Locke, taxation and reform:a reply to Wood

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Abstract:

I defend my logic against the trenchant critique offered by Ellen Meiksins Wood and I take up the pertinent question, which she raises, of Locke's general attitude to the traditional constitution.

I assume in this section, but will argue further in the next, that the mass of people were taxpayers in Locke's time.

I begin, as ever, from Second Treatise ยง158 and with Locke's preference for ‘just and lasting . . . just and undeniably equal measures’. Wood entertains the idea that Locke thought that equal measures between taxpayers of different locality are of much greater importance than equal measures between taxpayers in all other respects. But this idea is surely mistaken, since Locke says nothing about rights which people have simply because of their locality and says much about the rights which all people have simply because they pay tax: it is these taxpayer rights which he depends upon even in his argument about localities. On the other hand, I think it is true that just measures for localities formed, in practical terms, the essential first step towards democratic changes: they still formed the essential first step in 1832, a fact which democrats of that time had to recognize, sometimes reluctantly.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Durham.

Publication date: January 1, 1992

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