Locke and Hobbes


The formation of government is one of the central themes for both Hobbes and Locke. Whether or not men naturally form a government, or must form a government, is based on man?s basic nature. According to Hobbes, a government must be formed to preserve life and prevent loss of property. According to Locke, a government arises to protect life and property. Governments are born of inequality and formed to administer equality.
Hobbes goes into a lot of detail concerning man?s interactions with one another including ways in which man can seek to live "together in Peace, and Unity" (page 69). However, Hobbes focuses on the interactions of man seeking the same goal. In any system of limited resources, "Competition of Riches, Honour, Command, or other power enclineth to Contention, Enmity, and War: Because the way of one Competitor, to attaining of his desire, is to kill, subdue, supplant, or repell the other" (page 70).
Hobbes also deals with the qualities which man possess, and how they affect a man?s basic nature. Man who is charismatic leads others to confide in him. Charisma combined with military ability causes men to follow others as leaders. Those who think of themselves as leaders, the "Men that have a strong opinion of their own wisdome in matter of government, are disposed to Ambition" (page 72).
According to Hobbes "Nature hath made men so equall, in the faculties of body, and mind; as that though there bee found one man sometimes manifestly stronger in body, or of quicker mind then another; yet when all is reckoned together, the difference between man, and man, is not so considerable" (page 86-87). Furthermore man tend to see himself as wisest in matters, whether or not others may do things better, and that there is no great sign of equal distribution, "than that every man is contended with his share" (page 87).
Hobbes and Locke consider the formation of government from man?s own nature, whether or not government is formed because man is a social animal or if government is formed to preserve society. According to Locke, man must not "think that all government in the world is the product only of force and violence, and that men live together by no other rules but that of beasts" (page 1). "To understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature" (page 3).
Unlike Hobbes, whose laws of nature have to deal with man?s preserving of his own life, Locke chooses to apply the term to the idea of reason, by saying that if man reasons about the fundamental concerns that government arises to protect life and property, man can come to certain natural conclusions about how they should be protected.
One of Locke?s central themes is the distribution of property. In a state of natural abundance "all the fruits it naturally produces, and beasts it feeds, belong to mankind in common" (page 18). In this situation the only thing man naturally owns is "his own person. This no body has any right to but himself" (page 18). Therefore, man is in a way equal, however it is an imperfect equality. "Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property" (page 18). Therefore, everything belongs to mankind in general, until a man decides to take it upon himself to acquire something from its pure state in nature, and since he has to work to achieve this, the fruits of the labor are his.
Locke also believes that if somebody takes more than he can use, and it spoils, or if somebody takes more land than he can cultivate, or if somebody allows crops to whither without being picked, they are committing crimes against humanity. However if somebody takes an acre of land, and by planting on it and harvesting the crop produces the same amount of food that can naturally be found in ten acres, they are in fact giving to mankind. As long as there is plenty of land left to take "he