John Locke’s “Second Treatise of Government”
In chapter five of the Second Treatise of Government, John Locke describes property as one’s life, liberty, and estate. According to Locke, individuals have dominion over themselves and as a result, own the rights to their freedom. Individuals also have authority over physical property that they acquire during their lifetime. Locke essentially presents a theory that speaks of both intellectual and physical property. Although Locke’s argument encompasses both intellectual and physical property, many objections have arisen with respect to this argument.
One main objection to Locke’s argument is its inability to secure property rights for future generations. According to Locke’s argument, an individual has authority over his or her property while he or she is alive. The philosopher does not account for what happens to such property when the individual dies. While it is logical to assume that an individual’s intellectual property such as life and liberty cease when they die, physical property such as estates and financial portfolios remain after a person has expired.
Locke does not provide any guidance as to how physical property can be maintained after a person has died. While he claims that a civilized society is responsible for protecting property rights, an individual’s physical property can easily be given to the state or someone outside of the family under Locke’s theory. If property rules were established according to Locke’s theory, future generations would not be entitled to portions of their ancestor’s property.
While this objection may prove valid to some, Locke would argue that future generations do in fact benefit from ancestors’ property. In his justification, Locke establishes that politics and society are responsible for serving the public and private needs of the property holder. This means that both intellectual and physical properties are protected by society regardless of whether or not the owner is living. In the instance of children claiming the property of deceased parents, Locke would argue that such individuals should have property rights bestowed on them if they are capable of protecting their parents’ property. Property according to Locke’s theory is therefore transferable to future generations if they can provide adequate protection.