According to Locke, private property can be legitimately acquired from the commons through a mutual consent from the involved parties. Locke’s theory provides a number of ownership principles that define acquisition of property ownership by the state from the commons. The first principle is captured by the fact that one can claim legitimate ownership of a previously unonwned property through their labor on the property (Tavani 87). For instance, farmers who depend on agriculture as their source of income are considered legitimate owners of a given farmland. This might, however, lead to conflict with pastoralists who visit a green area during rainy seasons and disappear when drought strikes a given land.
It is, nevertheless, vital to acknowledge that private property can be legitimately acquired from the commons through a mutual consent or agreement from the involved parties. A farmer, for instance, is recognized as a legitimate owner of given piece of land – as illustrated in the above description. If the state decides to build a road that passes through the farmer’s land, they are legally obliged to compensate the farmer with measurable worth, in monetary value, since it is a private property. According to Locke, this compensation should be directly equated to the value or worth of the farmland in terms of how many generations that land has sustained.
According to Locke, acquiring private property using legally accepted procedures would not harm others when perceived from various angles. For instance, Locke argues that private property has a particular sources of ownership that is attached to a particular person(s). Consequently, for the state to own a private property, a legitimate shift of property ownership should be legally prescribed under the Law of Nature (Tavani 87). It is also vital to note that acquiring private property through compensation would not harm other people since the newly acquired property would be used for the benefit of commons. When ethically addressed, such a motive would enhance the legitimacy of a government which supports and respect private property and consequent use of public land to benefit the majority of commons. For instance, the earlier scenario where the state acquires a farmland to construct a road is an illustration as to how private property can be acquired for the benefit of the larger public. The road, in this case, would be used by the common for movement of goods and people from point A to point B.
From a personal point of view, Locke’s arguments are ethically and logically relevant with respect to the Law of Nature and principles that define humanity and ownership of natural resources. There are individuals who manipulate the Law of Nature to acquire private land based on self-centered interests. For instance, some governments evict people – forcefully – from their ancestral homes which defines their social and economic way of life. Such institutions claim that the land will be used by the public by building infrastructure as well as schools and hospitals. However, a close look on the ownership legitimacy of private property fail to recognize the human essence of acquiring such ownership (Houlgate 128). This is to say that the public land is later converted to private property through legal procedures related to bankruptcy and auctioneering. For instance, a public hospital that was acquired from commons for the benefit of the public can go bankrupt due to ineffective management practices. This, legally, permits the ruling authority to sell the property since it is not serving its intended mandate. Through modern corrupt practices, public property sees its ownership transferred to a private individual illegally. Locke’s principles of private property are breached and illegal practices oppresses a certain minority group who end up without an ancestral ownership to private property.
Houlgate, Laurence D. “John Locke on Naturalization and Natural Law: Community and Property in the State of Nature.” Citizenship and Immigration-Borders, Migration and Political Membership in a Global Age. Springer, Cham, 2016. 123-136.
Tavani, Herman T. “Balancing intellectual property rights and the intellectual commons: A lockean analysis.” Computer Ethics. Routledge, 2017. 85-94