Continuing with Locke, we consider the topic Of Slavery: "freedom of men under government is, to have a standing rule to live by, common to every one of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it... not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man." (Princeton Readings p. 250)
Two points are crucial here. First, the sovereign, or the legislative power is not set apart from the people; the laws apply to "every one of that society." Second, the legislative power is bound by the law. As yet, its unclear how this would work, but the general idea is clear; the ruling power must answer to something outside of himself. As the Lockean inspired Jefferson was to later say of the men who governed the United States: "bind [them] down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."
Locke also provides an intriguing defense against voluntary slavery: "No body can give more power than he has himself; and he that cannot take away his own life, cannot give another power over it." (p. 250)
We then come to Locke's defense of private property. Although he quotes the Bible to add to his argument, he notes that both reason and revelation must credit his view: "men, being once born, have a right to their preservation, and consequently to meat and drink, and such other things as nature affords for their subsistence." (p. 250) This isn't very controversial. The contrary assertion is an absurdity which would quickly end human existence.
Locke's invaluable contribution comes shortly thereafter: "Though the earth, and all inferior creatures, be common to all men, yet every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property. It being by him removed from the common state nature hath placed it in, it hath by this labour something annexed to it, that excludes the common right of other men: for this labour being the unquestionable property of the labourer, no man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to, at least where there is enough, and as good, left in common for others." (p. 251)
Two points here. First, something becomes a man's property when he has "mixed his labor" with it. Thus Columbus cannot stick a Spanish flag into San Salvador and claim the entire island for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. But if his crew builds a hut on land which has not been touched by the natives, they may claim that property. Similarly, if the natives have cleared the land, they have "mixed their labor" with it, and Columbus can't go building a hut without permission. With this comes disputes; but if it's obvious how private property causes problems, it should also be clear that Locke's provisions makes settling these disputes possible.
Second, Locke gives no evidence to back up his claim that the earth, and all creatures, is common to all men. Certainly there are Biblical texts that one could quote to this effect, but this seems less consistent with the rest of Locke's thought. Rather than positing a primitive communism--which, though theologically sound, seems unnecessary for Locke's theory--one could argue that no ones owns any property until labor has been mixed with it. Indeed, at times Locke seems to argue against his first point. If everything is held in common, must we attain permission from everyone before appropriating a resource? Obviously this is, at a minimum, absurdly impractical.
Later theorists, like Murray Rothbard, were to make property rights absolute, but Locke believed--like Thomas--that they were conditional. "The same law of nature, that does by this means give us property, does also bound that property too. God has given us all things richly... But how far has he given it us? To enjoy. As much as any one can make use of to any advantage of life before it spoils, so much he may by his Labour fix a property in: whatever is beyond this, is more than his share, and belongs to others."
Locke runs into problems here. It's very reasonable to bound property by something; it's another matter entirely to determine how this is to be done. It's a bit unfair to expect Locke to have solved this conundrum himself, but it's worth pointing out lines for further development.
Another possible objection to Locke's idea of property rights is that, as my roommate put it, everything is already owned. If we are limiting everything to land, this is very near true. Locke realizes this to an extent. Hence he emphasizes the need for open land, mentioning colonial America as an example. And yet, while the earth is undoubtedly more crowded than it was in Locke's day, this doesn't invalidate property rights. The difficulty of holding everything in common is not lessened because there are more than six billion people--it is compounded. Further, we should remember that land is but one type of property.
Locke engages in a bit of monetary crankiness. It was only the invention of money which caused man to desire to get more property than he could reasonably use. Later in this section, he writes, "Thus in the beginning all the world was America, and more so than that is now; for no such thing as money was any where known. Find out something that hath the use and value of money amongst his neighbours, you shall see the same man will begin presently to enlarge his possessions." (p. 257) Locke's concern about greedy landowners is admirable, but we should note that money has contributed much to human happiness as well. It has enabled man to move beyond a simple barter economy, which leads to specialization, enriching society in the process--as Adam Smith and others were to show.
He argues--rightly--that gold and silver only have value because men believe they do. Given that the world has abandoned sound money for fiat currency, Locke's statement is prescient.
He also anticipates the labor theory of value: "Nor is it so strange, as perhaps before consideration it may appear, that the property of labour should be able to over-balance the community of land: for it is labour indeed that puts the difference of value on every thing; and let any one consider what the difference is between an acre of land planted with tobacco or sugar, sown with wheat or barley, and an acre of the same land lying in common, without any husbandry upon it, and he will find, that the improvement of labour makes the far greater part of the value." (p. 255) Yet the labor only has value because the sugar, or whatever other product is being cultivated to be consumed or sold, has value. Farmer Locke can plant weeds all day without increasing the value of the land substantially. Again, we musn't blame Locke here, even if the labor theory of value is wrong headed. It is nonetheless interesting to note where we may trace ideas.
I've gone and written too much on property rights. Feel free to add on, otherwise I'll try to put something together on the next few sections during the coming week.