The Origin, Justification, and Importance of Private Property

The private property usually is a result of exerted labor pressure on the available natural resources. According to Colombatto and Tavormina (2017), private property justifies the homestead principle, which claims that one can gain full permanent possession of natural resources not owned through the performance of original appropriation actions. This paper explores how private property originated, its justifications, and relevance as propounded by John Locke.

The origin of private property was first introduced during the reign of Plato where the word “property” referred to land ownership. The word gained its legal definition during the 17th century in England. John Locke suggests his property rights theory in the Second Treatise of Government as an idea which is rooted in natural laws. He identifies the laws of nature as the ones which allow people to use and exercise authority over everything in the world, such as land and other materialistic resources (Locke, 2012). In short, Locke’s proposed argument justifies the validity of individual ownership rights.

In the justification of the private property, Locke’s defense of natural law differs from other circulating accounts in the 17th and early 18th centuries, such as those of Thomas Hobbes and David Hume. For instance, Thomas Hobbes viewed property laws as the product of an acknowledged administration of a particular sovereign (Colombatto & Tavormina, 2017). Therefore, such an authority ensures peace which then enables people to engage in social and economic activities which surpass their aptitude to secure themselves.

Natural laws dictate that once men are born, they have a right to their preservation, and the right to eat among other components offered by nature. These provide people with an account of God’s grants to the world through Adam, Noah, and his sons. According to Locke (2012), a man’s labor and everything undertaken using his strength are all considered his property. He further states that anything a man obtains from nature as a result of his efforts and adds it to something of his own, it automatically becomes his possession or property (Locke, 2012). Labor is therefore an unquestionable entitlement of the man, a right which no one else should claim without concrete evidence.

The extent of labor from the man determines the measure of private property. Through hard work and persistence, a man can easily overcome any obstacle (Locke, 2012). Besides, a man’s possession can be confined to a moderate proportion, and he has the ability to self-appropriate sans injury to anyone. John Locke quotes the Holy Books of Psalms, which states why God gave the earth to man (Locke, 2012). According to Locke (2012), God directed the man to utilize all the land and rule over everything else on it for his own survival. From the Christianity point of view, it is clear that man was ordained to own the world including everything in it. The right to private property, as expressed by Locke (2012), encapsulates the relationship between God and man. He argues that man essentially lives in an environment where he must constantly seek answers only to nature’s laws. The law of nature therefore demonstrates that people are entitled to do what is pleasing to them as long as they preserve harmony.

In justifying the right to private property, Locke introduces the issue of the right to self-preservation. According to Colombatto and Tavormina (2017), men have the right to live a life which makes them happy. Locke (2012) believes that God already provided humans with all the materials they require to pursue a better future. He therefore states that natural resources may be useless unless men decide to work on them.

Locke proposes that the right to private property has a restraint. The restriction to this right states that, because God requires all his servants’ to remain contented, no human being must assume ownership of something if he endangers another (Locke, 2012). A man should not therefore take ownership of more than what he deserves. For instance, an individual may decide to purchase huge portions of land which are in the end not developed leading to wastage (Spitz, 2019). Locke (2012) states that there are many people who have gone against the directive by amassing more than they need. Such individuals are therefore deemed to have violated natural laws by acting contrary to the established dictations.

Importance of Private Property

The equality and generosity of the divine providence apply to all humans. It provides natural good in creating the everyday life of people. Locke also proposes that the means to appropriating these virtues must be available before they can be of use. Locke’s suggestion according to Spitz (2019) raises more questions on the legitimacy of private property. It is therefore critical for privately owned resources to be appropriated with the highest standards to generate more wealth instead of wasting them.

In conclusion, the paper has assessed the subject of property rights, the rationale behind it, and its significance from Locke’s point of view. John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government provides the justification and importance of private property. Locke’s approach of using various Bible quotes and logical reasoning has always been critical in helping him properly expound on his arguments on the subject of personal assets.


Colombatto, E., & Tavormina, V. (2017). The Origins of Private Property (IEL Working Paper No. 24; p. 23). Institute of Public Policy and Public Choice – POLIS.

Locke, J. (2012). Second treatise of government. Maestro Reprints.

Spitz, J.-F. (2019). Locke and private property. On what conditions can the right to exclude be justified? Raisons Politiques, No 73(1), 39–59.

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DemoEssays. "The Origin, Justification, and Importance of Private Property." February 25, 2022.