Second Treatise of Government by John Locke

Locke's Second Treatise Of Government

Property development is South Florida is a contentious inasmuch as it involves incursions into the Everglades, which are considered as having unique environmental value from which the region, state and country benefit. The state has intervened on behalf of Everglades preservation at various points when local governments sought to develop these lands. This conflict can be resolved using a number of perspectives, but it is interesting to consider the contribution Locke's views in the Second Treatise of Government make to the discussion, since Locke's made significant contributions to modern political philosophy regarding property.

Locke was generally in favor of man being able to expropriate "property in the state of nature" on account of his view that man is entitled to fight for survival just as much as any other species. Where there might be disagreement is with respect to the understanding of survival and in addition with respect to some of the constraints that Locke put on property expropriation.

Some of the constraints Locke appears to have put on property expropriation relate to survival. Locke argued that "one may only appropriate as much as one can use before it spoils." This clause relates to survival in that waste is something that works against survival. In the case of South Florida, the pro-development side would point out that Everglades land is not particularly useful for human survival in its natural state anyway, so development adds more value than the land would if it is left undeveloped. However, Locke would likely argue against wanton expropriation of this land, because the land should remain in a state of nature until man has a good use for that land.

In Locke's time, in the pre-industrialized world, land was almost always used for survival -- farming and hunting. The amount of urban land was insignificant in size. In our time, urban land is extensive, in South Florida in particular. Additionally, the land is not necessarily being used for survival. While Locke would most likely accept draining Everglades land to extent Homestead's farmland, for example, he would most likely balk at non-survival uses such as casinos, or retail development. Such development could easily be condensed into other areas -- there is ample vacant land in South Florida and the density of people and development is relatively low. Locke, not faced with these conditions in his time, did not specifically address this situation. However, another clause in the second treatise does provide further guidance as to Locke's views on the subject, so that we need not speculate as freely as above as to his probable views.

Locke argued that "enough and as good" is another constraint on land expropriation. This clause implies that wasting land is something Locke would not approve of. While he defended the right to property ownership, he seemed to also be arguing that one should make use of property expropriated from nature. If land is taken from nature, then it is not available to others. When we consider that the land should be available to future generations, in addition to those of us alive today, then Locke would certainly question whether or not expropriation for retail or leisure was truly valid. After all, while the owners of the land are beneficiaries, in all likelihood they do not need that money to survive, or even to live well. Thus, in expropriating that land they have deprived others, including future generations, the rightful use of that land, for no discernible gain. This view is exemplified in Section 31 of Chapter V -- "to which I answer -- not so" in reference to one's right to collect fruits of the earthy without limit.…