Locke’s Road to Serfdom

by John Quiggin on October 18, 2015

The second instalment[^1] of my critique of Locke’s propertarian liberalism is up at Jacobin. I’m looking at an obvious (but, AFAICT, rarely asked) question about Locke’s theory: if land is acquired through agricultural labor, how is it that agricultural laborers have mostly been landless? The answer is simple: thanks to slavery and serfdom, it’s the owners of the laborers who acquire the property. To quote Locke

the grass my horse has bit; the turfs my servant has cut … become my property

Locke’s political practice in the Americas was consistent with his theory. In his Constitution of the Carolinas, he suggested the creation of “leetmen” — a hereditary class of landless laborers, tied to specific areas, and bound to work for aristocratic landowners. As I observe (the point isn’t original)

Locke didn’t really need a new word for this institution. The founding figure of classical liberalism was proposing, literally rather than metaphorically, a Road to Serfdom.

[^1]: I’ve done with Locke, but I’m planning a third instalment on Jefferson, his most important successor.

Sunday photoblogging: beach huts, Quiberville-Plage

by Chris Bertram on October 18, 2015

Beach huts - Quiberville-Plage, Quiberville, France

(for a much better photograph of a similar subject in a nearby location look [at this picture by Harry Gruyaert](http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2015/10/random-excellence-harry-gruyaert.html) via the Online Photographer, and then buy his book!)