Work The Plow, Reap The Benefits

“On what grounds does Locke believe people can establish a claim to property ownership over a previously unowned good?”

On what grounds does Locke believe that it is ok for people to claim that they own something that doesn’t belong to anyone? On the grounds that if you make an imprint upon the thing you want to claim, that it is indeed yours. Let me explain. Say you saw a field and thought, “That would be a perfect place to start up the farm I’ve wanted since I was a child!”. So you go to the records office (or google or whatever) and find that it is in fact not owned by anyone! You jump for joy! Packing up all of your things, you move to a house, closer to the field you have now claimed as your own. But, wait! You are suddenly struck with a horrible thought. If someone else comes along and wants the field, there’s legally nothing wrong with that person taking it from you! You need to make this property yours, you need to make sure no one takes it away from you, you need—-an imprint. And you so you start building. First you build a house for your family to move into on the property. Then you build a gigantic barn so people can see it from the streets. And finally, you fence in your property with a nice, large, white picket fence. You now live upon that there field! No one can take it now! And for extra measure, you plant many flowers and vegetables in the ground so that you can say that you eat from the dirt of the field. Now you’ve made an imprint on the field; now it’s yours. And by Locke’s standards and beliefs, you can sell that field for a pretty penny now that you’ve claimed it, but you won’t just yet. You want to enjoy the benefits of living your childhood dream. And the man who would’ve claimed your field salutes to you from outside of your gate. It seems he chose the lot on the other side of the country road. You smile and wave back—you’ll worry about him tomorrow.

The point of that story was to show you that Locke believed that if you found something unowned and imprinted on it, you could claim it as your own. While the original person who bought the land still had to work for it, when they sold it off, the new owner wouldn’t have to work to claim it as his own because he already bought it. Everything now days is owned by somebody. But wouldn’t it be nice to find a big open field and claim it as your own?

Western Civ 2, Lesson 30



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