How Did John Locke’s Enlightenment Ideas Influence The Constitution?

Civil Forfeiture and its Misalignment with Enlightenment Ideas

Civil forfeiture is the process in which a law enforcement personnel takes assets from a person on suspicion of a crime. This dispute usually happens between a citizen and a police officer. The police usually seize properties such as houses, piles of cash, or cars involved in illegal activities. I believe this does not fall in with enlightenment ideas such as John Locke’s natural laws of life, liberty, and property. Civil forfeiture goes against the natural right of property, and many innocent civilians have the risk of having their property seized even if they have no involvement in wrongdoings.

John Locke’s Views on Natural Rights and Property

John Locke defined natural rights as life, freedom, and property in his Second Treatise on Government. He says that private property is important to one’s liberty and that everyone holds the right to own anything they create or gain through gift or trading if it does not conflict with the first two rights of life and liberty. Although the police could seize property if it had ties to a drug deal, there could be a possibility that a house could have been rented out, and the owner would have no relation to the crime. Therefore, it would be unjustified for the police to have seized an innocent owner’s property for something he was not involved in.

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Constitutional Rights, Civil Forfeiture, and John Locke’s Influence

With liberty, everyone holds the right to do anything as they please if it does not conflict with the right to live. John Locke says, “When a person works, that labor enters into the object. Thus, the object becomes the property of that person” (Locke). If a person works for their money and they had no involvement in a crime, their property should not be seized. Critics argue that innocent people sometimes get caught up in the process of civil forfeiture, which also violates their natural right to property. Law enforcement only needs a civil level of proof rather than proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In the constitution, the government is not allowed to take away property from a person without due process of law. Civil rights advocates push that many civil forfeitures are “devoid of due process.”

Locke’s Contribution to the Enlightenment and its Implications on Property Seizure

The victims do not have much say when challenging the seizures. The Enlightenment has had an influence on the Constitution of the United States; although it states that we have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness instead of property, we still have the right to protect our property. Therefore, law enforcement should not be able to take anyone’s property, especially if they were not directly involved in the crime. Some innocent property owners find it difficult to fight for their property because if they were financially unstable, they would not be able to hire a lawyer to fight and win their case. Over time, victims must stay active in fighting for their innocence and to retrieve their property. Otherwise, they will lose it to the government permanently. Many civil rights advocates and defense attorneys advertise instances in which innocent citizens have been victimized through flawed judicial processes and excessive punishments; they claim that criminals are treated better in court because they have been told they have the right to an attorney and they are innocent until proven guilty. To be proven guilty, they need proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution states that the defendant is guaranteed “the right to a public trial without unnecessary delay, the right to a lawyer, the right to an impartial jury, and the right to know who your accusers are and the nature of the charges and evidence against you.” In civil forfeiture, they are not appointed a lawyer if their property is seized. The only time property seizure would fall in line with Enlightenment ideas should be when property owners are directly involved in a crime. Locke limits punishment when it comes to natural rights. He explains that punishment is only valid if the violator goes against the law of nature. He further clarifies that there are only three legitimate purposes of punishment: reparation, restraint, and deterrence. Law enforcement should only be able to seize property that has violated these natural rights of life and liberty. If the crime does not intervene with these rights, then this idea of civil forfeiture does not align with Enlightenment ideas. This also further conflicts with law enforcement that seizes property in which the owner is not involved in the crime.

It is unjust because the property owner could not have any idea that there was any crime happening on their property. In addition, civil forfeiture develops police misbehavior; the rules of civil forfeiture allow law enforcement to seize property such as vehicles and cash from people without needing to convict them of a crime or wrongdoing. Seized property, especially cash, can be used for the local police department’s expenses for things like new vehicles and equipment. Police can also keep 90 percent or more of profits which causes temptations for police to seize more property whether a property is involved in a crime or not. Many states incorporated laws that restrict and limit civil forfeitures that protect innocent citizens from having their property seized when they have not participated in any wrongdoings. Although this sounds helpful, police can get around these laws because they have an agreement with federal authorities called equitable sharing.

