Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Case for Natural Law

From J. Budziszewski's book, "Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law:"

Introduction to John Locke

The basic steps in Locke's version of the theory are as follows:

1) To have a government is to have known, authorized, impartial judges over all, whose judgments can be "executed" or enforced.

2) In the beginning, however, there is no government. This is not just our original condition but our natural condition - our state of nature.

3) Having no government does not mean moral chaos because the state of nature has a law of nature to govern it.

4) But the fact that people recognize the law of nature does not mean that they always obey it, so it must be enforced.

5) Enforcement of the natural law means especially enforcement of natural rights, probably because individuals are responsible only to God in points of natural law that do not affect others.

6) Enforcement also entails imposing punishments, provided they do not exceed the natural-law limits of reparation and restraint - that is, provided that they do not go beyond what is necessary for compensation of damages and prevention of further wrongdoing.

7) But because there is no government, each person is himself an "executioner" or enforcer of the law of nature. 


8) Now, even when a person knows the principles that ought to be enforced, he finds it difficult to apply them with coolness and impartiality when his own interests are concerned.

9) For this reason, self-enforcement does not work very well; natural rights are persistently violated, and in punishment the limits of reparation and restraint are persistently transgressed.

10) The remedy for this inconvenience is for all the people in a particular area to appoint certain persons to serve as impartial judges - to be a government.

11) But this does not work unless the judges can enforce their judgments, and they cannot enforce their judgments unless people first agree to transfer their "executive," or enforcement, power to the community as a whole.

12) The mutual promise or agreement that transfers the enforcement power to the community as a whole is called the social covenant, or social contract. Once this agreement is made, people are said to have left the state of nature and entered the state of civil society.

13) Entering civil society is not the same thing as setting up a government. There is no going back on the agreement to enter civil society; however, the people can change their minds about the proper form of government. 

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