Locke on the state

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Carefully explain and evaluate Locke's account of the origins and purpose of political governance, together with how submission to common legislative, judicial and executive bodies can be consistent with the preservation of one's natural rights to life, liberty, equality and private property.


In order to understand a normative account of government, it is useful to understand the descriptive. By examining theories regarding the human state of nature, it is possible to set forth standards and norms by which people ought to live, including those relating to who should rule. This essay will analyze Locke's account of the origins and purpose of governance, with the aim of understanding how supporting the conflicting ideals of autonomy and authority might be remedied.
Locke's state of nature comprises three elements; a state of perfect freedom, a state of equality and a state of natural law, which commands "no-one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions" (9). Accepting these elements is of fundamental importance in understanding the origins and role of government, but there are problems to be overcome. The natural law immediately limits the scope of the first, in that we do not have a perfect freedom to jeopardize another person's safety or invade their property. Secondly, if every person is equal, there is no natural claim to authority, which seems to conflict with the notion of obeying the law as set down by a government. The inclusion of the moral law in Locke's state of nature helps us to understand the motivations behind an argument for setting up a political governing body. ...
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