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What are some of John Locke's key beliefs regarding the role of government?

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British political theorist and philosopher John Locke is known for his belief in a system of limited government in which natural rights are the basis for a social contract existing between the governed and their government. Because of the inherently unstable state of nature, Locke believed that people relinquish certain rights in exchange for an agreement with their government that provides protection from harm and security for their property and possessions. Locke also advocated a separation of powers in government and wrote powerful arguments in defense of religious tolerance.

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One of Locke's most important claims was his argument that God did not create man to be naturally ruled by a monarch. His concept of a social contract defines a legitimate form of government as one in which people in the unstable state of nature conditionally transfer some of their natural rights to government in exchange for that ruling body's guarantee of stability, safety and promotion of the public good. When a government fails to do so, however, the people have the natural right to resist and replace that government. In this way, Locke advocates the right of revolution that became a main premise of the American Declaration of Independence. The concept of a separate legislative and executive branch in the construction of a government was also taken from Locke, along with the belief that the governed should have representatives with enough power to block any attempts at unjust taxation or attacks on individual liberty.

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    How did John Locke influence the Constitution?

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    Despite holding citizenship in England, John Locke promoted a government powered by the people and for the benefit of citizens. Locke lived during the 17th century, and had a prime role in shaping the spirit and language of the United States Constitution. Locke expressed his opinions on proper governance through several key works, including the "Second Treatise of Government," which established fundamental criteria for a sound and legitimate government.

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  • Q:

    According to John Locke, what is the purpose of government?

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    John Locke believed that the purpose of the government was to help all people achieve equal natural rights, and that the government was obliged to protect and defend its citizens. Locke rejected the belief that some people were born to divinely rule over others simply because they belonged to a higher class. Locke firmly believed that even a monarchy should only reign with the consent of the people. His wayward, radical beliefs at the time made him a target for British monarchs that believed average citizens should stay in their place and out of government activities.

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  • Q:

    What was the basic belief of the Declaration of Independence?

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    The underlying belief of the Declaration of Independence is that men have God-given natural rights and that government exists to protect those rights. The premise of this doctrine came from John Locke, who believed that if the government no longer serves to protect the needs of its citizens, then those citizens have the right to alter or abolish the government.

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  • Q:

    How did Thomas Hobbes and John Locke view the purpose of government?

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    John Locke believed that the government existed in order to help protect people and to help society function, while Thomas Hobbes believed that people needed the government to tell them what to do, or otherwise, there would be nothing but fighting among people. Locke supported a representative government such as the English Parliament, while Hobbes supported the absolute power of leaders such as kings.

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