on dismantling the “divine right of kings” theory, which was extremely controversial at the time. In case you are not familiar with the theory, it was the belief that governmental authority was divinely established through the bloodline. Locke disagreed and argued that governmental authority was only established through the consent of the governed; we, the people! It’s also important to point out that Locke’s First Treatise is argued solely from a Biblical perspective because Adam & Eve were the first “society” as Locke referred to the union of marriage and creation of family.
In his Second Treatise, Locke goes deep into the various states in which man exists and operates. These different states are explained by Locke, in order to provide an understanding of government and culture. Who governs? Who gives the power to govern? Those are just a couple of fundamental questions Locke answers. Here, let’s take a dip in the kitty pool of Locke’s ideas.
State of nature
John Locke states in chapter 2, paragraph 4; there is a state in which all men are naturally born,
“A state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions, and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.”
Locke understood that there is this elementary state of nature in which man is born. It is, in a sense, a state of anarchy. Locke then explains how man’s actions are to be governed within this state of nature. In paragraph 6, Locke writes,
“The state of nature has a law of nature to govern it, which obliges everyone: and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions. For men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent, and infinitely wise Maker.”
Reason, Locke stated, was the source by which man governs his original state of nature, that state which exists before entering a social contract or civil society. Notice, though, he also uses the title “wise Make.” That capital letter “M” is essential. Locke is referring to God. Locke understood that man is created by God and to be governed by His Spirit. Locke contends, in paragraph 13, that civil government is good,
“I easily grant, that civil government is the power proper remedy for the inconveniences of the state of nature…”
Just after that quote, Locke also references Romans 13:4, which is the scripture verse that famously explains the purpose of government. He understood that civil government was necessary, but only by the consent of the governed. Why am I pointing this out? Because the government is (rightfully) viewed as bad today when it’s not. It is the corruption within government, which is bad. A responsible government can exist, but we must make that a reality.
Ownership of property
By far, one of the most important rights that Locke argues in favor of, as a natural right. Locke believed that the ownership of property was essential to liberty. In chapter 5, paragraph 25, Locke says,
“whether we consider natural reason which tells us, that men, being once born, have a right to their preservation, and consequently to meat and drink, and such other things, as nature affords their subsistence.”
Notice, Locke says that man first has a right to his preservation, as nature affords man. This does not mean people have a right to the resources that preserve life if another man owns those resources… that is socialism. We have the right to the opportunity of acquiring resources. Locke also states in paragraph 26 of chapter 5,
“The earth, and all that is therein, is given to men for the support and comfort of their being.”
What a novel concept! Resources have been placed on earth, by our Creator, to preserve our lives and give us comfort. Without property, there is no way for individuals to preserve their lives; food, water, clothing, shelter, and yes, GUNS!
Further along in paragraph 45, Locke solidifies his reasoning of the right of property,
“Thus labour, in the beginning, gave a right of property, wherever anyone was pleased to employ it, upon what was common, which remained, a long while, the far great part, and is yet more than mankind makes use of.”
Locke was very adamant about man’s right to ownership of property. Again, it’s the government’s job to protect the right to property and leave the rest up to the people. Socialists do not believe anyone should own private property. This is a threat to the right to property, and Locke does explain how to deal with that through what he calls the “state of war.” But that’s for another time.
Government and family
The first form of government established was the family, in communion with God. This concept is mostly forgotten today because many people think family is a social construct, just as they believe gender is. That is wrong, just purely wrong. Locke states, in chapter 7, paragraph 77,
“The first society was between man and wife, which gave beginning to that between parents and children.”
Notice that the government is not the first “society” created. Today, many Americans believe government is to manage everything, including family. But if the family is the first society, how exactly is that correct? It is not. Without family, without humans, the government can’t exist (as we all cheer gleefully)! And again, Locke hits the nail on the head in paragraph 78,
“Conjugal society is made by a voluntary compact between man and woman; and through it consist chiefly in such a communion of right in one another’s bodies, as is necessary to its chief end, procreation.”
Marriage of course, as stated in Genesis, is purposed for procreation, to populate the earth (Genesis 1:28.) In paragraph 28 of chapter 5, Locke says that man,
“hath by nature a power, not only to preserve, his property, that is, his life, liberty, and estate, against the injuries and attempts of other men…”
You should see a trend at this point, without having even read Locke’s book. Trust me; these are exact quotes. Locke is laying out the order in which power exists; individual, parental, and civil. Each is to be guided by our Creator.
The purpose of government
The view that government exists to take care of those it governs and rule over them, is growing, and it is dangerous. This comes from a lack of understanding of the purpose of government. In chapter 9, paragraph 124, Locke explains the very purpose of government.
“The great and chief end therefore, of men’s uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government. Is the preservation of their property. To which in the state of nature there are many things wanting.”
Notice again, preservation of property is mentioned. And property, as explained earlier, is coupled with life and liberty. In that last sentence, Locke is also stating that in the original state of nature, men have desires and will violate the safety of others to get what they want. One of my favorite quotes is found in the same chapter (9), in paragraph 131,
“But though men when they enter into a society, give up the equality, liberty, and executive power they had in the state of nature, into the hands of the society, to be so far disposed of by the legislative, as good of the society shall require; yet it being only with the intention in everyone the better to preserve himself his liberty and property; (for no rational creature can be supposed to change his condition with an intention to be worse.)”
Men give up some of their liberties in their original state of nature and delegate specific authority to the society (government) in order to preserve his life, liberty, and property. I especially like how he says that no rational person would give up some of the liberties in the state of nature, with the intent to make their condition worse. But that is what voters are doing today with socialism and communism! Oh, right… they are not rational.
At the very end of paragraph 131, Locke lists out responsibilities that are to be given to limited governments and states,
“And all this to be directed to no other end, but the peace, safety, and public good of the people.”
Essentially, he is saying that the government exists to enhance your living condition! I have two more amazing quotes to provide here, so don’t stop reading! What are some signs of a bad government? That is found in chapter 11, paragraph 135,
“Their power [the government] in the utmost bounds of it, is limited to the public good of the society. It is a power, that hath no other end but preservation, and therefore can never have a right to destroy, enslave, of designedly to impoverish the subjects.”
Well, that’s interesting! Destroy, enslave, and impoverish the people. Can someone say “America.”
Last quote (I promise.) This one is good, because Locke explains that without God’s law of nature, limited government won’t work at all. Further down in paragraph 135, Locke says this,
“The rulers that they make for other men’s actions, must, as well as their own and other men’s actions, be conformable to the law of nature, i.e. to the will of God, of which that is a declaration, and the fundamental law of nature being the preservation of mankind, no human sanction can be good, or valid against it.
As we consider the 2020 election, we need to think about those we elect. Do they understand the purpose of government? Do they recognize the right to life, liberty, and property?
Democrats expect free stuff, and Republicans (in general) still tend to support most government programs that were not intended to preserve our natural rights. The government exists to be very limited in scope and power. Outside of safeguarding life, liberty, and property, it has absolutely no business putting its dirty hands on anything else.
It’s imperative that everyone read and understand Locke, as well as other influential minds over the centuries. We can look to their guidance and revert to ideas, concepts, and principles that will help steer us back to prosperity and restore our culture and constitutional republic.