Essentially all libertarians rely on Lockean homesteading and cite him in the evolution of their thought. But he was not in any way libertarian. He insisted on regulation of markets, limitations of property rights and redistribution of wealth. But his theory of property (which many libertarians adopt) also supported expropriation, enslavement, and serfdom.
- The Lockean Fable of Initial Acquisition (10 links)
- Also known as the labor theory of property. John Locke tells a story (nothing more) that ignores the fact that current real-world ownership is based on past theft and conquest (expropriation) not initial acquisition (appropriation.) Initial acquisition without government is a myth. "Mixing of labor" is merely expenditure of effort: it does nothing to create property because property is a socially constructed institution.
- Homesteadin' Is the Place for Me [More...]
- How the homesteading idea was an excellent excuse for the theft of lands by the 17th-century English landowning class.
- John Locke Against Freedom [More...]
- John Locke’s classical liberalism isn’t a doctrine of freedom. It’s a defense of expropriation and enslavement.
- John Locke Says Everything Belongs to Everyone [More...]
- Locke straightforwardly claims that the poor have a right to the surplus property of the rich when they are in need.
- John Locke’s Road to Serfdom [More...]
- John Locke advocated for a world based on expropriation, enslavement, and serfdom.
- Locke’s Folly [More...]
- "Jeffersonian Democrats made a serious attempt to implement Locke’s theories. Colonization and expropriation followed."
- Reclaiming John Locke from libertarians [More...]
- "Locke does support the institution of private property ownership, but not in the absolute sense that libertarians do. He thinks that justice demands redistribution from the wealthy to the very needy and checks on the coercive power that property owners have."
- The Libertarian Reader: Classic & Contemporary Writings from Lao-Tzu to Milton Friedman (book)
- (1998) David Boaz cherry picks passages from historical figures as if they wouldn't object strongly to modern libertarianism. Plus selections from the usual ideologues.
- Two Treatises on Government (book, online)
- One of the major parents of early liberalism. The "mixing of labor to make property" claim comes from here.
But the 17th-century English landowning class had a problem. They had been busy robbing both the English peasant and the American Indian of their land. To their credit, they couldn't admit openly to themselves that they had been doing so. While the Athenians could just say to the Melians that it was natural for the powerful to dominate the weak, or the Israelites could simply claim a land as God's chosen people, these options were not open to 17th-century English Christians. They needed a good justification for their theft. And Locke's homesteading doctrine is formulated very precisely to give them one: only when a man "tills, plants, improves, cultivates" some piece of land does he actually gain ownership of it. So, there you go! Just because some English peasants had grazed a pasture for a thousand years, or some "naked savages" had hunted it for five thousand years, that land wasn't really theirs, because they hadn't done with it what a member of the landed gentry would, which was to enclose it and farm it (or at least the part not reserved for the folly and the decorative fish pond).
Gene Callahan, "Homesteadin' Is the Place for Me"
Contra Locke, property is not made by mixing labor: it is made by mixing coercion.
Mike Huben, "Interview With Mike Huben, Creator Of Critiques Of Libertarianism"
The true liberal tradition is represented not by Locke, but by John Stuart Mill, whose wholehearted commitment to political freedom was consistent with his eventual adoption of socialism (admittedly in a rather refined and abstract form). Mill wasn’t perfect, as is evidenced by his support of British imperialism, for which he worked as an official of the East India Company, and more generally by his support for limitations on democratic majorities. But Mill’s version of liberalism became more democratic as experience showed that fears about dictatorial majorities were unfounded.
John Quiggin, "John Locke Against Freedom"
The jump from the right to self-ownership to the right of property ownership always occurs hastily, as if the libertarian knows full well he’s fudging one of the most dubious steps of his proof. Boaz makes the unfortunate decision to choose John Locke’s theory of “labor mixing” as his preferred means of papering over the leap. This is the theory, dating from 1689, that when a person “mixes” her labor with a thing (say by turning a tree into a chair), she develops a property right in it. Why this should be so, nobody knows. What “mixing” even is, nobody knows either. Boaz doesn’t attempt to define it; its function is simply to jury-rig a rickety theoretical bridge that will suffice until the next deduction is made. So long as the reader blinks, she will fail to notice that the entire natural rights justification for property is built upon flashy prestidigitation.
Nathan Robinson, "Oh God, Please Not Libertarianism..."
But we know God hath not left one man so to the mercy of another, that he may starve him if he please: God the Lord and Father of all has given no one of his children such a property in his peculiar portion of the things of this world, but that he has given his needy brother a right to the surplusage of his goods; so that it cannot justly be denied him, when his pressing wants call for it: and therefore no man could ever have a just power over the life of another by right of property in land or possessions; since it would always be a sin, in any man of estate, to let his brother perish for want of affording him relief out of his plenty.
John Locke, "Two Treatises on Government, Chapter 4, §. 42."