Men being, as has been said, by nature all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate and subjected to the political power of another without his own consent, which is done by agreeing with other men, to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living, one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any that are not of it. This any number of men may do, because it injures not the freedom of the rest; they are left, as they were, in the liberty of the state of Nature. When any number of men have so consented to make one community or government, they are thereby presently incorporated, and make one body politic, wherein the majority have a right to act and conclude the rest. (Paragraph 95)
The reason I chose this passage is because Locke introduced the concept of social compact and its mechanisms to his readers. Throughout the “Two Treatises”, Locke’s primary object was to figure out the origin of political power that is not “Divine Right”, as argued by Filmer. And this idea of “social contract” was his answer. Locke argued that the origin of political power came from people’s voluntary sacrifice of some of their perfect freedom and equality to make sure the world in which they live in doesn’t fall apart. He also argued that an ideal government should always make its decisions based on the consent of the majority, without which the government would be illegitimate.
The underlying statement of this concept, which Locke inferred in the passage, is that since the government started as a social compact between the people, the people should have certain power and responsibility to overthrow the government when the majority of them believe the government is failing at doing its job. This is the very idea that inspired the Founder Fathers of the United States to start a revolution against Great Britain after the British started collecting all different taxes that weren’t accepted by the colonists. If we look at the language of the Declaration of Independence, we can find plenty of influence by Locke. One of the most famous lines in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” is directly influenced by Locke’s idea of “state of perfect freedom and equality” enjoyed by all men.
Why would anyone give up the freedom of the state of nature?