Essay Sample on John Locke's View on Power and Government

Published: 2023-04-02
Essay Sample on John Locke's View on Power and Government
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Politics Political science Philosophers Constitution
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1687 words
15 min read

John Locke is a British philosopher commonly known as the father of liberalism for advocating for the separation of governmental powers, and the promotion of civil liberty and revolution as an obligation of the citizens. Locke's political philosophy presents an intriguing exposition that continues to influence modern society (Sharon, 2019). Though perceived as extremely radical during the monarch era, Locke's principles advocated for the rights of the citizens that would guarantee freedom of the people. He argues that a legitimate government should embrace the idea of separation of powers rather than concentrating ultimate authority over a single entity (Win, 2019). He adds that separating the governmental powers between the executive and legislature provides a platform for controlling the overwhelming urge to misuse authority. The legislature is bound by the constitution to formulate laws, and that guide the activities in the society and corresponding punishment for their violation (Tate, 2016). Locke ascertains that while the legislature formulates government laws, the executive is charged with the power to enforce the formulated laws. Nevertheless, the laws must correspond to the laws of nature. Living in the Monarch society between 1632 and 1704, Locke believed that power entailed the responsibility and functions that an institution performed (Zhang & Long, 2018). Separating or sharing power between institutions would result in accountability and regulation of the authority and protection of natural rights held by the people. For instance, since the legislative functions and authority were shared between the King, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons, which needed to agree before specific declarations become laws, the executive should possess the federative power to act on formulated laws according to laws of nature (Collins, 2020).

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Although John Locke agreed with Thomas Hobbes that human beings are self-centered creatures, he had a positive attitude towards embracing democratic government. He argued that the legitimacy of a government stemmed from its ability to exercise authority according to the consent of the governed. Locke adds that the legislature should also consist of the assembly of elected and nominated representatives rather than only the aristocratic and monarchical representatives (Sharon, 2019). He believes that establishing a mixed constitution was within the rights and fundamental freedom of the people to ensure the government protects and upholds the civil liberties of the people such as the right to life, speech, assembly, religion, press and the right to petition the government. For example, the people's representatives in the legislature would prevent citizens from extortion through unfair taxation without legal justification and deter attacks on citizen's civil liberty and rights (Win, 2019). The very existence of the government is founded in its obligation to promote the public good and protecting the property, liberty and life of its people. Locke confirms that the government should consider the power of the community to remove or alter its legislative power. The principle of holding separate but shared entity powers should be embraced by a legitimate government to help in instigating adherence to the rule of law and the Constitution (Collins, 2020). The coordination between the legislature and the executive regulates the absolute power of the government as it requires the approval of people's representative, unlike the monarchical system that imposed oppressive laws on the people for selfish gains and corrupt agenda (Schouls, 2018). Nevertheless, despite advocating for cooperation and coordination between the executive and the legislature, Locke affirms that through the doctrine of prerogative, the executive has the right to exercise power without the ultimate authority of the law to preserve human rights and life but the legislature can always overrule the executive's decision to exercise prerogative doctrine (William, 2017).

Analysis of Locke's Ideology

John Locke political philosophy is fundamental in ensuring the government exercise its powers within specific limits. Separating the powers between different entities of the government, whether executive, legislature or even judiciary, promote the formulation and execution of just laws that do not infringe the rights and freedom of the citizens (Zhang & Long, 2018). Leaving total supremacy and authority to a single government entity may result in oppression and tyrannical rule of chaos. Advocating for a democratic form of government that promotes inclusivity without marginalization is the foundation of a prosperous society (Collins, 2020). Like John Locke argued, upholding a mixed constitution that allowed representation of the ordinary citizens, monarch and the aristocrats in the legislature is vital for the just and ethical leadership within society (Sharon, 2019). Limiting the power of the government in instigating and implementing laws ensures that all people's civil rights are protected irrespective of human differences based on socioeconomic class, religious beliefs or ideologies (Win, 2019). According to the ultimate authority to one individual or entity would consequently promote political arrogance, social oppression, economic exploitation and religious marginalization. As society evolved, possessing such absolute powers and supremacy without appropriate accountability and adherence to natural laws, society would crumble.

