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Discourse on Inequality

Little was needed to convince such crude and easily

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supreme power to institute rules of justice and peace. Little was needed to convince such crude and easily seduced men. All ran towards their chains in the belief that they were securing their freedom. Those who did realize the nature of the trick thought that they could trade part of their freedom for security. This was the origin of society. It irreversibly destroyed natural freedom, fixed the laws of inequality and property, and turned usurpation into right. All men were subjugated to servitude and labor for the profit of a few. Multiplying societies soon covered the globe; the law of nature was left only in the relationship between nations. Great national wars occurred. Rousseau discounts other explanations for the institution of society, such as the Right of Conquest. The political state remained imperfect because it was the product of chance. People would have done better to begin again rather than attempt to stabilize it. It is obvious that people gave themselves to their leaders to defend their freedom. It is wrong to argue that people have a disposition for servitude because they may have forgotten what freedom is like. One should not look to slave societies to prove this, but free ones. The idea that civil society is derived from paternal authority is wrong; rather, paternal authority derives from civil society. The voluntary establishment of tyranny is also impossible, as it is impossible to have a contract that gives one of the parties nothing, and which involves giving away your freedom. Pufendorf's argument that you can alienate (give away) your freedom is simply wrong. It is clear that government did not begin with arbitrary power, which is its corruption and illegitimate last stage. The establishment of the body politic is a contract between the people and the leaders it chooses. The people unite their wills into one; the collective will develops laws, and one of these laws regulates the selection and power of the leaders. If these laws were destroyed, the magistrates would lose their power, and the people would have no obligation to obey them. The state would dissolve, and people would revert to their natural freedom. This is possible because, in the absence of a higher power to enforce the contract, the people remain the sole judge in their own case. However, the danger that this involves makes it is a good thing that God acts as guarantor, endowing the sovereign authority with an inviolable sacred power. Religion must be praised, because it has saved so much bloodshed. Different forms of government derive from the original differences between individuals. If one man was preeminent, then a monarchy was formed; if several predominated, then an aristocracy was formed; the states that stayed close to the state of nature formed democracies. Time concluded which was the best form. All magistracies were at first elective. Then the selection process led to strife and civil war, so hereditary government was instituted. This is how leaders came to see the people as their property. If you follow the progress of inequality, you find that the
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