Discuss John Locke’s natural right and limited government

John locke’s occupies a very significant place in the history of western political Thought.His liberal individualistic and revolutionary idea has been continuing to dominate the human thought and imagination for centuries since their advocacy.His theory of natural right and limited government in the most stucking feature of his political philosophy.



Natural rights of John Locke
John Locke’s natural right

The salient features of the Amreican political system such as limited and contitutional government ,natural and inlienable rights of the individuals and inviolable right to property trace their origin to the writings of john locke.In the words of parrington “His two treaties of Government became the textbook of american revolution”.He exercised a tremendous influence on the original declaration of American war of Independence and french revolution .It was from his writings that voltaries Rosseau and other leaders of the french revolution derived much of their fundamental thought.


John locke was a thorough -Going individualist.To Quote Prof C.E vaughan “Everything in locke’s system revolves round the individual ,Everything is disposed as to ensure the sovereighty of the individual”.

The individual occupies the supreme position in his scheme of politics.The real sovereighty resides in the individuals.Though sovereighty remains with the community but in reality it is exercised by the individual.John locke regands consent as the very foundation of the state. He writes “Nothing can make a man a member of any commonwealth but his actually entering into it by positive engagement and express promise and contract”.

The very creation maintence and dissolution of government is done through the consent of the individuals.


Natural right of John Locke

The most striking feature of his philosophy is his advocacy of the natural rights of the individuals.The individual enjoys certain natural rights in his capacity of a natural animal.They are life,liberty and propoerty.So these rights are inviolable and inalienable.What is more important in locke’s advocacy is that, the lagislature or the community has no authority to take any part of the property of the individual without his consent .


His individualism reaches its climax when he recognises the right of the individuals to revolt against despotic and tyrannical government .The purpose of the government is to ensure justice and protect the natural rights of the individuals.But If the government betrays the trust reposed in him and tries to assume more power than that which have been delegated to him by contract .People have absolute right to revolt.


Limited government

To lacke the state is gigantic limited liability company.The state can not act anbitrarily but most act in public good.Its laws must conform to the laws of nature.

Thegovernment must rule not by temporary on anbitrary decrees but by permanent and promulgated laws.The lagislature as the authorised agent of the sovereign people can not transfer its law-making power to anyother body.

Though locke believed in popular government. He did not concede the same amount of power to the people over the government as democrats like Rosseau do.He gives the people the right of forming their own government but once the government is formed,it must be allowed to rule without popular interference and cotrol solong as it does not misbehave .Thus he might have been a liberal but not a democrat.

In order to check the anbitariness of the government locke also advocated the theory of the separation of power.According to him the legislature function is the most important function of the state.The location of lagislature power in a state determines the type of the government .If the legislature power is located in a single person it is called monarchy.If it is in a few persons this is called aristrocracy.And if it is many persons than that is called as democracy .

To him the executive and judicial powers are subordinate to and dependent upon the legislature power.Locke refers to another function of the government which he calls federative.This function means maintaining the interests of the community of the citizens against other communities of citizens such as war,peace,freaty and external affairs.

Locke says that the government is a board of trustees.The best way of preventing the trustees from abusing their power is to divide them and their function.

Contralisation of power is dangerous and may lead to tyronny.Vigilance is the price of liberty.


Locke’s liberalism contains the needs of utilitarianism.Like Bentham,Locke holds the view that the object of all human actions is to substitute pleasure for pain.This pleasure or utility may be explained as one of the reason for making the contract to escape the state of nature and to form a state .Thus the objective of the state must be to deliver maximum happiness on pleasure to the individuals.

Thus locke profound influenced the development of political tbeory .