Author: Simmons, A.J.
Source: The Journal of Ethics, Volume 2, Number 3, 1998 , pp. 197-218(22)
Abstract:This paper examines the thesis that human labor creates property rights in or from previously unowned objects by virtue of labor's power to make new things. This thesis is considered for two possible roles: first, as a thesis to which John Locke might have been committed in his writings on property; and second, as a thesis of independent plausibility that could serve as part of a defensible contemporary theory of property rights. Understanding Locke as committed to the thesis of makers' rights has seemed to many of the best known recent Locke scholars to explain and unify Locke's various claims about property in a way that more traditional ``labor-mixing'' interpretations cannot. This paper argues that there is in fact no convincing evidence in Locke's texts to suggest any commitment to the thesis of makers' rights for humans. Further, not only does a version of the traditional labor-mixing argument yield a much superior interpretation of Locke's writings, it is an argument that is far more convincing than makers' rights arguments, quite independent of its usefulness in the interpretation of Locke's theory.
Document Type: Regular Paper
Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22903-2443, USA
Publication date: 1998