Dec 20

John Locke Essay Competition Guide

John Locke Essay Competition Guide

This manual is for high school students who want to enter the John Locke Essay Competition but are unsure of where to begin.


John Locke Essay Competition Guide

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  1. What is the John Locke Essay Competition?

The John Locke Institute, a non-profit institution of higher learning with offices in Oxford, UK, hosts the John Locke Essay Competition. The John Locke Institute employs professors from prominent institutions like Oxford, Princeton, Brown, and Buckingham University.

Young people are urged by the John Locke Institute to develop the qualities of great authors, including independence of thought, breadth of knowledge, clarity of reasoning, critical analysis, and persuasiveness. Students are pushed to investigate a variety of issues outside the scope of their academic program.

Participants may be students from any country and institution. The tournament has two levels: a high school level for students between the ages of 15 and 18 and a junior prize level for middle school children between the ages of 14 and 13.


  1. What subjects will be covered throughout the competition?

Less than 2000 words must be used in the argumentative essay that students must submit. Philosophy, politics, economics, history, psychology, theology, and law are the major themes of the competitions.

The questions for the John Locke Essay Competition for 2021 are:


Q1. What is the likelihood of the multiverse? Would it make a difference if we discovered the theory was correct (somehow)?

Q2. Do we ultimately bear responsibility for our decisions if our capacities and preferences—which in turn are products of our genetic make-up and the environment in which we happen to live—are the causes of our actions?

Q3. Is it right to use the power of the law to extort money from individuals in order to pay philosophers to engage in philosophical discourse?

Q4. If ever, when may actions involving only willing adults be morally wrong?



Q1. Should political donations be permitted?

Q2. If anything, what do wealthy countries owe developing ones?

Q3. Do you believe in the concept of a common good?

Q4. Is it true that a good citizen is also a decent person? Do decent people make good citizens by default?



Q1. Blessing or curse: Bitcoin?

Q2. What’s wrong with the housing market, specifically? How can this be fixed?

Q3. Should Amazon increase employee pay? What would happen if they upped every employee’s pay by 20% right away?

Q4. Is the land value tax proposed by Henry George just, effective, both, or neither?



Q1. Did the British empire have any positive aspects?

Q2. Does China have an imperial past?

Q3. Has Western civilization been slipping away?

Q4. Do events create leaders, or do leaders create events?



Q1. Do humans become nastier over time?

Q2. Is there a psychological difference between males and women? Is it important?

Q3. Are there any mental illnesses that don’t end up being physical?

Q4. Is it rational to despise someone for their opinions?



Q1. Why would God be so vague?

Q2: “A primitive human’s conception of a tremendous entity is the God of the Bible and the Koran… However, a really ultimate deity would not behave in such a way.” Is it a holy book with evidence of divine authorship?

Q3. And your faith is worthless if Christ has not been risen, according to question three. Is it possible to be a Christian without acknowledging Jesus’ extraordinary resurrection?

Q4. Is faith anything more than an unsure belief based on scant evidence?



Q1. Does prison work?

Q2. “People who serve on juries are uninformed, prejudiced, and not shrewd enough to escape jury duty.” Should Trial by Jury be eliminated?

Q3. Should “hate crimes” receive harsher penalties than similar crimes with different motivations?

Q4: How do justice and the law relate to one another?


JUNIOR award (for age 14 and younger)

Q1. Which existential peril are people underestimating?

Q2. What age should be required for consent for permanent sex reassignment surgery?

Q3. How valuable were the lockdowns?

Q4: What does it mean to be equal to others?

Q5. If there were a 100% inheritance tax, what would happen?

Q6. Which era and location would you visit on your next vacation if you could go back in time? How would you get ready for your journey? What difficulties would you encounter over the first 24 hours and how would you handle them?

Q7. Should it be okay to give away some products but prohibited to sell others?

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  1. Which student skills are evaluated by the John Locke Essay Competition?

  • Basic knowledge of ideas and principles in philosophy, politics, economics, history, psychology, theology, or the law
  • Mastery of fundamental writing structures and expertise in argumentative essay writing
  • Autonomous thought, logical analysis techniques, and written persuasion
  1. What is the argumentative essay’s basic organization?

