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Fr. 579

November 26, 2014

If, at one time, the relationship between individuals and state was envisioned, in the ideal if not in the real, as being an opting into a social contract between individuals under which interpersonal authority and forms of power were agreed upon, it comes as some surprise, what with the increasing tensions in this relation between individual and individual, individual and state, that there has been so little of what opting out of that same contract would look like. The reason for this is astoundingly simple: once opted in, there is no opting out of the State. In plainer words, the State exists nowadays as the epitome of coercion.

This is not merely to say that the State exercises certain powers against the powerless or weak, powers that we can consider as coercion. Rather, the fact of its existence is a form of coercion in the sense that the State exists for the individual as an always already there; there is no explicit opt-in for this much is presupposed. It predates the individual and will likewise outlast the individual. The form of the State is, to some extent and within certain limits, a form that we simply must accept as is. More importantly, even when we do not accept its form and choose another, nonetheless, we accept its continued existence under another shape, its necessity.

By way of comparison, we might also consider Language in the same mold. Indeed, both State and Language exist as always already theres, but with one prime difference. Contrary to State, Language exists under a form that we can modify more readily, tailor to our individual uses and, to some greater or lesser extent, give the shape that we desire. If, like State, Language must be accepted in the end, it can nevertheless be accepted with conditions.

All of this is not to argue for a radical anarchy, which would prove impracticable at best, but to push the question as to how the State’s existence in itself might be rendered less coercive, if such is possible. How might we reintroduce the opt-in into a society with no opt-out and thus enable a new form of voluntary citizenship?

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