Wolf-man versus Mother Goose

Locke’s “takings” rendered a godly act, misunderstood by poor Marx as “primitive accumulation.”

Such beautiful little stories that natural rights philosophers tell themselves:

He that is nourished by the Acorns he pickt up under an Oak, or the Apples he gathered from the Trees in the Wood, has certainly appropriated them to himself. No Body can deny but the nourishment is his. I ask then, When did they begin to be his? When he digested? Or when he eat? Or when he boiled? or when he brought them home? Or when he pickt them up? And ’tis plain, if the first gathering made them not his, nothing else could. That labour put a distinction between them and the common. That added something to them more than Nature, the common Mother of all, had done; and so they became his private right.

John Locke, Two Treatises of Government. Second Treatise, § 28.

Acorns, Apples, and Trees: Mother Goose has nothing on this.

As far it goes in the natural rights genre, Hobbesian horror stories are preferable to Lockean nursery rhymes. In the apparently empty forest, Hobbes’ wolf-man would be justified by right in ripping out the stomach of Locke’s gentle-man hunter and gatherer in order to gain access to its contents. The wolf’s bite proves superior to the quaint bit about “labour.”


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