Birth of John Locke

August 29, 2018

On 29 August 1632, John Locke – the “Father of Liberalism”, leading Enlightenment philosopher and political theorist – was born and raised near Bristol, England (died 1704 in Essex).

Arguably no one from, or since, the Enlightenment has impacted Western civilisation more positively than Locke – especially in terms of liberty, civility, the structure of societies and their governance and one’s discipline of thought. Indeed, the American founding fathers reflected much of Locke’s work and philosophy in the United States’ Declaration of Independence – now economic superpower and leader of the free world. (See further details below.)

Celebrate the birth of John Locke – Father of Liberalism and greater thinker of the Enlightenment – by:

  • watching this brief clip on his enormous contribution to western societies and civilisation
  • researching further his impact and viewing the embedded footage
  • introspecting, as Locke did, to discover the laws that govern one’s own mind
  • watching a film that explores liberty (or its deprivation thereof), such as Amazing Grace, Breaker Morant, The Castle, Minority Report, Enemy of the State, Fahrenheit 451, Mr Smith goes to Washington or Doctor Zhivago or - dare we suggest - the Star Wars films ('So this is how liberty dies', mourns Padme Amidala, 'with thunderous applause'). 
  • reading one or more of Locke's many profound publications, and/or
  • sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, conservatives, classical liberals and those that value and pursue life, liberty and happiness.

Further details on John Locke 

Locke was instrumental during the 17th century in developing so many foundations of democratic freedoms:

  • the theory of the natural or “unalienable rights” of man, namely of life, liberty and estate (ie property) – rights which an individual’s ruler or government should never violate, indeed is created to protect, via whatever legal system can best do so
    • The US Declaration of Independence uses the phrase “… Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (ie an expanded concept of estate/property)
  • the concept of property rights – their definition and enforcement being the basis of economic freedom and prosperity
  • the theory of the “social contract” – that a society is a contract between sufficiently like-minded/interested individuals who group together and (tacitly or explicitly) agree a leadership structure to best ensure their own security, prosperity, freedoms and way of life [diversity undermines the social contract as it is a basis for separate societies and leadership]
  • the idea of governance “by consent of the governed” – that individual consent, regularly tested, was the basis of political legitimacy, stability and success
  • liberalism – the political philosophy that considers individual liberty to be the most important political goal, split into:
    • economic liberty – the right to have and use property
    • intellectual liberty – freedom of conscience (including of speech and association), and
    • equality of opportunity (not outcomes)
  • (via the above) the concept, foundations and virtues of “liberal democracy” – the form of governance (Locke contended was) most likely to optimise the freedoms and prosperity sought by the contracting individuals
  • a stronger case for parliamentary democracy, through a constitutional monarchy or republic, away from absolute monarchy
    • That said, Locke did not endorse all citizens having a say (or equal say) in their government and public decision-making through fear that it would erode the sanctity of private property – ie that dependants with little “skin in the game” would simply vote themselves evermore “free stuff” leading to moral hazard, evermore dependence, a burgeoning welfare state, bigger government, higher taxes, traducing the rights and liberties of property owners and beggaring the economic prosperity of all
  • an early model for the separation of church and state, underpinned by “The Reasonableness of Christianity” (cf other creeds) in allowing pursuits of truth, science and liberty
  • British empiricism and the scientific method – that, to become reliable, knowledge or sensory experience must be evidenced by empirical testing for repeatability or falsification (eg trusting science and not necessarily scientists, who should be (but are now too rarely) the harshest critics of their own work).

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