Home > Quote/Snapshot > Locke’s original question travelling through the ages

Locke’s original question travelling through the ages

Well, not Locke per se, but this is an old question that I have seen subtly hidden in many texts produced today. Especially Political Economy texts, and even texts on the nature of knowledge and human society (I’m think Berger and Luckman, social construction of reality)

As Locke put it: If God made all men equal, then what explains the huge variations in wealth and power that we see today. Pretty much the basic causes of inequality question. Although Locke goes on to answer it in his own way, basing it on property and labor, to my mind there is no other answer today than established arrangements historically produced. There is no legitimate reason why one person should have more than another (aside from domination which is not legitimate). This is especially clear if one believes that god created all men to be equal (not women ofcourse).  Liberals may justify it by focusing on hard work and labor or creativity, but that concept has loopholes and historical counterexamples big enough to drive a continent through (or three).

The economist solution is elegant, ignore it, assume that people start with given endowments and they give for what they desire. This erases the question of the original sin of primitive accumulation. Actually Smith, Marx and Weber all recognize the origins of property in exploitation and expropriation. Each takes a different position on this though.

Maybe one answer is that god did not make all humans equal. Still any answer that base it on property rights or any right cannot be taken seriously.

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