Rousseau vs. Locke

Written by Kip Jackson on September 8th, 2009

The story of Darryl Kerrigan and his family does seem to support Rousseau’s notion that the establishment of private property eventually (and inevitably) leads to despotism. He would see the governmental acquisition of the Kerrigan’s “Castle” as the government trampling under foot the laws and the people. However, Rousseau also suggested that the individuals under the despotic rule would be willing to give up degrees of their individual freedoms in order to obtain more stability. This was not so with Darryl Kerrigan. He was more like what Rousseau referred to as a savage than a civilized man – by this I mean that the savage realized the freedom he had and was willing to die before he would give it up. The civilized man, to Rousseau, was like a puppet on a string, only interested in satisfying his perceived (yet unnecessary) needs, even at the expense of this own freedom.
Locke, on the other hand, knew that through private property rights, we enhance the value of our property and make it “ten times” more productive than it was in its neglected “waste” state. One cannot deny that Darryl Kerrigan had “added value” to his estate – just ask his wife and kids. This being the case, to Locke it has become his property and a proper government has no right to take it from him. The primary role of government is to protect the subjects’ property, lives, and liberties. However many times government steps beyond these bounds and tries – as in Mr. Kerrigan’s case – to unfairly appropriate a subject’s property. Although life is not possible without property rights or government to enforce them, the preservation of individual rights is as far as government can go, because the power of the government cannot exceed the power of the individual subjects – even if the government believes they are acting in the best interest of the subjects.


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