Room Enough: America, Natural Liberty, and Consent in Locke's Second Treatise


Jimmy Casas Klausen is assistant professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, WI 53706-1389.


This essay scrutinizes political obligation in the Second Treatise by analyzing the “natural liberty” Locke attributes to children, savages, some foreigners, and other tacit consenters. Both natural liberty and the voluntarism of consent require certain conditions to be actualized, one of the most important of which is “room enough”: unoccupied space like that found in America in which it is possible to “exit” from the potentially coercive dilemmas of tacit consent and perhaps to originate a founding (express) consent. Insofar as consent and natural liberty rely on the availability of open space, though, Lockean liberalism justifies, maybe requires, settler colonialism.