John Locke, in his famous book “The Second Treatise of Government”, tells us about the necessity of a limited government for a peaceful social life by showing the negative aspects of the state of nature in which people live freely away from any kind of authority. Contrary to other social contract theorist Thomas Hobbes, Locke is very optimistic about the state of nature. The reason that directs him to optimistic views is his positive understanding of human beings. Locke thinks that human beings have a kind of “natural morality” that makes them good and honest. According to him, this natural morality is caused by the equality and the rationality of people. He believes that all humans are free and equal from their birth and this equality creates a kind of sympathy, mutual love between them. In Locke’s view, the same kind of species who live in the state of nature will see each other as precious and talented as themselves and thus, they will show respect and love towards others. Furthermore, rational human beings living in the state of nature, which is directed by a set of rules called the law of nature, will take rational decisions and will not make any offends to others’ rights. Also, they will always be just in judging the offenders except when they are affected by the crime.
After looking at this happy picture drawn by Hobbes, we can be surprised when we read his ideas about the necessity of a limited government. Hobbes does not make any explanations but we understand that although the majority of people are good and share the principles of natural morality, there are still some irrational or bad people in the society that are not in conformity with others. He claims that these people will soon or later spoil the social life and because of the appearance of violation of the natural morality and natural laws, other people will also lose their rationality and the state of nature will not be a pleasant place to live anymore. In order to prevent this chaotic life, Locke recommends us a kind of liberal democratic government model in which government’s power is limited and its duty is just to protect the basic rights of the individuals such right to live, right to have freedoms, right to have property and to make necessary regulations for the continuity of the harmonious social life.
In my opinion, although John Locke’s theory lacks the support of strong and concrete examples, he goes forward in the right way. As far as I am concerned, humans have this kind of natural morality inside them till the beginning of life. It is a fact that we are the smartest of all livings in the world and when we use our rationality by cooperating with each other and by taking help from science, we achieve amazing things. Our rationality is our biggest reason to conform to the norms of the humanity because we should have understood that when we spoil the social life by making an unjust act, this offend will be detrimental not only for the person affected by the unjust act, but also for all individuals in the society. Once problems and injustice begin to happen in an untied society, it continues and becomes widespread. That is why, governments are formed all over the world. When there is no central authority that decides on the problems arising in a society, everyone will try to distribute justice by himself or herself and soon the chaos will appear. Moreover, we have also some emotional reasons for obeying to the basic moral rules. We are social and emotional creatures and we have feelings like love, affection, pity etc. These feelings force us to behave tolerant in social relations. However, this emotional side also affects us in a negative way sometimes due to the possession of feelings like hate, jealousy etc. Locke’s idea about the meeting of the two creatures of the same kind may seem funny to us today because we think ourselves as the owners of this world and we live in crowded cities. However, think of two individuals lost in a jungle that is full of dangerous, wild animals. The meeting of these two people will make them close to each other because they will realize that they are same kind of creature and they will try to cooperate for solving external dangers. Locke’s idea of natural morality is close to today’s “human rights” or “natural rights” conceptions. There are certain rules that can never be violated in our world such as the right to live of a person. These rights are protected by some international agreements and everyone accepts the preciousness of human life. The rest to do for human beings is to form governments that will protect their freedoms, social order, provide equal opportunities to develop themselves and punish offenders. Also, we should realize the importance of humane values and act according to them.