NVCC Justification of Private Property by John Locke Discussion


we consider John Locke’s justification of a free-market capitalist economic system. Locke offers a justification for private property rights, which can be used to argue that a free-market capitalist system is the morally justified form of economic system, because it is based on and respects private property rights. Furthermore, we can see that Locke essentially offers a Kantian/Deontological moral justification for a free-market capitalist economy system. This is because Locke appeals to rights. Recall Kant’s “Formula of Universal Law,” which states that we should act only on principles that we can will to be a universal law. Rights can be understood as one type of universal law, because they are principles that we can will everyone to follow (or respect) at all times. 

Please consider and respond to the following issues:

1) Locke offers a very influential theory of how an individual can come to own private property. Do you find this justification convincing? In the lecture, I mention a potential problem with this justification. Does Locke have a way of responding to or overcoming that problem? 

2) In the textbook and lecture notes, there is a general objection raised against the claim that private property rights will justify a free-market capitalist system. The objection is based on the following idea: Whatever justification is offered for property rights themselves, that justification will also constrain (or limit) the ways in which the property right can be appropriately exercised.  It is then argued that the three most significant ways of justifying property rights require more limits on the exercise of property rights than a free-market capitalist system demands. Therefore, property rights do not justify a free-market capitalist economic system, and instead a more regulated economic system is morally required.  Are you convinced by this objection? Why or why not? 

3) Last week and this week we examined attempts to justify a free-market capitalist system from the perspectives of the two dominant ethical theories: Utilitarianism and Kantianism/Deontology. It has been argued that both approaches fail to morally justify a free-market capitalist system. This suggest that ethics or morality requires  a more regulated form of economic system. Are you convinced that this is true? Why or why not? (Recall the definition of a free-market capitalist system provided in the textbook and PowerPoint notes. Do not assume an incorrect, or popular notion, of what this term means.) 

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