Related: What if the social contract was literal?

Backstory (Optional)

In Levithania it is recognized that, until 18, a child has no rights of themselves, being owned by the parents. Parents have a duty to raise their children responsibly, and may allow their children to make decisions, but the state does not recognize them as having any rights. If something happens to a child, it is the parents that sue, not the child.

In particular, a child, of themselves, may sign no contract. If a child, for example, wants to get a job, the parents would sign a contract with the employer whereby they agree that the child will work there if they give the child money (which is implicitly owned by the parents) (most parents, being reasonable, make such decisions based off what the child wants).

This all changes though when the child turns 18. The day before every child turns 18, they go to the signing place, at the borders of Levithania. At the moment they turn 18, any rights their parents where holding on their behalf are transferred to the child, and any contracts the parents sign no longer apply to the child (although the child may choose to renew them).

In particular, the child is no longer bound by the laws of Levithania. They are a free person, and temporarily, considered a foreigner. A pair of soldiers stand by them, now in a State of Nature.

They are now officially a person.

A government official brings in a copy of the Levithania constitution, known as the "Contract for the Agreement of Cooperation between Levithanians" or the Contract for short. At school as a child, they took a class on this document, so they understand it fully.

The person now can decide for themselves whether they want to be bound by the laws of Levithania. If they accept, they will read the contract aloud, and then sign it. They are now bound for life to follow this contract (unless some condition specified allows it to be terminated (for example, a legal body given proper authority by the Contract may pass a law allowing citizens to terminate the Contract if they move away from Levithania)), and in particular it is considered just for laws to be enforced against them. They additionally gain the rights and privileges listed in the contract. They are a Levithania. Then they have a celebration usually.

Now, for anyone to truly have chosen to be a Levithania, and the Contract to hold any manner justice, the person is also given the choice to not sign the document, and to remain in the State of nature. This is the ultimate check and balance on the government, the ability of new citizens to not agree to Levithanian law. If this is done, the soldiers escort the foreigner off of Levithania, with any possessions the parents give them, and exile them. They may only return if they go through immigration, which involves a similar ceremony.

The question is, where are they exiled?

The End

The Question

How do you exile someone, given that most of the world is already claimed for various countries (think current day Earth). Putting them in another country would violate the rights they have over themselves, since that other country would presumably force them to follow their laws (if the person agrees with that, its fine, but a large number of non-signers want to be anarchists, and won't agree to any laws.)

What can be done with those who decline the rules of society?

Keep in mind that, if the government is currently being very bad, you may have a large number of non-signers. Therefore, we want this to be cheap.

(Backstory FAQ: What happens if you pass a new law? There is a law making process. You don't re-sign for each new law, since you agreed to the law making process. What if you break a law? The Contract specifies that. Probably built-in to each law. Probably fines or jail or what have you. Branches of government can also punish each other, in accordance with the contract. If the government breaks the Contract extremely enough, the people are morally allowed to rebel or not recognize the government, which means the government won't break it too badly. What makes this different from what we have know? It's mostly philosophical, but still in an important way. It gives the government Legitimacy. It's a different mindset when everyone is a signer of the constitution. It's sort of part of their national identity.)

  • $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon That's fine. Also, Antarctica is far away, and expensive to put people in. Also, putting people in the middle of the ocean is pretty bad. It's better if they have at least some chance of surviving, just out of pity. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ Although that still leaves the question of are there any habitable lands unclaimed by nations. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon We'll say it matches current day earth, and that Levithanian is some random European country. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 22:52
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    $\begingroup$ The country will have to partition the territory it already controls, giving up some civilized acreage for the purpose. Call it a nature preserve :) $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 1:35
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    $\begingroup$ @JDługosz "State of Nature Natural Park: Don't feed the unsigned" That sounds like a horror story. XD $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 1:39

5 Answers 5


There's a philosophical landmine hiding in that constitution, in the phrase "Putting them in another country would violate the rights they have over themselves, since that other country would presumably force them to follow their laws" that you added in the edit. I do believe it is the fundamental landmine of Levithania. By this wording, if someone refused to sign, they still have rights. They have a right not to have a law forced upon them. Thus, this shows that the Levithanian constitution includes a framework for how to deal with non-Levithanian individuals, those who had not signed a contract.

