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Political Application of Liberty and Rights

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 2133 words Published: 12th Oct 2017

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The concept of freedom

A general definition of liberty or freedom defines it as immunity from subjective exercise of authority. However, philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth century seem to explore deeper aspects of this concept. Among these philosophers are Thomas Hobbes and Rousseau, who held strong philosophies of liberty but somewhere along the line, their views differed. To begin with, Hobbes presents two categories of freedom in a persuasive manner where he argues that the first category of freedom is granting individual’s liberty to choose from alternatives, while the second category of freedom is freedom to approve individual’s choice in an instance (Tuckness, 2002, p,105). Analysts claim that Hobbes concept of liberty or freedom is persuasive in nature because the philosopher argues that only the exercise of a power has the ability to reduce people’s freedom. In this case, Hobbes is a determinist because he perceives that any happenings including human action is triggered by the effect of ancestral or unpreventable causes. Therefore, man exists in a state of withdrawn liberty because the law of nature determines it; hence, freedom is of little use because it benefits no one and that whoever desires to live in freedom end up contradicting oneself (Tuckness, 2002, p, 105).

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Rousseau on his part brings forth two types of liberties namely, civil or moral liberty and natural liberty. He further explains that natural liberty is the freedom to influence personal desires, while civil liberty is the freedom to convince the general will (Tuckness, 2002, p, 105). Rousseau seems to dig deeper into freedom analysis where he explains that man is extremely free because the cruel state or fellow man does not dominate him nor does the spirituality of artificial needs that exist in the current society enslaves him. However, the scholar claims that man is enslaving himself with needs, which result to the ills experienced in the society today.

The concepts outlined by the two scholars present the fact that both of them have similar perception on liberty but they differ in the sense that Hobbes supports negative liberty, while Locke supports the negative side of it. Locke’s positivity exhibits in the sense that he focuses on the positive aspects of what result the law can accomplish because it is only the law that do not restrict freedom (Tuckness, 2002, p, 105). However, this is the point through which differences chip in because Hobbes claims that law restricts peoples many choices; hence, restricting them from freedom (Tuckness, 2002, p, 105). However, he advocates for this kind of freedom by asserting that people should learn how to part with much liberty in order to acquire security and peace.

Political application of the theory

The two authors seem to disagree on political application of liberty theory. Hobbes believes that liberties must comply and surrender to a sovereign in order to flee the state of nature (Tuckness, 2002, p, 106). He further argues that the government should solely pass rules that govern the society in order to curb human conflicts and that no one should interfere with the government’s business. Hobbes meant that as long as people had basic freedom, acquired after letting go of the much-needed freedom, adhering to the government laws was not a hard task. This is the reason why the philosopher argued that equality is established in covenant form between people and not between people and sovereignty; hence, denying the many the decision making process. Conclusively, Hobbes meant to simplify that people should embrace a little liberty as long as their existed security and peace and grant the sovereign liberty to rule them.

Rousseau on his part claims that the most fundamental objective of any government is to allow its citizens exercise freedom. Therefore, the endorsement and existence of certain government codes can grant a certain level of freedom to the society. In this regard, the philosopher meant that the government should not be extremely rigid towards its people in terms of passing laws that could lead to enslavement but rather should advocate for the society’s views and opinions in order to foster the needed freedom (Tuckness, 2002, p, 106). Unlike Hobbes who advocates for sovereign powers to restrict peoples’ freedom, Rousseau seems to advocate for equity and coordination between the sovereign and its people as a form of liberty.

The concept of rights

According to Hobbes, rights are liberty to do things without facing any sort of restriction and that Man is equal to the other. The philosopher outlines two types of rights namely basic and civil rights, where basic right is the right to cloth, shelter, food and other basic needs, while civil right is the right to freedom of expression, life and other fundamental rights (Edmundson, 2012, p, 23). However, a deeper perspective reflects that Hobbes generalizes the concept of rights on a social platform because he differs with the manner in which rights apply between society and the government.

John Locke’s philosophy concerning rights is reviewed in a wider dimension because he believes that human beings are entitled to every necessary right that include the right to live, the right to freedom among other rights (Edmundson, 2012, p, 24). Unlike Hobbes who believes in social rights, Locke differs greatly because he believes that man should posses the right to dominate the society in every means possible. The difference between the two scholars is that Locke involves rights with larger moral complexity compared to Hobbes who views rights as doing whatever one pleased for their own survival.