An argumentative essay differs from other sorts in that it needs to have a simple, understandable structure, as well as a strong point of view and supporting evidence. We’ll use an essay from the John Locke Essay Competition in 2020 that won first place in the junior category as an example. The prompt was “Who should own your data? Whichever businesses you choose to share your data with, everyone, just you, or nobody?” You can access the essay’s link here.

An effective argumentative essay should have the following format:

Introductory paragraph:

This paragraph should give a general overview of the subject under debate and provide background information relevant to your argument.

Today, we produce unfathomable amounts of data, leading the OECD to call data a “key pillar of 21st-century growth.”[1] Legislators, politicians and the popular press have increasingly called for ownership of data.[2] 

Describe the discussion’s focus and provide background data on data ownership.

Ownership is generally defined as “full and complete control with recognised legal rights,” with legal discretion for the rightsholder to exploit, change, destroy, possess, exclude others from and transfer their property.[3] An ownership right for personal data does not currently exist in the legal statutes of any industrialized country.[4] Property laws intentionally exclude personal data from subject matter definitions and newly introduced regulatory frameworks do not specify data ownership.[5] [6]

Give a broad definition of the topic. The definition of ownership and the issue of data ownership that is not addressed by the ownership rule are covered by the author in this paragraph.

The thesis statement:

Here, students should state their position and the supporting evidence they will use to support it. The major arguments that will be covered in the body paragraphs should be introduced in the thesis statement, which should be a succinct exposition of your main point.

In 1893, Sir William Blackstone noted the human fascination with ownership, saying we desire “sole and despotic dominion … in total exclusion of rights of other individuals in the universe.”[7] In this case, that fascination detracts from the problems and solutions surrounding personal data today. An ownership right should not be created for data. To illustrate this, I shall explore the implications of assigning a data ownership right to corporations, everybody, individuals and then discuss why data should not be owned at all.

Give your opinion on the subject and the first supporting piece of evidence. In response to the question of who should own the data, the author said that data shouldn’t be held by businesses, people, or anybody else, as he detailed later in the body paragraph.

Body paragraph:

A body paragraph explains the primary arguments supporting your thesis. If you want to focus on three primary ideas, only one notion should be included in each body paragraph. To increase credibility and win readers’ trust, you can back up your arguments using examples, research, studies, statistics, and any other data. You can also raise competing arguments in the body paragraphs and explain why you disagree with them. The main goal of the argument is to express your viewpoint, justify the reader’s acceptance of it, and support any contrary claims with solid evidence.

The student offered four primary justifications in the winning essay for why businesses, people, and everyone else shouldn’t own data. He also talked about the effects of these entities owning the data.


In conclusion, you should restate your thesis and summarize your points. The hardest part of writing a conclusion is making it personal by inserting an anecdote or a personal experience that relates to the subject.

Today, policy makers must strike a balance between individual rights and extracting societal benefits of data. It is the subject of age-old philosophical debate; whether to prioritize a categorical imperative of privacy at the expense of utilitarian societal progress. Assigning data ownership to a single party means choosing a side, one side will inevitably lose out – sacrificing progress or privacy. Thankfully, reality does not reflect this simplistic trade-off. Ergo, legislators must continue to push for a sector-specific rights-based regulatory framework to complement existing efforts and forgo the need to legislate through assigning data ownership. Therefore, I believe, data should remain as is, res nullius – “property of no one.”

This is an excellent example of a conclusion because the author reiterates his original thesis—that data shouldn’t be held by anyone—as well as what would happen if you gave people control of their data.

  1. What are the John Locke Essay Competition’s awards?

  • Each subject category winner will get a scholarship for any John Locke Institute program worth $2000 (US dollars) as part of their prize.
  • The author of the overall winning essay will receive a scholarship of $10,000 (USD) to attend one or more of our summer schools and/or gap year programs.
  • The essays will be posted online by the Institute.
  • Networking possibilities with judges and other John Locke Institute professors.

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