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Locke, Stock & Barrel



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I’ve been crazy busy, but a bunch of interesting Locke email has piled up. So here’s a few in no particular order:

I thought this was especially interesting:

If you haven’t done so in a while, re-read Russell Kirk’s two chapters on Burke and Locke in The Conservative Constitution.  Put simply, Kirk asserts that our fixation on Locke’s influence has more to do with Charles Beard than John Adams.    As a teacher of World and US History and US Government, I can attest to the fact that most textbooks and stadardized tests are heavy on Locke, and Burke virtually ignored.  In other words, for three straight years, high school students in California get a steady dose of John Locke and nothing about Burke.    Why does this matter?  According to Kirk, our founders’ vision was much more attuned to that of Burke than Locke.  While neither are mentioned in the Federalist Papers or Madison’s notes on the ratification debates (Montesquieu looms large there), Burke’s arguments against innovation in Parliament as well as his newspapers were, according to Kirk, far more widely read and in the minds of the Founders than Locke.  John Adams, for example, was thoroughly unimpressed with Locke as a planner of legislative government.
This, from one of my pastor e-friends is a bit above my head, but interesting nonetheless: 

Not to take you off into the weeds of theological discourse, chief, but Locke was vaguely Arminian (John Wesley the best known English advocate) as opposed to Calvinism, where “man’s depravity” was rooted in a theology of original sin that also picks up a concept called “limited atonement” claiming Jesus’ death was not for all, leaving us free to choose to accept that sacrifice, but only for the Elect whom God had pre-destined and pre-ordained to receive the blessing of eternal life.

John Wesley and others (the Anglican church was — and is!! — muddled about how they actually see this, trying to leave room for both inside their communion) were adamant that Christ died for all, and we were given “prevenient grace” by God’s gracious initiative which allowed and empowered us to “choose” salvation.  Calvinists then and now accurately see Locke as, at minimum, not Calvinist, but as a good Methodist Arminian myself, i can’t claim Locke as one of our own, but he was as convinced of original sin as any Arminian — he just didn’t buy predestination and total depravity, which is where your “crudely made points” interlocutor seems to be coming from.

And then on the healthcare bit, there was this:

Jonah,

In reference to health care, an earlier reader wrote: “And thus they are squarely in Rousseau’s world.  And I can’t think of a way out of it.  Politically, what can we offer to put both sides in Locke’s world?”  The answer is simple, choice.

Frame the debate as the one of choice versus government mandate.  The reason most people despise HMOs is a lack of choice.  It will be even worse if the government picks the doctors and treatments.  This reframes the debate. 

Do you really want the people that designed the Department of Motor Vehicles and the TSA to pick your prescription?  If you don’t like what they prescribe what alternative will you have?  If your love one gets sicker or dies because of the treatment who can you sue?  Nobody likes to be told what to do, especially when a bully is the one giving the orders.  Remind people that government is the ultimate bully and you’re in Locke’s world.



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