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Locke, John

An English philosopher, John Locke (1632–1704) 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 has very little value until human beings improve it with their labor.

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

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