"Locke's labor lost"
by Mossoff, Adam (2002)
Few philosophers are as ubiquitous within American politics and law as John Locke. A mere listing of the primary and secondary sources-from the Founding Fathers to today-that explicitly refer to Locke or implicitly invoke his ideas would rival the Encyclopaedia Britannica in length. His labor argument for property, in particular, has been especially influential. The Second Treatise bears the distinction of being the only philosophy text cited on this subject as authoritative precedent by the contemporary Supreme Court.' As exemplified by the repeated references to and quotations from the Second Treatise in the first chapter of the most popular property casebook,2 the imprint of Lockean ideas upon American conceptions of property is striking
In producing these goods and creating an advanced industrial society, the industrious and rational are those people who fulfill their basic moral obligation: self-preservation and the preservation of mankind. They live in accord with the fundamental moral duty of natural law. 35 In this respect, Locke's "labor" is not recreation, it is not purposeless action, and, most important, it is never an action that destroys or wastes goods. (p.16)
KeywordsLocke, Early Modern Thought, Theory Of Labor, Property, History, Seventeenth Century
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