This is a non-trivial detail because it shows that Levithania does care about non-citizens, such as those living in foreign nations. They are not isolated. They care what happens to this non-signatory.

The first natural consequence is that Levithania will not assume ultimate responsibility for a non-signatory. If they did, other nations would easily abuse this to force Levithania into undesirable situations if a particular anarchist non-signatory wanted to help the other nations do so by refusing to submit to any law until certain constraints are met while simultaneously putting himself or herself in a position that prevented their "return to nature." For example, if Levithania were to rely on sending someone out to international waters, and a foreign nation had set up an embargo preventing the deportation of non-signatories, Levithania would find its laws put it in a mighty disadvantaged place.

So we know they care about the non-signatories, but their caring is not absolute. This is a very human position for a country to find themselves in. No black or white, but shades of grey. The humanity of this position helps mollify the stark line between citizen and non-citizen, and permits us to consider some very real solutions done in the past by nations of the world alongside some that have been considered by philosophers:

  • The most extreme solution is to let them go. Levithania guaranteed they could return to a "State of nature." They guaranteed nothing about whether nature would be friendly or hostile when they got out. They might designate several DMZ's along their boarder where they ensure other nations will not claim the land. The non-signatories may be dumped into these DMZs, to fend alone as part of nature.
  • They may be permitted to live in Levithania as a non-citizen. Islam has explicit instructions for ways to deal with non-Muslims in a Islamic state. They actually have three classes of such non-Muslims, the most applicable of which is the Zimmis. Zimmis are non-Muslims living in an Islamic state who pay a tax and accept Islamic law while they reside in the Islamic state. They have many limitations as to what they can and cannot do, but they are [typically] permitted to leave at any time.
  • Levithania may rely on diplomacy to ensure nearby countries maintain refugee camps for non-signatories. This may not be sufficient for the most staunch of anarchists, but it may be enough to show that Levithania "cares."

As a final solution to this conundrum, I'd like to explore a path which is not part of any existing sovereign policy or philosophical stance. What if the Levithanian constitution permitted one to write their own contract? Obviously we will have to apply limits to this, but what limits could one choose? What if the two soldiers are not just any soldiers, but Vanguards of Levithania with the sovereign power to accept any signed document as a declaration of citizenship if they feel it is best for Levithania. These soldiers are not only trained in physical combat, but in law and philosophy and ethics. They serve as a High Court of Levithania, presiding over the acceptance of citizenship with binding authority.

Anyone who does not wish to sign the Levithania contract in its exact current form today, is free to write up a new contract, and attempt to convince the two soldiers that blessing this new contract serves Levithania. Many interactions would spawn from this. Anarchists would seek to provide a small or nonexistant contract, and the Soldiers may refuse it. Individuals who have issues with individual parts of the law may explicitly write out changes, and seek to have the Soldiers bless these changes as in Levithania's interests. Some great minds may even get away with sweeping changes, because Levithania benefits so much from their mind remaining in the country rather than going abroad.

Intriguingly the same approach would work for foreigners entering the country seeking citizenship. They should feel free to ask the Soldiers to accept any document they please as a document of citizenship, and it would be up to the Soldiers to decide if, at that moment in time, that alternate document is in Levithania's best interests.

