Locke, John (1632–1704)

John Locke was a British philosopher who stands foremost among the founders of what we now call “classical liberalism.” His most important teachings on government and economics are set forth in his Second Treatise of Civil Government, and they begin from the view that the individual is naturally free, equal, and sovereign and possesses rights to life, liberty, and “estate.” From such a beginning Locke concludes that the just powers of governments are limited and derive from the consent of the governed; that labor naturally constitutes a claim to ownership; and that the natural world, without labor, has very little value.

Locke is well known to Americans for having first made the philosophic case for a number of the doctrines that were later presented in the ...

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