Tuesday, November 24, 2020

884: Birth of The State...

 The natural state of man is one of freedom, equality and governed by the law of reason. Unfortunately, there also exist bad guys, 


who violate this natural state, which leads to what I quoted in the previous lecture

Locke writes, "In essence, violent or aggressive behavior entails a state of war, that is, a situation that differs from the natural in every respect. 


It is precisely that kind of enmity that makes people give up their natural state to form a political community. ” - end quote -


But before Locke describes his ideas about how such a political community should be governed, he elaborates on what we now would call "the homo economicus"


It is interesting to see, that little has changed with respect to his ideas.


The starting point of Locke's arguments is of course Christian belief, common in those days.


He recalls that God gave the world to mankind with a command to work it out to meet all human needs. 


By performing work man adds something to that world and he also takes the step towards ownership and property.


Initially, this will be done on a modest scale. Man appropriates only a small part of the abundance that nature offers him. 


His ownership of property is limited to the amount of land he can cultivate and improve himself. The rest is for others.  


An important point, however, is that the yield of the land increases by working it. Locke believes that it is mainly human labor that increases the total value of the land.


This was a new approach in Locke's time. The default assumption was, that the value of something was determined by the market, by the relation between supply and demand.


Locke's idea will later develop into the labor theory of value: the view that all economic value is ultimately the fruit of human labor. 


Therefore, the art of government should not focus on the largest possible territory, a standard pursuit of rulers in Locke's day and before, but on increasing productivity.


In time, this development will lead to the use of money. Initially, people worked only to meet their needs in the short term,


but in order to maintain the value of their goods in the longer term, a fixed measure became inevitable. 


That is why at a certain point they started to use gold or silver as a means of payment. Although these metals are of little use for life as such, they can represent a value.


This explains not only the emergence of private property but also the gradual increase in inequalities. 


Where there is no use of money, the differences in ownership of property are not very great. But once money plays a major role, people strive to expand their possessions.


More than ever we still are convinced, that human labor is what creates wealth. Although this is true, these days the Labor Theory of Value is mainly associated with Marxist economics.


We can dig into this subject some other time, but it is interesting to see how modern economics has left Locke's ideas behind.


I am no expert on economics, but I get the impression that we are back to economic principles from the times before Locke.


The market and how the consumer behaves on the market is what creates economic value. It is a theory of value based on subjective preferences.

I may be mistaken, but I guess today economists assume that consumption creates value and economic growths. 


We may have lost the real meaning of labor as a way to give meaning to life and have made consumption the meaning of life....


Thank you for your attention again.....


MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995
Gabriel van den Brink:"Ruw Ontwaken uit een Neoliberale Droom",, 2020

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