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Applying John Locke to America Today

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1403 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Imagining John Locke is alive today, observing America’s political realities. His ideas about religion and private property rights, and views of Donald Trump’s call for a Muslim ban as well as the U.S. government’s use of the eminent domain in the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico. First, we would have to look at what John Locke stands for and what he achieves in his ideology of how a government should work. How life, liberty, and property is assessed and how religion ties into his ideologies.

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John Locke’s view into property, as much land as a man works, plants, improves, develops, and can utilize the result of, it is his property. What labor he does, will separate it the land, his property from the common people.2 I believe, Locke argues that no other man can have a claim in a world where everyone is equal, the property of anyone is that of their own. This removes the right for another person to proclaim they have an equivalent right to his property. God’s intention for him was to improve the world for the benefit of life, with the labor of the owner. God intended for man to cultivate the land into his property. He worked his labor into the land, thereby gaining control and ownership of the land. Which no one else would have the same ownership to, and could not be taken from him without injury.2

John Lock wanted to establish how important labor is associated with the property, even if the labor consists of simple tasks like picking any items like food. Labor is involved in every life-sustaining activity for a human. To enjoy the pursuit of happiness in itself is to use the labor of yourself the man to grow, and cultivate the land, to pick and harvest to for the benefit of yourself.4 John Locke states that “Every man has a property in his person. Therefore for no one has the right to him but himself. The work of his body and hands, are appropriately his. Therefore whatever the man takes from nature, with his labor, together they are made into it his property.”1

John Locke believed the church and state should be separated as he felt that the legislature had nothing to do with the political way of thinking.5 “When anyone removes himself from a Church to publicly proclaim certain opinions which the Holy Scriptures do not teach.”3 Religion only matters between man and his god, so a political opinion should not be weighed down by the religion or to oppose religion.

I want to bring this into today’s view with Donald Trump’s call for a “Muslim ban” and his construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico. I believe if a Mexican man owns property in the United States like a house, this house and any item inside the house is owned by this person. Trump is forcibly removing this person from his home into a camp to later be removed from the United States and into the country where they came from. My interpretation from what I have read is if any man owns property inside the United States, these people have a right to that property, the role of a government is to stay out of their property. As previously stated, “Every man has a property in his person. Therefore for no one has the right to him but himself.” The government has no right to strip a man of his property and relocate him. Trump’s attempt at building a wall to prevent the man from reentering the United States, is also preventing that man to regain his property.

 This view also affects the Muslim ban from the United States, to prevent a Muslim man from entering the United States is also preventing them from accessing any property they may own in the United States. After president trump was put into office, he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”. These Muslim immigrants have a life, liberty, and a pursuit of happiness or property inside the United States.6 All of which can not be taken away from them by a government without the individual doing something wrong to remove their life, liberty, and property. Trump’s attempt at banning Muslims from the United States also states he favors Christians over Muslims, the United State’s 1st amendment prohibits Congress from making any law opposing for or against any religion. John Locke wants political thinkers to remove themselves from religion when talking about politics.

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 This is my view on the government’s use of eminent domain to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, a government has a right to take land from people if the land will be used for public, civic, or economic use. In this case, if the government were to take land from people along the border to build a wall, people could say it increases economic growth or it could also decrease economic growth. The wall won’t be used for the public, people don’t care to visit a wall built to separate the two countries.

 One could argue against my thoughts, jobs would stop being taken from Americans, this would benefit the economic growth in America. This would give Americans the chance to obtain a job in the place of the Mexicans that were taking the jobs in the first place. I would have to disagree with this, the jobs Mexicans take are jobs most Americans don’t want, like farm work for example. Again to back my statement that this would not benefit economic growth if Mexicans were to stop taking jobs they would also stop spending money inside the United States, promoting other companies and making for a better economy. Another argument is that the wall is built to prevent people from getting into the country, therefore, protecting the public from whatever harm they may bring. Eminent domain is to take land and use for the public use not for public protection and in my defense no public person would use the wall in their day to day life.

In conclusion, if John Locke was alive today, his views of a government would not be reflected in the way Donald Trump has represented. John Locke wanted religion to be separated of government, Donald Trump’s attempt at banning Muslims from entering into the United States proves my point, he would be banning a religion which then does not separate law and religion. This would also be interfering with the First Amendment, in pushing against freedom of religion. John Locke’s view of the property would not be fully assessed either, the government would be taking land/property from the people to build a wall using eminent domain with reasonable compensation. The land/property should be the property of the person and should not be taken away without permission. Even if this was allowed the land being taken is later not being used to fulfill the process of eminent domain in my opinion.

  1. J. P. Day, “Locke On Property”, The Philosophical Quarterly 16, no. 64 (1966): 207, doi:10.2307/2218464.
  2. John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, ed. Thomas Hollis (London: A. Millar et al., 1764). [Online] available from https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/222; accessed 10/12/2019; Internet.
  3. John Locke, “John Locke: A Letter Concerning Toleration”, Constitution.Org, Last modified 2019, https://www.constitution.org/jl/tolerati.htm.
  4. Smith George, “John Locke: The Justification Of Private Property”, Libertarianism.Org, Last modified 2019, https://www.libertarianism.org/columns/john-locke-justification-private-property.
  5. Alex Tuckness, “Locke’S Political Philosophy (Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy)”, Plato.Stanford.Edu, Last modified 2019, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke-political/.
  6. Keller Rohrback, Final Muslim Ban Complaint, ebook Seattle, Washington: KELLER ROHRBACK, 2019, https://www.aclu-wa.org/file/101485/download?token=CH7uwmKS.


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