Locke does a very good job of supporting many of his ideas with references to either divine law or higher moral imperatives, and to some extent these are important elements of his argument, but we must always remember that property predominates. We find Locke's elevation of property in Chapter 9, in which Locke explicitly notes that the desire to protect property moves people to enter society. Government forms once people begin amassing large amounts of property, since those with property need a higher central authority to protect it.

This raises another issue: what happens to those without property? So far, the state of nature favors those with money, people who enter into society to protect themselves from those who would steal from them. Why would those without property enter into this bargain? Why give up their freedom to protect what they lack?

The answer might seem disappointing. Locke in fact never intended or expected that those without property would be in charge of civil society. In order for the system to be advantageous to those with property, those without property must be excluded from its privileges although still protected by and subject to its laws.

We should remember that Locke's ideas were in fact progressive for his time. His assumptions about natural rights, and freedom from arbitrary and unjust government helped shape the creation of the United States Constitution, which rested on Lockean principles of equality and a government working to the best advantage of the people (although, while not mentioned, Locke's ideas about the advantages of the ruling class were built into that model as well).

Popular pages: Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government