Magazine December 17, 2020, Issue

Bander, Gaia, Locke

John Locke (Pictore/Getty Images)
How today’s anti-liberals get the Second Treatise of Government wrong

The consent of free and equal individuals is the only secure foundation of just and humane government, and John Locke’s Second Treatise explains why. But “consent” and “individuals” can be interpreted in different ways. Giving them implausible meanings unfaithful to the text of Locke’s masterpiece, recent critics, most prominently Yoram Hazony in The Virtue of Na­tional­ism, have advanced a worrisome alternative.

To understand how the interpretation is unfaithful and why the alternative is worrisome, one must understand what people are, and what they are not. And to that end, it will help to keep in mind two fantastical human specimens from

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