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A Point of View: John Locke for these modern times

HAMBURG — The following column was written by guest columnist Dr. Robert Heichberger.

Today’s news headlines carry ominous phrases such as “the economy in stress,” “Where are the jobs?” “scandal after scandals,” “threats of terror” and “freedoms eroded.”

What will be the outcome of our troubling times? We should follow the prescription provided to us by English scholar John Locke.

The Declaration of Independence claimed the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Thomas Jefferson’s ideas were great and expansive, but not necessarily original. He drew many of these ideas from Locke.

Locke believed in a democratic constitution, one which served as the basis for the American Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

Jefferson was Locke’s student. When drafting these documents of state, Jefferson relied on his teacher’s writings, for guidance.

Our forefathers also identified with the scholar’s way of thinking. In many ways, Locke inspired the development of the colonial government, which has lasted for more than 200 years.

Locke originally maintained that man had the right to life, liberty and property. These were to be protected by the state.

The scholar advocated entering a “social contract,” whereby men would agree to concede some of their autonomy to gain protection from each other.

This contract is the document that delegates the duties of the state to man and man’s duties to the state. It defines the relationship between man and his government. The contract ends the state of nature and allows for representative democracy and a fair and impartial judge to hear and resolve disputes.

Locke discussed the labor of man as something of his own. From this concept comes the basis of property which, defined by Locke, is all that a man can produce, with his labor. The bounty of that labor belongs to him and no other.

Locke said, “Every person has a property in his own person that belongs to oneself.” Men entered into a social contract, to protect their property from the exploitation and pillage of rogue men and thieves.

Men created a state to protect themselves and their property from each other. Under this system, property is protected and autonomy is preserved.

Countries that follow Locke’s system respect individual rights and personal freedoms. States that do not know Locke’s principles are the poorest and most oppressed.

People of the free world thrive from the ideas about which Locke wrote, 300 years ago. They have stood the test of time.

The next several years will be pivotal, for our republic. Our leaders should follow Locke’s lead.

And that is a point of view.
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