Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Locke: The Second Treatise of Civil Government

I. Introduction
The life of John Locke had been influenced by the events surrounding the political life of 17th century British society. The 1688 Revolution gave this once-physician political thinker a base to which he would anchor his contribution to modern political theories. The weariness of monarchical rule and constant wars had raised questions in Locke about the value of absolute rule of few men. His First Treatise was written as an attack to the divine rights of kings.
Prominent in the ideas of Locke is the primacy of reason with moderation and toleration. Knowledge for him comes from the relationship between ideas and does not come as innate or revealed. He defines the state of nature against the political society. Central to him is the primacy of natural law that governs the basic rights of men: life, liberty, and equality. This general law finds expression in the civil society governed by legislated law and constituted by the common consent within the community. The supreme power comes from the people, and the government acts for the people and could be dissolved if it does not serve its goal.
In his seminal ideas, we find the interlocking and conflicting concepts synthesized: supremacy of the parliament, legislative supremacy, majority rule, the consent of the governed, and law as a standing rule.
III. Principles Which Are Prevalent in the Government.
The present government of the Republic of the Philippines has these principles embedded as its constitution based upon the principles of John Locke, stipulated in his book:

The Principle of Civil Society

This is the principle whereby subjects by voluntary submission according to his own will has quitted his natural power, resigned it up into the hands of the comunity in all cases that excludes not from appealing for protection to the law established by it. All private judgment of every particular member being excluded, the community comes to be umpire by settled standing rules, indifferent and the same to all parties, and by men having authority from the community for the execution of those rules, decides all the differences that may happen between any members of that society concernin any matter of right, and punishes those offences which any member has committed against the society with such penalities as the law has established.

The Principle of Legislative Power

Legislative body is not only the supreme power of the commonwealth but sacred and unalterable in the hands where the community have once placed it; nor can any edict of anybody else, in what form soever conceived or by what power soever backed, have the force and obligation of a law which has not its sanction from taht legislative which the public has chosen and apointed; for without this law could not have that which is absolutely necessary to its being a law: the consent of the society over whom nobody can have a power to make laws, but by their own consent and by authority received from them. It is not absolutely arbitrary over the lives and fortunes of the people, cannot rule by extemporary, arbitarary decrees, but is bound to dispense justice and to decide the rights of the subject by promulgated, stading laws, and the known authorized judges, cannot take from any man part of his property without his own consent, and cannot transfer any power of making laws to any other hands.

The Principle of Separation of Powers

Because the laws that are at once and in a short time made have a constant and lasting force and ned a perpatual execution or an attendance thereunto; therefore, it is necessary there should be a power always in being which should see to the execution of the las that are made and remain in force. And thus the legilslative and executive power come often to be separated.

The Principle of the Power of the People

Though in a constituted comonwealth, standing upon its own basis and acting according to its own nature, that is, acting for the preservation of th comunity, there can be but one supreme power which is the legislative, to which all the rest are and must be subordinate, yet, the legislative being only a fiduciary power to act for certain ends, there remains still in the people a supreme power to remove or alter the legislative when tey find the legislative act contrary to the trust reposed in them; for all power given with trust for the attaining an end being limited by that end whenever that end is maniestly neglected or opposed, the trust must necessarily be forgeited and the power devolve into the hands of those that gave it, who may place it anew where they shall think best for their safety and security.

The Principle of Resistance

There are two ways that the government be dissolved: when he who has the supreme executive power neglects and abandons that charge, so that the laws already made can no longer be put in execution, and when the legislative or the prince, either of them, act contrary to their trust.

By this breach of trust they forfeit the power the people had put into their hands for quite contrary ends, and it devolves to the people who have a right to resume their original liberty, and the establishment of a new legislative, such as they shall think fit, provide for their own safety and security, which is the end for which they are in society.

IV. Principles Which You Want to be Integrated in the Government.

With the present plight of the present government, it is still highly necessary to integrate not just a few of these principles but all of these into the civil society. The way the Arroyo government has been acting toward the people of the republic does not only breach the trust given to her but subjugate these principles for their own private ends. The principle of resistance against the government had been given a concrete form in the days of EDSA Revolution, but the soul that fomented it has not yet achieved its true goal. The summary killings of media men do not give occasion to the people to exercise its power, from which the power of the legislative and executive branch, and by extension the judiciary, emanates. John Locke stipulates that when the people sees that the trust given has been betrayed by those whom they have elected to power, it is by their own sovereign will to take it back as they think fit and elect anew.

The civil society sits on a fundamental purpose of self-preservation. The whole government should see to it that the society is guarded against the arbitrary and caprice of any other man’s will. This society protects its liberty against the assault from without and within. Yet, freedom has not yet been fully integrated within the government, where the interest of the few has stood unchallenged. The author anchors all powers to the community, which has the supreme power to judge the ones who rule over them. We still see people ejected from their properties, especially the indigenous groups, which have been their own since the days of their ancestors. And, the land hoarding and grabbing of wealthy barons have not been checked, such act deserves the consternation of the law, where the social contract principle is downplayed to suit its private interest. John Locke has categorized this under the “goods of fortune”, which is still a personal possession brought by natural endowments of each individual, given by their inherent uniqueness. This goods is preserved by the principle of social contract, whereby each man “being by nature all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate and subjected to the political power of another without his own consent”. In most cases, the judiciary remains deaf.


We have yet to fully integrate the principles set by the Second Treatise of Civil Government of John Locke. They sound so abstract in today’s reality. The danger posed in this case is when people become too indifferent to the institutions of a civil society and a widespread mistrust on the whole government that any call for change falls on “deaf” people. It is then imperative for all whom the principles are known to explicate them to the “ignorant” ones and remind the government of these noble ideals that breathe life to democracy. For all the political bickering our attention has been given into, we still need our voices to raise these questions and noble truths of our civil society.