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I was trying to look through the US Code to see where it says what I would consider to be the axioms of a country and its law, something like:

  1. There is an entity called “The United Stated”
  2. This is the land that defines it: (territory)
  3. The country is also defined by people who constitute the country; they are called “citizens”. Who is a citizen is determined in a way described later.
  4. The United States can make laws, or statements about what citizens must,can, or can not do.
  5. There is a body / group of people - called the “government” - they have more ability than other citizens to create or change the laws. (There are laws to be described later about how it is determined which citizens are in the “government”.)
  6. The United States enforces laws on its citizens. That means, there is a law that says that the government has the ability to require citizens to follow laws; and what ways it can respond to anything forbidden by law, is described later.

I think I did find roughly that under “Organic Laws - Articles of Confederation” in the US Code, but I think what I did not expect is that it appears to be the document that was written in the 1700’s, without there being a sort of modern rephrasing, and collation of all laws into one single document, rather than a library of different ones. Maybe the nature of law is it’s very hard to change an essential law’s phrasing, so it remains word for word over time?

What my real question is, is in our time, it seems that almost all “space” is owned / controlled by a “country”. It’s like a default assumption of our time that the world divides into countries. I’ve been thinking about how it could be useful and upright research to design different “human systems” - mechanisms, guidelines, rules - starting with small groups and exploring larger ones slowly - to try to explore “government” or political philosophy actively and empirically, like scientific research. But it just occurred to me that if someone wanted to try to explore a small society based on certain rules, there is an extent to which it might feel limited so far as it was limited by the country the research was happening in. Also, it’s like humans don’t have the right to live in a society of their choosing. We didn’t choose the countries we were born into. Governments control land with force. It’s almost like a philosophical basis is lacking for how an entity like a government can declare that you are its subject. It’s almost like we’re lacking a natural freedom but it isn’t one that’s been widely recognized yet so people do not even realize they don’t have it.

Is there any country with a legal code / constitution that is perhaps based on a completely modern, modernized, and recent philosophy of what the rules of a society should be, and on philosophical grounds alone, consider that the natural human right to freedom means you are not required to be a member of that state, and you can opt out - but furthermore that it is wrong for the country to claim complete dominion over certain areas of land. In other words, a person can opt out of their country and has the right to some land within that country. Maybe the region would still be regulated by international standards like basic human rights, but other than that they are no longer part of their state.

The only example I can think of is Christiana, a district in Copenhagen, Denmark where the people declared themselves an anarchist community that is not part of any country or the EU. For some time it seemed the government respected it, until crime and other issues caused more police control, I think.

So, which country comes closest to actually preserving people’s right to opt out of the state and have a natural right to at least some land?

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    The Articles of Confederation was the initial document bringing the colonies together under one umbrella. The site you found it on, however, espouses the view that it, and the Declaration of Independence, are just as much the law of the land as the U.S. Constitution. The Declaration was never a law and the Articles were superseded by the Constitution. There is nothing particularly “organic” about them. Nov 21 at 16:43
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    You say people have a right not to participate. Since, as is pointed out below, not everyone agrees this is a right, iti would helpful if you said more about it. What exactly is this right, and where does it come from?
    – Just a guy
    Nov 23 at 4:57
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    Also, are you familiar with anarch-capitalism or sea-steading? Both claim to offer solutions to the question of ensuring that people consent to government authority.
    – Just a guy
    Nov 23 at 5:01
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    Who would decide how much and where this piece of land is which you think you have a right to? Would you be happy if the US government said "Here's your 1 square foot of land in Death Valley, CA - go stand there and be free. But if you cross the border you'll be an illegal immigrant!"? Why should you be able to choose a particular piece and amount of land? What if someone else also wants some of that land you want?
    – brhans
    Nov 23 at 15:43

1 Answer 1

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The United States enforces laws on its citizens.

This is not true and never has been in the United States or pretty much any other country. Countries exercise authority over anyone in their territory, and over their citizens even if outside their territory. Sometimes countries agree to waive their authority over a tiny number of diplomats voluntarily while retaining the right to expel them from their country, but that is the rare exception and not the rule.

So, which country comes closest to actually preserving people’s right to opt out of the state and have a natural right to at least some land?

There really aren't any, and the claim that this is a "natural right" is, at a minimum controversial and not widely held.

Many countries have areas that they control which are subject to different regulations than most of the country.

For example, until recently, Hong Kong was subject to different laws by different authorities than the rest of China, and there continue to be some laws generally applicable in the rest of China which are not applicable in Hong Kong.

Until recently, the Panama Canal Zone was a similar example of control of territory within one country being temporarily ceded to another sovereign authority.

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is a third example.

Similarly, and with some of the same conceptual framework behind it, the laws that apply in places such as the Channel Islands or the Cayman Islands or Scotland, which are subordinate in legal and political theory to the same King as England is, are permitted by the King and treaties and organic statutes established with the King's symbolic approval, to have laws that are different from those that apply in England.

Ultimately, this is simply a form of federalism, although when the extent that the central government's otherwise generally applicable laws can be disregarded quite completely is high, it feels like something more than mere federalism, and is often called a dependency or colonial relationship.

Similarly, many countries have "free ports" or "duty free zones" in which their usual taxes don't apply.

For example, the U.S. taxation regime that applies in Puerto Rico is different from the U.S. taxation regime that applies within U.S. states.

But, even in these cases, there is not an individual right to opt out of laws, there is permission granted by a higher level government for a subordinate level government to adopt laws different from the generally applicable laws of the higher level government.

Sometimes the alternative government is democratic, sometimes it is not. Hong Kong, for example, was not self-governing in a meaningful sense until not long before China regained control of the territory at the end of a 99 year concession to the United Kingdom.

Some jurisdictions give people subject to their jurisdiction more ability to reach their own legal arrangements contrary to the default rules of law than others.

For example, Delaware affords people who create limited liability companies there more authority to deviate from Delaware's default rules of law for limited liability companies than any other U.S. jurisdiction. But this is a far cry from granting people subject to Delaware's jurisdiction generally, freedom to displace mandatory rules of Delaware law in other legal domains such as criminal law.

Similarly, sometimes the government will tolerate deviation from binding national laws even when they technical still apply. This has been the story of marijuana legalization in the U.S. and of prostitution legalization in Perth, Australia. But, again, this is an isolated act of tacit toleration in a single subject area, and not a general disavowal of legislative authority.

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  • "Some jurisdictions give people subject to their jurisdiction more ability to reach their own legal arrangements contrary to the default rules of law than others." Would you include the way in which the state of North Dakota allows the city of Fargo to use a system of "approval voting"? Nov 22 at 6:22

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