The Lockean ‘Enough-and-as-Good’ Proviso: 
An Internal Critique

In: Journal of Moral Philosophy
Author: Helga Varden1
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  • 1 Department of Philosophy, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 105 Gregory Hall, MC-468, 810 South Wright Street, Urbana, IL 61801, USA

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A private property account is central to a liberal theory of justice. Much of the appeal of the Lockean theory stems from its account of the so-called ‘enough-and-as-good’ proviso, a principle which aims to specify each employable person’s fair share of the earth’s material resources. I argue that to date Lockeans have failed to show how the proviso can be applied without thereby undermining a guiding intuition in Lockean theory. This guiding intuition is that by interacting in accordance with the proviso persons interact as free and equal, or as reciprocally subject to the ‘laws of nature’ rather than as subject to one another’s arbitrary will. Because Locke’s own and contemporary Lockean conceptions of the proviso subject some persons to some other persons’ arbitrary will, the proviso so conceived cannot function as it should, namely as a principle that restricts interacting persons’ actions reciprocally and thereby enables Lockean freedom under law.

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    A. John Simmons, The Lockean Theory of Rights (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992); Moral Principles and Political Obligations (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1981), On the Edge of Anarchy (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1993), Justification and Legitimacy: Essays on Rights and Obligations (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

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  • 6

    Gopal Sreenivasan, The Limits of Lockean Rights in Property (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).

  • 7

    Michael Otsuka, Libertarianism without Inequality (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003).

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     See Nozick, Anarchy, State and Utopia, p. 175 f.

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