Locke — Unequal Wealth Tuesday, September 26, 2000 protesters marched in the streets of Prague as the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund held global finance meetings. Many protesters stated the statistics that more than 3 billion people live on less than 2 dolla a day. They claim that unequal divisions of wealth are not legitimate, and should be changed. James D. Wolfenshon president of the World Bank stated, something is wrong when the richest twenty percent of the global population receive more than eight percent of the global income (New York Times Sep. 27, 2000). According to Locke there is nothing wrong with those statistics.
It is legatee for people to amass great wealth, only to the point that what they have, they do not destroy or let spoil. To understand Lockes claims of unequal divisions of wealth, one must first understand his claim of labor and how it interacts with land, specifically property. An apple is picked from a tree, it is eaten, and digested. When did that apple become personal property. When it was picked, or when it was bitten, or when it mixed into the body and digested.
Locke claims that the apple became property of that person when it was picked. The person invested labor into the harvesting of that fru , and thus made it his. His reasoning for this was that mans labor removes things from a state of nature. The apple is no longer part of a growing tree, it has now become nourishment. When an apple is removed from the state of nature it becomes prop ty.
When a rabbit is removed from its state of nature it also becomes property. When land is removed from the state of nature it too becomes property. Enclosing a parcel of land, of which one improves by pasturage, tillage, or planting ,does not harm or bruise the welfare of the common. Instead benefits mankind by increasing the amount of land available to others. That same plot of land left untouched, would not nor could not produce the same harvest. If land was left in its natural state, it might require ten plots of land to provide the nourishment and other necessities of life for one person.
When labor is a ed to land it becomes personal property. This property that now produces more bounty leaves nine other plots of land for others. In short, if the world consisted of ten people, those ten would require one-hundred plots of land if none could claim thei property. By claiming property, so that there was still enough, and as good left for everyone, those ten would only need ten plots of land, thus leaving ninety plots in common. Locke claims, that labor makes the far greatest part of value which is true.
Land in general, is basically the same from one acre to another. If equal amounts of labor are invested into the land, the amount of return is generally the same. If disproportionate amounts of labor are invested into a piece of land the returns will be disproportionate. To understand Lockes claim that it is legitimate for people to have unequal divisions of wealth, one must understand the perimeters that bind that legitimacy. First, a person can only take enough, from the earth that which they will use (Locke 21).
This is to say that mankind can not waste what they take from nature. For example; if one gathered fifty apple, and only ate twenty-five, the other twenty-five would rot and go to waste. By wasting twenty five apples that person would be detrime al to the common wealth of the people. Secondly one can only take of the earth so that there is still some reaming that is as good for others(Locke 21). It is legitimate for people to take what they need, as long as they do not destroy any, or let it go to waste.
What ever surpasses this, is more than his portion, and belongs to the others. Locke states, Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy(Locke 21). Trading however, is expectable; if one traded the twenty-five apples before they went to waste for nuts, which last much longer. That person would not be in any way damaging or taking from that which is enough, and as good for ot rs. In the same manner a person could trade his twenty-five apples for a piece of shining metal, which is durable and would not perish.
This person could barter away all of his perishable things, food, wood and clothing for things that would not per h such as, gold, shells, or stones (Locke 28). By doing this that person would in no way subtract from the good of the others. Locke states, and thus came in the use of money, some lasting thing that men might keep without spoiling, and that by mutua consent men would take in exchange for the truly useful, but perishable supports of life (Locke 28). Since gold, shells, or stones have little to no value when measured next to food, drink, and housing, they receive their value from the mutual agreeme of mankind. Money is not the only reason that Lockes claim of unequal divisions of wealth is legitimate, the second is labor.
Labor not only distinguishes property, but also investment and return. If a man only picks enough food for one day, each y, he toils very little. If another man harvests food all day every day and stores-up much for himself, and barters the remainder for gold, so as not to spoil. This second man invested much more of his labor into the earth and as a result, reaps more. hese two reasons are why mankind has agreed to unequal divisions of wealth.
It is legitimate then, that a man who toils longer, and labors harder should be rewarded more. What would happen to ones wealth if a group of people decided no longer to use money? Would the value of gold drop, would that persons wealth change? The answer to this depends on the amount of people involved. If the group that no longer uses money was small, the effect would be almost unnoticeable. If the group was large the effect would be greatly felt. The value money is completely determined by the value society places on it. It is a value that mankind makes, and manipulat . The value of money in relationship to the size of the population that do not use it, is an inverse one.
This is to say, as the size of the population of those who do not use money rises; the value of money decreases. Locke uses an example of a small group of people that practice subsistence farming and live on an island; and as a result do not use money, nor want to use money. They believe that using money gives consent to inequality, which they regard as a bad thing. Since this group of people is small, and secluded, the change in ones wealth would not be felt. As long as there were still people that excepted money. Their lack of consent however, would in no way limit others from amassing w lth. The value of money would only change for those who were on the island.
Their lack of consent does not change the legitimacy of money, or the legitimacy unequal divisions of wealth; because, the legitimacy is not based upon consent but rather, log . The definition of legitimacy from the Thorndike Barnhart 4th edition dictionary state, legitimacy is rightful, lawful, allowed, conforming to accepted standards, or logical. While universal consent is not necessary, some social consent is. Mainly cause gold or money has no intrinsic value, only the value mankind places on it. Looking at the larger picture however, it is hard to determine whom is better off, the small group on the island which has not wealth, or the majority of people who do co ent to wealth. Unequal divisions of wealth are not unethical or wrong, however wastefulness, and degradation are. It is not wrong for a man to amass great fortunes or wealth, as long as what he keeps he does not destroy or let rot. The legitimacy of money by it self does not determine its value, rather the combination of legitimacy and consent of society determines it value.
Wealth or money is of no use to a person that lives a great distance from others; but for a man that lives in common with others i is of great value. Money not only provides wealth and status, but also convince and stability, It conforms to accepted standards of society, it is rightful, lawful and above all logical. Thus Lockes claim that men have agreed to a disproportionate a unequal division of the earth, is legitimate. Bibliography Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government. Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.; Indianapolis, 1980.
Kahn, Joseph. Protests Distract Global Finance Meeting. New York Times. Sep. 27, 2000; A6. Philosophy.