Friday, June 11, 2021

Do we need Anarchist Islands?

Suppose that the right account of state authority requires the consent of the governed. A standard view is that this consent is presumed in virtue of the resident’s choice not to leave the territory of the state. This would have worked when world population was lower, and there were places where one could live close to the “state of nature”, with all the freedoms and costs entailed by that. But nowadays if someone is living in a democratic state, there really is no way to get significantly more freedoms: one can move to a different democratic state, which only provides an alternative with respect to relatively minor matters of detail, or one can move to an undemocratic state, where one only has fewer freedom.

I told a version the above story to two of my kids, and one of them suggested that in order to ensure the legitimacy of governments we need “Anarchist Islands”. (There was also the suggestion of settlements on Mars. But because Mars is so inhospitable, I think it is not possible to live in the “state of nature” there.)

I think it would be really interesting if it turned out that for a while we had legitimate goverments, but once unpopulated land disappeared, the legitimacy went with it, and now in order to ensure legitimacy, we need to sacrifice a significant amount of resources, leaving aside land to open the possibility of choosing not to live under a government.

All that said, I don’t agree with views on which the consent of the governed is essential.

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