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property rights

Updated on October 19, 2014

Property rights by leading philosophers

The right to consume, use and posses property. Private property is one of the most basic item in society and used by pretty much everybody.

To critically evaluate property rights in the UK we will be looking at a number of philosopher's ideas.

Thomas Hobbes believed that people are selfish by nature and vicious. In the time before governments which he calls the state of nature theft and an anarchic civilisations which Hobbes describe as being "nasty, brutish and short". He believed that the "society" after the state of nature was entered into by men to secure their property. He believed this was done by people surrendering some of your rights to the state in order to secure mans property.

Hobbes believed that the sovereign as the divine right to rule which was a god giving right. His theory was in place to prevent to undermine the legitimacy of revolutions against the government. Hobbes goes on to say that human beings are selfish and every act we do is self serving including giving to charity means we use this to exercise our power. Therefore establishing human beings are selfish people who can not be 'trusted' in a way to govern themselves to secure their property. Aristotle agreed with this point and stated that we are all social animals by nature and it is in our nature to be ruled.

Hobbes believed that if we did not surrender our right to the state we will fall into anarchy and return to the state of nature once again. He then again believed that the sovereign must have absolute power for this to be achieved. Without the sovereign being in full control and not being party to the contract, it would be impossible to ensure that mans property would be secure from others. However he did not believe that the state consists of a person, it is more of an artificial state.

However John Locke on the other hand has an opposite view to property rights. Locke believed that if you mix your labour with the land your outcome will become your property and that this is mans right under God. He did not state that you must surrender your rights to the sovereign, but the sovereign should surrender their powers to other area's of government (separation of powers). This will ensure that the government will not have full control over our property. Should the government fail to protect the rights of the people then the citizens have the right to remove the government without fear of death. His view was to only have the government in place to protect the rights of the people and keep the governments to a minimum.

Locke was very much engaged in the life of the ruling class. He was the tutor to the earl of Shaftesbury.

Another philosopher who has an opinion on property, is Karl Marx. Karl Marx states we are living in a capitalist society with only two class systems, the ruling class (bourgeoisies) who own the means of productions and the (proletarians) who only own their labour and are controlled by the ruling class. He believed that a class struggled will eventually lead to a communist society where there will be no class system and everybody will have equal share in the property.

Marx believed it was human nature to produce 'things' such as property. However the government will always be in favour of the ruling class who will own the majority of the property. Meaning that mans property

Rousseau Jean Jacques agreed with Locke where he believed we have to submit ourselves to society in order to be free. Rousseau believed that the person who said that "this land is mine" and got people to believe him was the founder of civil society. He believes that earth belongs to nobody but the fruits of the earth belong to everybody. Therefore property is a transition of when man went from being in the state of nature to the society.

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