Appropriating More than Man has a Right To Own

Lastly is the problem with our current economic system in the West: hoarding. Locke warns us of the mechanisms that exist to allow appropriation of more than we have a right to take from the common stock. These two mechanisms are money and the State.

The measure of property nature has well set by the extent of men’s
labour and the conveniencies of life: no man’s labour could subdue, or appropriate all; nor could his enjoyment consume more than a small part; so that it was impossible for any man, this way, to intrench upon the right of another, or acquire to himself a property, to the prejudice of his neighbour, who would still have room for as good, and as large a possession (after the other had taken out his) as before it was appropriated. This measure did confine every man’s possession to a very moderate proportion, and such as he might appropriate to himself, without injury to any body…But be this as it will, which I lay no stress on; this I dare boldly affirm, that the same rule of propriety, (viz.) that every man should have as much as he could make use of, would hold still in the world, without straitening any body; since there is land enough in the world to suffice double the inhabitants, had not the invention of money, and the tacit agreement of men to put a value on it, introduced (by consent) larger possessions, and a right to them; which, howit has done, I shall by and by shew more at large.

This is certain, that in the beginning, before the desire of having
more than man needed had altered the intrinsic value of things, which depends only on their usefulness to the life of man; or had agreed, that a little piece of yellow metal, which would keep without wasting or decay, should be worth a great piece of flesh, or a whole heap of corn; though men had a right to appropriate, by their labour, each one of himself, as much of the things of nature, as he could use: yet this could not be much, nor to the prejudice of others, where the same plenty was still left to those who would use the same industry. To which let me add, that he who appropriates land to himself by his labour, does not lessen, but increase the common stock of mankind: for the provisions serving to the support of human life, produced by one acre of inclosed and cultivated land, are (to speak much
within compass) ten times more than those which are yielded by an acre of land of an equal richness lying waste in common.

Thus the invention of money, although it facilitates exchange and allows economic growth to occur at a rapid rate, allows humans to store up their labor in a non-perishable manner and promotes the “appropriation” of more property (land or otherwise) than one can use, violating natural laws that place natural limits on the amount we use. This promotes abuse and exploitation of natural resources and, worse, of humanity.

Appropriation of extra land, as encouraged by the invention of money and promoted by the advent of the state (remember back to J-B. Say’s quote), also violates the natural limits that exist in Locke’s state of nature.

Before the appropriation of land, he who gathered as much of the wild fruit, killed, caught, or tamed, as many of the beasts, as he could; he that so imployed his pains about any of the spontaneous products of nature, as any way to alter them from the state which nature put them in, by placing any of his labour on them, did thereby acquire a propriety in them: but if they perished, in his possession, without their due use; if the fruits rotted, or the venison putrified, before he could spend it, he offended against the common law of nature, and was liable to be punished; he invaded his neighbour’s share, for he had no right, farther than his use called for any
of them, and they might serve to afford him conveniencies of life.

As long as our economic system uses money to promote the appropriation of more property than we can use we will continue to abuse and exploit, in violation of the laws of nature. As long as the State legislates in favor of the corporate interests (in the case of fascism) or monopolizes the means of production (in the case of the State socialism), humanity will be left without the liberty that God and nature give us.

Even more problematic is the rise of an international finance structure that unifies these two violations of natural law (money and the state) into a global structure that encroaches on liberty in almost insurmountable ways. Fighting against these structures in our choices as consumers, producers, workers, and citizens must be at the forefront of this battle to preserve liberty and opportunity for prosperity.

Land as Property

Locke next launches into the very difficult proposition of land as property. Somehow he sees land (ideally) as something that, like water (theoretically), is inexhaustible (a requisite for claiming something out of the common stock) and thereby rationalizes the ability of individuals to fence in land and claim it for their own.

Continue reading “Land as Property”