The separation of power, functions and responsibility enables the political elites to run the government in a manner that fosters rights and freedoms of the people rather than propelling corrupt and greedy gains without the consent of the people (Collins, 2020). For example, adopting a democratic attitude and leadership allows a country to defend the rights of its people (Zhang & Long, 2018). Moreover, like in the natural state, where no government existed, all human beings were independent and equal regardless of their unique characteristics and attribution. In the laws of nature, every individual had the power to protect his or her property, liberty, health and life (Schouls, 2018). Most scholars believe that despite the people handing over some of their privileges to the government and their consent to be led, the government should operate to without infringing any rights of the citizens (Win, 2019). It must strive to foster laws that result in the common good and extensive advantages to most of its citizens rather than enriching or empowering specific aristocratic individuals. Though human beings are self-centered, with reasons and tolerance, they can form a government with separate branches holding different functions and powers to build a sane and stable society (William, 2017). Therefore, unlike Thomas Hobbes, John Locke's political ideology of democracy and separation of powers within different branches like executive, legislature and judiciary help in managing human self-centred attitude and interest when in political leadership positions.

Application of Locke's Ideology

The ideology of governmental separation of power formulated the foundation of the American Constitution and leadership. The founding fathers of America advocated for the regulation and limit of government power enrooted in the Magna Carta of 1215, which limited the monarch rule (Schouls, 2018). Though highly ignored, Magna Carta availed a platform for democratic leadership though the basis of the establishment of parliament to intervene in government affairs (Sharon, 2019). Like John Locke, the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, advanced the perception of natural rights, which gave the citizens the obligation to revolt and overthrew a government that operated contrary to the laws of nature. The American Constitution highly emphasized the protection of civil rights as the foundation of good leadership. Through the formulation of the judiciary and the supreme court, America ensures the rights and freedom of her citizens are protected from despotic governmental activities. John Locke's political philosophy inspired the enactment of the Petition of Rights of 1628 in England (Win, 2019). The constitutional reform, which contended that the government's jurisdictional powers are highly restricted and limited. For instance, the monarch could neither levy any taxes without parliament's approval, use martial legislations during peace, nor imprison citizens without probable cause (Tate, 2016). Therefore, promoting the independence and sovereignty of the people within Europe.

Though the Petition of Rights of 1628 in England only protected English men, it instigated the formulation of the First Amendment to the American Constitution in 1951. The Act deterred the government from enacting laws that regulated citizens' right to speech, religion, press, assembly and petitioning the government (Collins, 2020). As Locke argued, a legitimate government operates by promoting the independence and natural rights of its citizens. Through equal representation in the legislature, the representatives of the people could easily ensure the elimination of oppressive and marginalizing legislation before the executive enacts them. The incorporation of Locke's philosophy in the Constitution substantially propelled the country to its stable status after more than 200 years (Zhang & Long, 2018). Through adequate modification and amendments, the democracies of different nations, whether developed on developing, capitalists or communists, Locke's ideology affected a vital process that ensured the decentralization of despotic rule that marginalized its citizens. Consequently, Locke's belief in reason and tolerance has endorsed the development of checks and balances within modern politics to limit and prevent any branch of the government from abusing power (William, 2017). Therefore, while the government implements sanctions, it must operate in a manner that respects the rights and freedom of the people. Running the government contrary to the laws of nature and civil liberty, regretfully result in oppression which consequently instigates revolution among the people and overthrow of governments (Tate, 2016).

Conclusively, John Locke founded a platform for promoting political liberalism which limited government power and authority. In the Two Treatises of Government, Locke advocated for the protection of natural laws and the civil liberty of the people, which could only be attained through separation and limitation of governmental powers. Running the government requires accountability and transparency that are attained when its operations are monitored or regulated by an independent institution. Living in a monarchical society that gave absolute authority to the King as advocated by Thomas Hobbes, John Locke disputed Hobbes's assertion that humans are self-centered and cannot govern themselves but only through dictatorship and an iron fist. The belief in democratic government that Locke propelled had significantly dominated contemporary society with different states employing separate entities of the government to share power. The formation of the executive, legislature, and judiciary ensures leaders enact laws that promote the well-being of its citizens without violating the rule of law or the constitution. With the First Amendment of 1951, the American citizen is guaranteed the right to enjoy his or her fundamental civil liberties. Therefore, John Locke's political philosophy and view on the separation of governmental powers and function have significantly streamlined modern politics and government leaders across the globe.

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