Un-Locke Some Joy and Clarity

John Locke opens his, “Concerning the True Original Extent and End of Civil Government,” (which he wrote to combat the notion, en vogue at that time, of Divine Right of Kings—itself predicated on the idea that the King was descended from Adam), he opens with four points.

Paraphrased, he says, firstly, Adam had no right (nor did he claim any right) to be such a king—over his family or others. Secondly, Adam’s children were not passed any such right. Thirdly, if his children were passed such right, there is no way to tell which child of each successive family should or did receive the right. And fourthly, (here I’ll directly quote at length) “That if even that had been determined, yet the knowledge of which is the eldest line of Adam’s posterity being so long since utterly lost, that in the races of mankind and families of the world, there remains not to one above another the least pretense to be the eldest house, and to have the right of inheritance.”

Put shortly, Locke says, even if we believe Adam was endowed especially by God to be King, and even if this special endowment was to be passed on to one of his children (and then one of his children and on and on), too bad! We’ve dropped the ball. We’ve lost track! There’s been too many generations, too many brothers and sisters each generation! Next!

The clarity of his writing is enough to make anyone smile. So read more Locke. Especially if you want to criticize the government. Because as it stands, all criticism I come across is unfocused, unclear, and childlike. We can do better. John Locke is proof.

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