John Locke and Peter Singer: The Criminality of Hoarding Wealth

 


            John Locke and Peter Singer are two of the most celebrated philosophers of all time. John Locke came about in a time of yearning for knowledge. The British Empire was powerful and all-reaching, so it only makes sense that out of all the pressure being put on the American colonies, a diamond would be forged in the form of John Locke. Locke knew the implications of wealth hoarding and lived in a time of unrestrained fortune amassing. He knew the dangers and published essay after essay to ensure that the people could see the light. His work was continued and reshaped to fit into the common times through Peter Singer. The wealthy are sitting idly on mountains of various currencies while men, women, and children die from not having access to what should be fundamental human rights. If the rich will not be charged with crimes against humanity, they need to be heavily taxed to end human suffering.

 

John Locke brought courage and morale to the forefront of colonial society. He did this by informing the people of the blatant disrespect for politics that the hereditary monarchy system held and why it was dangerous to man’s liberties, the two ways a government can be dissolved and how the people can prevent it, and their own philosophies on which type of government they would support and which types they do not support. Locke believed that the world was given to humanity under Natural Law. This law meant that no matter who a person was, or where they were born, they had natural rights. Of Locke’s theories, his property claims were probably some of the most relevant of the time. Locke believed that all property accumulated had to be through one’s own labor (with certain leeway), one can only accumulate as much property as one can before it spoils, and that one must leave property as good or better than it was procured. This is important because it showed society that one does not need to accumulate massive amounts of property which cannot be used by just the owner. If someone hunted a deer, but the meat would spoil before it was finished by the hunter’s family, the hunter should share the deer with the hungry around him, according to Locke. Of course, Peter Singer would argue the exact same, but a little better dated as his philosophies are congruent with modern times.  Singer states that “if it is in our power to prevent somethingbad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moralimportance, we ought, morally, to do it.” What this infers is that the one percent that are hoarding the majority of the world’s wealth, are operating ethically and morally wrong. When people are dying, money should not be amassing in an off-shore bank account, figuratively collecting dust.

 

                It costs money to be poor, meaning that the less wealth you have accumulated, the more you will most likely spend on a monthly basis. Things such as late and overdraft fees can ruin the modern family. Having a small emergency fund can help alleviate most of these extra costs, but a lot of the time building that fund is out of reach for most Americans. In an article published by CNBC, “Seventy-eightpercent of full-time workers said they live paycheck to paycheck, up from 75 percent last year, according to a recent report from CareerBuilder.” This means that almost all Americans don’t have anything left over from their income at the end of the month. This is a crisis, and one that the rich would love to keep. Locke and Singer were avidly against this system being in place and are probably turning over in their graves at the state of the world. The wealth gap between the rich and the poor was never supposed to get this out-of-hand. In an article published by The Guardian, they state that The report shows that a person needs only $3,210 (£2,100) to be in the wealthiest 50% of world citizens. About $68,800 secures a place in the top 10%, while the top 1% have more than $759,900.”  This means that even a small emergency fund of around four thousand dollars will put you in the top fifty percent of the wealthiest in the world. Four thousand dollars would last a normal American family around two months or so without any other income. The fact that half of the world has less than that is astounding. The wealth hoarders that are the one percent are sitting on mounds of money that could feed dying children or build wells for those who don’t even have fresh water. To have a multitude of generations taken care of through the wealth one has amassed, and still let people in the world die from basic human needs is evil and should be punishable. Not all of the wealthy should foot the bill for the needy, assuming they are paying large portions of taxes or using their money to benefit society in a positive way, but other than Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, no other billionaires make that cut. An estimated 49.1 percent of all Americans who need help from the government. This is a shocking amount as it proves that almost half of Americans are barely making it through each pay period. Add emergencies such as a disabled vehicle or spontaneous doctor visits to that and there’s no wonder why Americans are financially in the ruin they are in.

 

Locke stated throughout his work of the type of government that he would prefer. As long as it was not tyrannical in nature and the people were elected by the commonwealth and not an absolute monarchy. It was a good fit for a political society. With this in mind, we can see proof from Second Treatise of Government where Locke states that “…tyranny is the exercise of power beyond right, which nobody can have a right to. And this is making use of the power any one has in his hands, not for the good of those who are under it, but for his own private, separate advantage.” (Locke, 1689) Locke is basically saying that any government can turn tyrannical and all it takes is for someone in power to do something that is but for the good of himself rather than the people. It then goes on to say that “When the governor, however entitled, makes not the law, but his will, the rule; and his commands and actions are not directed to the preservation of the properties of his people, but the satisfaction of his own ambition, revenge, covetousness, or any other irregular passion.” (Locke, 1689) This can most easily be interpreted as meaning that when somebody in a leadership position disregards the law, and instead relies on his will as the rule, he has become tyrannical in nature.

Isn’t wealth a form of power? How is our current climate not tyrannical if money can buy anything in the world, even entire cities? Business Insider writes that “…techbillionaires could afford to buy entire cities, including Google CEO LarryPage, who could buy all 99,964 homes in Boca Raton, Florida, and Facebook CEOMark Zuckerberg, who could buy all 139,124 homes in St. Paul, Minnesota.” What happens when one can buy a small state? An army? Wealth is power, and if he were alive today, John Locke would have been calling for reform years ago.

Peter Singer, however, is still alive, and he’s calling for reform. From his writings, Singer has stated that

“...the failure of people in the rich nations to make any significant sacrifices inorder to assist people who are dying from poverty-related causes is ethicallyindefensible. It is not simply the absence of charity, let alone of moralsaintliness: It is wrong, and one cannot claim to be a morally decent personunless one is doing far more than the typical comfortably-off person does.” 

            Essentially, Singer is saying that people that are comfortable, not just “making-it” but those who have more than they could possibly spend in a few generations are morally incoherent as they are letting people suffer without aid. It’s the equivalent of having three cheeseburgers, knowing you can only eat one, but letting the person next to you starve to death, only in most “philanthropist’s” cases it’s more like they own the entire restaurant.

 

In Conclusion...

 

                John Locke and Peter Singer knew what would happen if the wealthy continued to hoard wealth for an extended period of time. They understood that man was greedy and would rather sit atop a golden throne being carried by the sick and hungry. Man is a selfish being, and it’s only through understanding this can we work toward fundamental change. The rich should be heavily taxed as they see fit to let people starve and die while they buy entire islands and influence political hostility. With reform will come a new era of humanity in which the hungry are no more, and it comes at the heels of the hoarders that are the one percent.


BBC. (2014). Peter Singer: It's our duty to give. Retrieved from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/charity/duty_1.shtml

Dickler, J. (2017, August 24). Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Retrieved from CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/24/most-americans-live-paycheck-to-paycheck.html

Locke, J. (1689). Second Treatise of Government.

Singer, P. (1972). Famine, Affluence, and Morality. Philosophy and Public Affairs, vol. 1, no. 1 , 229-243.

Stone, M. (2014, June 6). See What Billionaire Could Have Bought Every Home In Your City. Retrieved from Business Insider: https://www.businessinsider.com/billionaires-who-could-buy-cities-2014-6

Treanor, J. (2015, August 13). Half of world's wealth now in hands of 1% of population – report. Retrieved from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/oct/13/half-world-wealth-in-hands-population-inequality-report

Tuckness, A. (2018). Locke's Political Philosophy. Retrieved from The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2018/entries/locke-political



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