Political application of the rights concept

Hobbes clarify that sovereign should safeguards people’s rights but in a shallow dimension because he advocates for government control over its citizens (Edmundson, 2012, p, 24). The reason why the philosopher argues that government should safeguard its people is because people undergo different aspects of conflicts that in one way or another will need superior intervention. The purpose of government at this point is to advocate for equality in the social context because it will ensure that people’s enacted rights are safeguarded (Edmundson, 2012, p, 24). However, sovereign safeguarding of rights occurs due to people’s inferiority and lack of adequate liberty to safeguard their own rights. Hobbes advocates for this type of liberty and the right to protection where the sovereign is the overall determiner of what rights befits the society. This concept drives to the fact that ordinary citizens will suffer because what the sovereign decides is final because no involvement or negotiations between the two parties exist. Therefore, Hobbes political theory of rights is problematic because it enhances absolute obedience of sovereignty above the rights of millions of people in the society (Edmundson, 2012, p, 24). The philosopher further asserts that once the government is in place, people have no right to criticize or change its form; hence, defying peoples’ right to freedom of expression.

Locke seems to challenge Hobbes view on sovereignty and rights because he believed that people had numerous rights that they could safeguard without the dictatorship of the sovereign. Among these rights is the right to challenge the government, which further grants people the right to overthrow an oppressive government (Edmundson, 2012, p, 24). This clarifies the fact that people’s rights should not face any sovereign dictatorship but rather the sovereign should grant its people the right to criticize injustices from any horizon including their rulers because they possess the liberty to do so. The two philosophers differ greatly because Hobbes advocates for the sovereign safeguarding people’s rights while Locke believes in peoples’ empowerment to the extent that they can fight for their own rights.

The concept of private property

Lock held strong views on property institution due to its importance to humankind and sacredness. Locke begins by reminding everyone that God the creator gave the world to man to dominate it and no one has an elite claim to anything. However, different versions of laws and policies have modified God’s will by allowing man to share the properties of the world according to sovereign constitutions and codes. These institutions grant human beings the right to property because it is the fruit of their labor. In this regard, Locke advocates for the right to own private property through labor and hard work. More so, the scholar advocates for heredity form of property ownership where an individual should not only acquire property through labor but also acquire it through inheritance (Bhargava, 2008, p, 216). This clarifies the point that man has fundamental objectives in the society that include ownership of property because it is beneficial to both the society and the sovereign. Lock’s theory of property resulted from the reason that man mixes his labor with then earth in order to acquire as much as he needs.

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On the other hand, Karl Marx held a different view on property ownership because he advocated for its abolishment in all possible means. On his argument, Marx believed that a community should exercise equality in the sense that the community should not undergo any form of separation in form of classes. Resources that include private property ownership bring about these class variations within the society (Bhargava, 2008, p, 216). Marx argued that private property ownership oppressed the poor and should not be encouraged. The communist further differs with Locke’s view on property ownership as man’s own labor because he argues that man did not acquire property through labor, but rather became a victim of this property because it ended up exploiting them (Bhargava, 2008, p, 216). Marx wished to see equity especially on the amount of labor applied as well as its rewarding system because as much as he faced critics concerning man’s labor to acquire property, he saw a vacuum through which workers would face exploitation (Bhargava, 2008, p, 216).

This leads to the conclusion that the two philosophers greatly differed on property ownership concept because Locke perceived property ownership as the main fundamental aspect to both the government and the society. This is the reason why he advocated for property ownership right and looked forward to a period when all citizens would acquire their own property. Marx on his perspective argues that property ownership does not necessarily imply to home or land ownership as perceived by many, but rather as a means of production, that ended up contributing to unequal distribution of wealth and exploitation of many. Therefore, as much as Locke campaigned for property ownership, Marx called upon its abolition.

Political application of the private property concept

Concerning legislative, Locke argues that the government should not interfere with an individual’s property without his consent irrespective of the existing constitution (Bhargava, 2008, p, 216). Such government involvement arises in form of taxes, where the philosopher argues that sovereign should not inflict tax payments on property owners if possible. Locke further argues that government should adhere to the will of the people by meeting their vast needs that include empowerment to acquire property rather than oppressing them through taxation.

Marx on the other hand did not contribute much on issues concerning the government but he still depicted his mistrust in it. This came up because Marx claimed that most of the ruling class in the society supported the government and vice versa. This leads to the notion that the government will not foster the much-needed change in the society in terms of class equity but rather the solution lies on the society itself. Therefore, property ownership has led to social class emergence that even the government cannot help equate; hence, abolition of private property seemed to be Marx’s final option (Bhargava, 2008, p, 216). Conclusively, the two scholars seem to agree on government’s inefficiency in handling property ownership issues and the impact it inflicts towards the society.


Bhargava, R. (2008). Political Theory. Pearson Longman.

Edmundson, W. A. (2012). An introduction to rights. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tuckness, A. S. (2002). Locke and the legislative point of view: Toleration, contested principles, and law. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.


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