Musings on the Social Contract - A Matter of Agency and Control
Why is there nowhere to go for people who wish to separate from society? Why should I be forever shackled to a “social contract” for which there exists no record of my signing or otherwise agreeing to? In the United States at least there are restrictions on the types of binding contracts that those under the age of 18 may legally sign without the permission of that person’s parent or legal guardian, unless they were otherwise emancipated. If these contracts may not be signed for the first 18 years of a person’s life, then how can I be compelled straight from birth to be bound by the most significant contract of all – the Social Contract?
And if the state’s opinion on the matter is that it does indeed have the right to claim I implicitly agreed to be bound by its Social Contract and that I must remain forever bound to it so long as I reside within its borders, why then is it nearly impossible for one who wishes to resign from their Social Contract to effectively do so? It seems that in any current nation on Earth that one is forever locked into a given society by little more than the simple fact of their birth within that nation. All it takes to confirm this is a simple search for information regarding how to emigrate. Many people think that language and cultural barriers are the primary issues affecting emigration, but the truth of the matter is that most nations have incredibly strict and robust immigration policies, with some requiring the potential immigrant to be a wealthy individual capable of investing large sums of money into the local economy to even have a chance of earning citizenship.
Some have attempted to form so-called “micronations” – small, supposedly independent nations formed on unclaimed or disputed territory. In the case of one fairly well known micronation, Sealand, the “nation” was formed on an abandoned anti-aircraft tower off the coast of Britain. Liberland and Asgardia are other such examples of attempts at forming micronations. Of course none of these micronations have ever received any meaningful amount of official recognition as sovereign states, and their “citizens” typically remained official citizens of their home countries and were subject to those nations’ laws. In addition, attempting to form an autonomous breakaway area within a preexisting country will certainly mean resorting to extensive use of violent action to carve out this independent territory – with this effort likely to be quashed by an overwhelming military response. Even assuming one could manage to succeed in such an effort there is still the matter of gaining international recognition from influential world powers, forming trade relations, building an economy, etc.
What all this means is that the only currently viable way (or rather, the only way that is it is possible) to form an independent nation is to take land through violent action and be able to hold that land against what will likely be at least one superior military force, all the while somehow finding the resources to build a functioning nation and forge diplomatic ties. In other words it is impossible by any reasonable definition to form a new independent nation from scratch.
With all that said I would like to explore why it is then that no nation on Earth offers its citizens the ability to officially cut ties with society. It is not as though it would be impossible to accommodate such a thing, especially in geographically large nations such as the U.S. Here is one potentially feasible way to accomplish this: a given piece of territory could be designated as an internal autonomous zone – a region technically owned by the host nation (the United States, for example) but allowed to self-govern at all levels, including at least a limited ability to forge diplomatic ties and conduct trade with other nations. While the host nation would certainly always restrict this subordinate nations ability to interact with other foreign nations due to security concerns (the U.S. would not allow a fully autonomous nation within its borders to host the Chinese military, for example) it could otherwise operate freely.
This “autonomous zone” could act as a haven for members of the society of the host nation that simply have no wish to be subject to the host nations system of law or who otherwise do not fit within that nation’s social order for whatever reason. Of course there would be consequences for joining this autonomous zone – loss of citizenship in the host nation, loss of land rights in the host nation, etc. – but it could present a fresh start for many individuals who would otherwise have no such opportunity. Their past is essentially wiped clean in this autonomous zone, with the cost being that they are cut off from the citizenship and benefits offered by the host nation. This could be thought of as a “Social Bankruptcy”, an individual wiping out their poor social record by “bankrupting” into a new life in the autonomous zone.
The above is admittedly a very rudimentary conceptualization, but its purpose is only to serve as a thought well from which more coherent ideas can spring. Discussion of such a concept as micronations and the like could occupy several lengthy articles on its own.
Regardless, the point is that it is certainly possible (feasible, even) to offer people the option to leave their birth society in favor of another. Indeed it may even prove beneficial to both parties involved, the individual and the nation at large. The individual is offered a fresh start in an area where the laws of their birth nation do not apply and the host nation is freed of someone who may have only conformed marginally to its system, likely costing it more than that individual generated in taxes or other contributions.
Of course all this discussion of feasibility still does not fully answer why the creation of micronations or intra-national autonomous zones is prevented. However, this would be better explored in detail in another article, so I will end this here.
If you have any thoughts on the subject of micronations, the issues of agency discussed here, or any other related matters feel free to share them in the comments below.