In John Locke's Second Treatise, he argues for a certain conception of property rights and ethical ownership. You can read a relevant chapter of his work by clicking here. While there are several strong reasons to accept what Locke proposes, those who would do so ought to be able to deal with a few issues that may generate tension. That's not to say that these issues are insurmountable, per se, but rather than a coherent Lockean ought to be able to respond to them. I will try to mention a few possible issues below. Feel free to argue for your position or simply list your thoughts in the comments.
1. Assume that a corporation, Acme Co., has an employee, Moriarty, who is hired to cut down a tree that would potentially be in the way of the anvil plant that they are planning to construct. This land has never been claimed, and no one contests Moriarty's-- or, by extension, Acme's-- presence. Moriarty cuts down the wood. Per Locke, who owns the wood? Is Locke right?
2. Assume that Acme has entered into the music business. They hire a musician, Moriarty II, to produce music for them. A college student, Jack Sherman, downloads this music without the consent of Acme-- although, with the consent of Moriarty II. Per Locke, did Jack steal Acme's intellectual property? Did he steal Moriarty II's intellectual property? Is there such thing as intellectual property? Is Locke right?
3. Assume that Acme has generated a computer that strings together every possible combination of musical notes and lyrics-- and also strings together every possible combination of sequences of musical notes and lyrics, up to 45 minutes in length. It has an entire continent filled with speakers, stacked high to the sky, and each speaker plays a combination. Per Locke, does Acme thus own every song up to 45 minutes in length that had not been created before the computer did its work?
4. Assume that Acme has created biological life-- and it looks like a human, has the genetic composition of a human, and seems to age like a human. It was not contested that Acme owned the base materials it generated the biological lifeform, which it calls Moriarty IV, from. Per Locke, does it own that human? Is Locke right?
5. Assume that, while on the job, an employee, Moriarty V, dies. Acme immediately uses his body for lunchroom cafeteria meat. His relatives protest. Per Locke, did Acme have the right to Moriarty's body? Is Locke right?
Wednesday, October 20, 2010