This means any seized property they get is split, 20 percent goes to the federal agency, and the rest goes to the police department. All police need to do to bypass the laws is treat the suspected criminal activity as a federal crime. They just bring in federal agents and split the “profit” amongst each other. In 2012, the Baltimore Sun had a report that showed that half of the people with seized properties were not convicted of a crime. Going back to John Locke’s natural rights, innocent property owners should not be punished by having their property taken away because they did not violate the natural right of life and liberty. Overall, civil forfeiture is not backed up by any enlightenment ideas and violates many rights of innocent people. It also conflicts with some ideas of the amendments that were influenced by Enlightenment ideas. Civil forfeiture is unfair for many that are involved and should not be allowed without proof beyond a reasonable doubt. The civilians have the right to an attorney because it is unfair for them to spend money just to prove their innocence.

Works Cited

  1. “John Locke on Punishment.” Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal, 17 Dec. 2016, blog.supplysideliberal.com/post/154619072829/john-locke-on-punishment.
  2. “The Right to Counsel.” Findlaw, criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-rights/the-right-to-counsel.html. Nelson, Caleb.
  3. “The Constitutionality of Civil Forfeiture.” Yale Law Journal, no. 8, 2016, p. 2446. EBSCOhost, ezproxywit.flo.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsgao&AN=edsgcl.460185887&site=eds-live&scope=site.

“This Is Water” Speech David Foster Wallace’s Analysis

The Universality of Worship: A Summary of “This is Water”

In David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech at Kenyon College, he elaborates on the viewpoint that we all worship something. In this speech of great perception, the late author suggests that life is a highway with two directions and many punctuated sub-directional signs. This concept is applicable in all aspects of life, more so when one chooses the system of worship as heard in Wallace’s address to students and guests. These are some of the highlights of his speech and why I strongly agree with the idea that we all worship something. As stated by Wallace, “You are not the center of the universe, don’t live life by default, and you choose what you worship” (Wallace). These values enabled me to strongly support the idea that we all worship something.

Dissecting the Center of the Universe Concept

Life has taught us that in the journey to establish one’s importance in life, we often default to the idea that we are the center of the universe. This subliminal process is a defaulting system that promotes one’s ability to function in a universe established by the political and religious systems of both ancient and modern societies. This system recognizes a person by their wealth, academic accolades, or other measurable classes of importance, such as sportsmanship, political and state governmental personnel, and movie celebrities. These statuses place these individuals as the center of the universe, with which I strongly disagree, and therefore endorse Wallace’s view on the center of the universe.

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Living Life by Default: A Misguided Default System

Many people are living their lives by default. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, default is a selection made usually automatically or without active consideration due to a lack of a viable alternative. This concept promotes the idea that our innate abilities and genetic and biological composition predispose us to live our lives by default. I strongly disagree with this concept because many individuals rely on the moral, cultural, ethnic, legal, political and socio-geographical system of values to determine how their lives are lived. Thus, I support David Wallace’s idea that living your life by default is not ideally correct.

Choosing Your Worship: A “This is Water” Analysis

Every living individual believes in some form of worship. This can vary from belief in a supernatural entity (e.g., God, Allah, Jesus, Brahman, and Jehovah) to more secular focuses. For example, atheists may not believe in God but embrace the scientific, artistic, and natural wonders of life among which are the seven wonders of the world. Atheism, defined in Webster’s dictionary as a lack of belief or a strong disbelief in the existence of God or any gods, has often received criticism from religious believers. These religious individuals tend to condemn atheists for their lack of worship directed to a higher power. Some even hold the belief that all atheists are destined to spend their afterlife in hell, even though atheists don’t ascribe to the concept of heaven and hell. Regardless, each group freely chooses what to worship.

Lessons from the late author stress significant truths about life and how to navigate the world. I concur with David Foster Wallace’s perspective on yielding meaning to things, a trait he notes as fundamental to human nature. In his commencement address, he articulates our innate tendency to worship something, indicating that we merely decide the target of our worship. This could range from a supernatural power, a god created by people, material possessions, or even an abstract concept.

Works Cited

  1. “Learn English | David Foster Wallace ‘This Is Water’ (with BIG Subtitles).” YouTube, uploaded by Best English Speeches, 26 Dec. 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=ms2BvRbjOYo&t=53s.
  2. Wallace, David F. “Five Takeaways from the Greatest Commencement Speech of All Time.” Time, Time, 22 May 2015, time.com/collection-post/3894477/david-foster-wallace-commencement-speech/.

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