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The American Revolution marked the end of the British rule and the beginning of the new self-governed America. During the American Revolution, ideas from the Old World were put to the test. Some of the ideas created during this time period were separation between the church and the state, written constitutions, and sovereignty of the people. Some of these ideas can be credited to both John Locke and Adam Smith as their economic theories became crucial and important for America. These two brilliant philosophers ideas’ are still used today and is what our political society is based upon.
Looking at both Locke’s and Smith’s views on the economic system, they begin with similar views: everyone is born free and equal. Their arguments and rationale of human beings behaving in ways which will preserve themselves and others and, especially, will act in the way which maximizes their own well-being, especially, economic well-being are quite similar (Kozy, 2009). John Locke, a political and social theorist, argued that there are limits of liberty and of property in the ideal political system (Uzgalis, 2007). With this idea used as the central basis of society, Locke wanted to create a society which would be run by those with property, for such property-owners will be most likely to ensure the security of property (Uzgalis, 2007).
Locke also wanted to define a government which would avoid the violence of the state of nature and at the same time will cut only minimally into the freedoms, which he believes people have according to nature. Locke used material property as one of his examples, but he simply didn’t just sit on this idea as his main point he was trying to get across was that everyone had a natural right to defend his “life, health, and liberty” (Wikipedia, 2008).
In Locke’s writings he clearly meant he wanted to set up a government, which would ensure the protection of the ownership of material property. Locke believes that the laws, which find expression in the civil government, exist already in the state. He was able to state this in his, Essay on Human Understanding. He says that, “Idea is the object of thinking. Every man being conscious to himself that he thinks; and that which his mind is applied about whilst thinking about the ideas that are there, it is past doubt that men have in their minds several ideas” (Sayre, 2008). He also advocated governmental separation of powers and believed that revolution is not only a right, but an obligation in some circumstances. These types of ideas would have a significant Influence on the Constitution of the United States and its Declaration of Independence, which are what Americans stand by today.
John Locke is very much known as a political philosopher in today’s modern society. Because much of Locke’s philosophy centered on subjects such as natural rights and knowledge, he has in-turn shaped American politics in such a way that it has never been the same. Locke has challenged many theories have to do with inalienable rights as a part of natural law; therefore he had much to do with the involvement in the evolution of the American Government. He taught that, men by nature possess certain rights. He had a tremendous influence on all future political thinking.
On the other hand Adam Smith believed that all human beings are on this planet to make a living and support themselves through labor. Essentially, every human being is free and equal but with that you must take into consideration other stakes that create inequality. Smith’s theory of a free trade market has stuck around since it was first introduced. This whole idea coincides with individuals being able to act freely and equally in which they can produce their own economic self-interest. Overall, a rational person should agree that the way our division of labor is set up is the best and most efficient possible way. To relate Smith’s views to today in America lets take a macine, for example. It makes complete rational sense to have a machine do the work in a production type product workforce then for a person to manually do something. The reason for this is that it will enable those who are working in that production workforce to make more products, produce better products and make more money selling those products.
Since Smith help industrialize the labor force we have seen an increase in both the quantity and quality of products that are out on the market for sell. After thinking of this in more detail, humans have a natural disposition to barter and exchange with one another. They understand that people who specialize in a field have more of a talent then someone who is not in that field, therefore, their willing to trade their products. Human beings recognize that they are of use and benefit to each other and can meet each other’s needs in order to live a more satisfying life.
We have also seen the standard of life increase due to the American Revolution and the ideas of many philosophers. Smith’s position on free trade and his desire for minimal government regulation created a laissez-faire approach by government meaning:
don’t create monopolies
don’t mandate low wages for workers
don’t force people into professions based on ancestry
don’t allow sub-groups based on ancestry
Smith’s best defines his position on wealth in his book, “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations,” where he states that, “The annual labour of every nation is the fund which originally supplies it with all the necessaries and conveniences of life which it annually consumes, and which consist always either in the immediate produce of that labour, or in what is purchased with that produce from other nations. According therefore as this produce, or what is purchased with it, bears a greater or smaller proportion to the number of those who are to consume it, the nation will be better or worse supplied with all the necessaries and conveniences for which it has occasion”
Ben Franklin began his work in printing as an apprentice to his brother who produced a newspaper. Within a few years, he began to pen anonymous contributions that served as cultural and political satire. By 17 he was trained and knowledgeable but still wan not being paid, so he ran away to find his own success.
In 1727, Franklin formed Junto, a group of mainly young artisans, which later became the American Philosophical Society. A year later, Franklin entered the political realm with the latest essay in a series of eight in which he threatened an uprising if the Pennsylvania Assembly did not authorize a paper currency. At 23 years old, Franklin published “A Modest Enquiry into the Nature and Necessity of Paper Currency” (Chandler, 1985). Soon after, he was awarded a contract to print bills of credit for Pennsylvania; he also created ways to prevent counterfeiters from copying bills. He bought the Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper in 1729 and he edited and printed it until 1748.
Along with Locke’s and Smith’s new ideas came along with the unprecedented success that Benjamin Franklin achieved. He provided an example for many of the rags to riches and actually started the decline of the apprenticeship in craft production. He viewed work as honorable and thought that artisans and other laborers “were the most valuable members of society” (Brands, 2002).
It’s the fact that Franklin’s success to me came from, “The Way to Wealth: Getting Rich and Creating Wealth the Ben Franklin Way.” It is a true fact that life is merely time. Time is very precious and it is important to use it wisely. Another one of Franklin’s theories is that too much sleep is a waste of time. I believe this is the most important theory of Franklin’s because the more you sleep the more our losing out on being productive. The last theory that I want to touch on is his position on waiting around and dreaming of better times. It’s true tha, “there are no gains, without pains.” These theories published in Franklin’s book in 1757 still live today and are very important to making a fortune, living well and being a success.
1. Uzgalis, W. (2007). John Locke, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Retrieved October 16, 2008, from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/locke/
2. Wikipedia. (2008) John Locke, Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia, Retrieved October 15, 2008, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Locke
3. Brands, H.W. (2002). The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin. Archor Books
4. Chandler, A.D., Jr., & Tedlow, R.S. (1985). The Opening of managerial capitalism. A casebook on the history of American economic institutions. Homewood, IL: Richard D. Irwin (chapter on Franklin
5. Smith, A. (1776 (1933)). An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. New York, E.P. Dutton.
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