John Locke, and Thomas Hobbes, had very different opinions on people and on politics. John Locke believed that men were born free, are generally peaceful beings, and that they were capable of collaborative decision-making to ensure upholding their natural rights to life, liberty, and especially property. Thomas Hobbes on the other hand believed that men were selfish, were often at war with each other, and that they needed an absolute sovereign to uphold their natural rights, especially their right to life. Their philosophies serve as useful tools to analyzing current debates over such issues as smoking, and gun control. This essay will use the theories of Hobbes and Locke to explore the different sides of these two specific issues and will serve as a useful exercise in exploring the different thinking of these two philosophers.
Locke believed that people had natural rights and that they were capable of deciding what was best themselves. Since he thought that men were capable of making responsible choices, one could conclude that on the topic of smoking, Locke would say that smoking was a personal choice. However, he would probably also add that smoking should only take place in private since he believed that people could make their own choices and act upon them so long as they did not harm others. Since second hand smoke is known to be harmful, and because the non-smoker is not consenting, Locke would have been against the idea of public smoking due to its adverse affects on the rest of society. On the issue of having smoke-friendly or smoke-free establishments, Locke would probably leave it up to the property owner to decide since his theories show a strong support for the rights of the property owner, and because smoking in a privately owned space only affects those who choose to enter it. In addition, it is important to mention that Locke would say that the government should not make rules that deny the people the right of decision-making, which banning smoking would do.