According to the philosopher, John Locke, the ‘state of nature’ is a natural condition of humankind. It is a state of perfect liberty, free from the interference of others. A state of nature is governed by the ‘law of nature’, which is not to harm nor inhibit the pursuits of others. Whilst Thomas Hobbes believed the state of nature to be a ‘state of war’, Locke believed it to be more peaceful. Using his powers of logical deduction, he concluded that one natural right that could be gleaned from this state of nature was the right to private property.
Private property is created when a person’s labour makes use of the nature’s resources. If a person farms land, she then has a claim to that land and the produce of that labour. However, there are obvious limits to how much property an individual can own without depriving others of the same right. A good solution to the problem is to not take more from nature than one can use.
Locke argued that people abandoned a state of nature and entered into a ‘social contract’ with a governing body because they desired protection of their property. They give up some of their own natural liberties to gain laws, independent judiciaries, and the executors of justice in order to protect this right to property.
Individuals join such ‘common-wealths’ (as governments are formed to protect the common wealth of a people) or these social contracts with their explicit consent, either from its inception or after its creation.
But, when did I give my explicit consent to enter into a social contract with the particular government whose laws I am subject to? It seems that this was given by the mere fact of my own birth. It is true that I could reject this social contract, only to enter into another (as I almost did during my residence of Ireland).
However, if a state of nature is a natural condition of humankind, it would follow that it is a natural right to be able to live in that state of nature.
Additionally, there is no government which has successfully managed the principle that no more should be taken from nature than one can use. The development of civic societies has led to the abominable exploitation of nature, particularly through what Daniel Quinn has termed ‘totalitarian agriculture’.
Although there are many ostriches among us, there is no doubt that humanity is in trouble and has been for a long time. It has also become apparent that addressing our problems will not be solved by any government or potential global government.
However, there is a quiet revolution, known as permaculture. It has also been referred to as a revolution disguised as gardening or as a design solution for more ecological food production.
Here’s an example of permaculture in action, and the kinds of projects that have inspired my own quiet revolution and goal of living a little closer, at least, to a state of nature.
Written for those who have become interested in the reasons for why I’m making the change.