Peet_Classical_Economics_pp_23-39

Peet_Classical_Economics_pp_23-39 - 22 THEORIES OF...

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22 THEORIES OF DEVELOPMENT EconomicTheories of Growth and Development 23 The English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) began by accept- ing the medieval Christian view that God originally gave the earth and its products to all people in common. Yet, Locke contended, human indi- viduals had a right to preserve their own lives, and therefore had rights to the subsistence (food, drink) derived from the earth. But before the natural produce of the earth could be used, he argued, it had to be appropriated by individuals with rights over their own persons, labor, and work. By mixing labor with earth the individual made nature into property-providing, Locke added, enough was left for others, and products did not perish uselessly in their appropriators' hands. Thus' property rights extended from the products of nature and labor to the land people cultivated and improved. Later Locke added that while the natural right to property held in primitive society, the invention of money, together with a tacit agreement to place value on it, removed previous limitations on the extent of property ownership: first, because money did not spoil and people began to desire more than they immedi- ately needed (so that land and money were accumulated as capital); sec- ond, because the greater productivity of appropriated land made up for a lack of land available to others (hence appropriation beyond the limits of individual labor took on positive value); and third, because labor was unquestionably the individual's property, it could be sold for a wage, with the buyer (employer) entitled to appropriate the product. For Macpherson (1962: 221), this latter set of arguments justified not only unequal property relations, but also legitimated unlimited individual appropriation and, we might add, legitimated employer-employee wage relations in capitalist societies. Two further points might be added. First, ideas very similar to Locke's were important in the United States which, in Puritan New England especially, was originally settled under the prin- ciple of one (white, male) person, one piece of property of appropriate size for family labor. Second, Locke was a shareholder in the Royal Afri- can Company whose most profitable "commodity" was slaves. The Lockean notion of human rights presupposed ideas about who was human, which excluded all aboriginal and black people, and usually women as well. The .liberating notion of human rights, a founding moment of modern, democratic freedom, was replete with exclusions and rife with contradictions. We live with their effects today. Finally, the Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) tried to introduce experimental methods, derived from Newton's physics, into the study of morality. Through observation (presumably of those he found around him), Hume concluded that all humans were compelled by a consuming passion, which he described as an avidity (greed) for goods and possessions, a drive that he found directly destructive of society. Yet
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Peet_Classical_Economics_pp_23-39 - 22 THEORIES OF...

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