Review of

PragerU Video: If We Lose John Locke, We Lose America

Our summary: Ben Shapiro explains the importance of John Locke’s ideas to America’s founding. John Locke believed power should be moved away from the monarch and placed in the hands of the people and their elected representatives. Locke’s arguments were: one, all men are created equal; two, certain basic rights exist independent of government; and three, government exists to protect those rights.

Many Americans Rushing to Reject Locke

David Foster Durham, NC Published 22 Jul 2020

Ben Shapiro just had the nicest piece about John Locke’s philosophy. And then at the end he has to ruin it by tacking on bizarre right-wing talking points:

But today, Locke’s ideas are under full-fledged assault. There are many Americans who believe that human beings are not created equal—that we should treat people differently based on their group identity. There are many Americans who believe that rights do not pre-exist government—that government is both our master and protector, granting and withdrawing privileges as it sees fit. And there are many Americans who believe that government should have almost unlimited power.
Everything that Locke rejected, these Americans rush to embrace.

(Sigh.) Fine, let’s take them in turn…

There are many Americans who believe that human beings are not created equal—that we should treat people differently based on their group identity.

Very likely Shapiro is talking about Blacks, women, LGBTQ, etc. and their alleged demands for special treatment. Because they are not created equal, or something.

John Locke

(Let’s get real: Shapiro’s statement is basically designed to evoke “what bullshit, why should they get special treatment?” indignation. The evidence Shapiro provides for his claim is “because I said so.”)

But what logical connection is there? Presumably special treatment for these groups is not justified by their superiority, so Shapiro must be talking about inferiority: Those Americans think that Blacks (etc.) were created as inferior.

Really? My impression was that Those Americans think that those groups (on average) are getting a raw deal. Of course, you “won’t hear Shapiro dignifying that hypothesis with even a mention.

Alternatively, Shapiro could be pointing at an economic claim: the belief that everyone should get the same amount of wealth regardless of effort. He doesn’t bother to tell us.

Next:

There are many Americans who believe that rights do not pre-exist government—that government is both our master and protector, granting and withdrawing privileges as it sees fit.

Also tough to unravel. It seems we’re expected to ignore ancient and prehistoric governments (was “rights” even a concept then?) and focus instead on the Rousseauian thought-experiments which dominated political thought around Locke’s time. Or…could it be more of a religious claim, that God sides with you and not with the government?

Regardless, do we really think there is anyone in America who thinks people should not have rights, or that governments should feel free to arbitrarily injure, steal, or deceive?

Notice Shapiro’s bait-and-switch from the word “rights” to the word “privileges”. Do Those Americans think the government should be able to take away rights, or just privileges? It’s not an inconsequential question.

And there are many Americans who believe that government should have almost unlimited power.

Well, yes, now we’re talking! I definitely want a totalitarian government, and there are many Americans just like me.

Again, I’m straining to think of who would want this. Shapiro might have in mind an argument of the form, “well, Those Americans want Socialism, which is guaranteed to lead to dictatorship, therefore Those Americans want dictatorship.”

Ironically, political psychology experts emphasize the strong associations between conservative attitudes and preferences for strong, authoritarian leadership.

Everything that Locke rejected, these Americans rush to embrace.

What a bunch of crazies! …Wanting to reinstate the divine right of kings. (Which was what Locke rejected, right?)

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