More Thoughts on Locke’s Essays
As I was reading the Declaration of Independence again last night a section caused me to think and question what is meant. The sentence: That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their Safety and Happiness".
In the past I read right on over that without once questioning it. Yesterday, I questioned what was the intent of safety? Today so many laws or orders have been given in the name of "safety" that I really struggle with the idea that we should have all this regulation to keep up "safe". What was the original intent? Can you really keep people safe? How? When have things gotten out of balance? The idea that comes to mind as I studied the wording of the Declaration is that Safety AND Happiness are to balance each other. This leads to another question: How is that balance measured and achieved?
According to Ebenstein & Ebenstein (Great Political Thinkers), the Declaration is "pure Locke" and many of the main ideas of the Constitution and Declaration are based on Locke’s ideas. Therefore, I turned back to Locke in order to find his definition of safety. In Concerning Civil Government he writes: "...the end of law is not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings, capable of laws, where there is no law there is no freedom" (Chapter 6, #57). He continues: "The great and chief end, therefore, of men uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property; (Chapter 9 #124)......the power of the society or legislative constituted by them can never be supposed to extend farther than the common good, but is obliged to secure every one's property... (#131)”.
Whenever Locke talks about safety and security in either "A Letter Concerning Toleration" or "Concerning Civil Government, Second Essay" it seems to be in connection with protecting the property and labors of man and to protect or deliver the people from "subjection of a foreign power" (Concerning Civil Government, Chapter 19 #217). In Locke’s writings he always talks about the limits that should be placed on the government. The idea that the law should be applied equally to all, that it must not be oppressive or based on personal whims, that the consent of the people need to be involved and that the legislature must not transfer its lawmaking power to anybody else. (Great Political Thinkers p. 432)
When you take all of this into account and refer back to the statement in the Declaration, I can see that government’s foundation should be for the Safety and Happiness of the people. I think without understanding the ideas that Locke taught and the extremely important idea of that he stated were necessary to protect the people these ideas can be taken and abused as they have been in recent years by our government officials. We the people have forgotten that we do not have to consent to all the government says. And that it is our job to make sure that the government does not overstep its powers. Many of the changes that have occurred in the last year have not been laws set up by the legislature but by the judicial and executive branches. And because we have not followed the pattern set up by our Founding Fathers both the safety and happiness of all people are out of balance. The law is not being applied equally to all, is based on personal whims and is oppressive to some. It is also not law; it is based on orders that have not been voted on. Unfortunately that is because we the people have consented to follow past orders and judgments setting a precedent that said it was okay for other officials outside of our elective representatives to determine laws. If we had all read John Locke’s writings in High School, would we have a different government then we do today?