  • $\begingroup$ "They may be permitted to live in Levithania as a non-citizen." The problem is they literally agreed to nothing, so you they could do whatever they like basically, including breaking the speed limit and such. If they broke a law, it would be unjust to punish them since they never agreed to the law. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 23:51
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    $\begingroup$ Are you only concerned with the most anarchistic of individuals, or are the Levithanians considering the general case. It may make sense to say "if you wont accept our constitution, but you're willing to sign a lesser document, you can be a vistior. If you are unwilling to sign anything, then you are left to nature" $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 23:52
  • $\begingroup$ Although I could see like two contracts, allowing a bunch of different contracts would be very difficult. Since many people turn 18 a day, that would require a lot of soldiers, all of whom would have the power to basically do anything, since they can make contracts that Levithanian has to follow. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 23:55
  • $\begingroup$ @PyRulez Which shows just how challenging Levithania's chosen position is. You've really created quite a polarized nation, and with that comes extreme edge cases. However, this is only an issue if the non-signatories are very uncreative with their contracts. There's all sorts of creative solutions one could use to convince a Soldier (who clearly is going to veto all but the most benign of modifications). For example, non-signatories may offer a "revocable" citizenship which temporarially gives them citeznship long enough to prove to a higher court that their contract should be accepted $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 23:58
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    $\begingroup$ @PyRulez If you look at how our constitution has been treated by the courts, philosophical bases like constitutions get turned into a bevvy of exacting legal statutes rapidly. If, indeed, the contract is flexible, then there is a good chance it lacks the teeth to have any anarchist rebel against it (except the most pathological of them). However, from the sound of it, Levithanians are not flexible people. They subject themselves to very strict legal status changes indicating that it is unlikely their legal docuemnts will be flexible. This may open the door to "anything is possible" $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Feb 29, 2016 at 0:23

Oddly enough, something similar was explored by Heinlein in the book "Starship Troopers". Only people who not only fully accepted and internalized the Federation's philosophical foundations, but who actually voluntarily enrolled in and completed a term of service in the "Federal Services" were granted full rights, including the right to vote and seek office. Jerry Pournelle's "Co-Dominium" cycle of stories is also set in a world where welfare islands house "Citizens", while full rights are granted to "Taxpayers" who have income and contribute to society.

In each case, rather than trying to eject the people who do not have full rights and responsibilities, the State allows them to continue to live and work, but with reduced rights and responsibilities. In the universe of Starship Troopers, they actually have almost all the rights of current day citizens in a Western nation (they obviously own property, can run business and can even become quite wealthy, like Johnny Rico's family is), but do not participate in the legislature or judiciary, and cannot vote. In many respects, the large number of people who don't vote in present day Western nations have already accepted that part of the bargain.

In Pournelle's conception, the non productive are housed in essentially walled cities and pacified with welfare and drugs, kept separate from the "Taxpayers" who do the work. This is much less successful, since "Citizens" outnumber "Taxpayers" by a wide margin, and the political class manipulates the "Citizens" for their own ends as well. Both Citizen and Taxpayer class Americans in the Co Dominium universe are generally controlled by a sort of permanent oligarchy of politicians and crony capitalists.

So long as your State is willing to codify and accept some sort of "resident alien" or "non citizen resident" status in the nation (but obviously not the body politic), then people who refuse to sign the social contract may choose to leave the nation, or to re-enter with only the clothes on their back and whatever their parents gifted them in the second category of residency.

  • $\begingroup$ Heinlein also explored the concept in Coventry, where those who reject the compact are exiled to a fenced-in territory. That territory happens to be the epitome of Hobbes state of nature. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 15:38

Well, your question "How do you exile someone, given that most of the world is already claimed for various countries (think current day Earth). Putting them in another country would violate the rights they have over themselves, since that other country would presumably force them to follow their laws" is simple: you can't. At least, not without a good deal of mental gyrations and weasel-wording.

Having granted every person an absolute right to personal self-determination, Levithiana can no more expel a person without cause than an EU country can grant extradition of an accused murderer to Texas. Unless they're willing to take "12-mile limit and a rowboat" solution, which you seem to have some difficulties with.

There's your problem: "Putting them in another country would violate the rights they have over themselves." Until and unless Levithiana can convince some or most of the other countries of the world to adopt their value system, it will be hopelessly at odds with them. Furthermore, it seems that immigrants to Levithiana will be few and far between. Apparently there is no such category as "non-citizen resident" which is generally applied to would-be immigrants who reside in the country before naturalization. If there were such a category, your would-be anarchists would fit neatly. Would-be immigrants are not citizens, so they cannot sign The Contract, yet clearly they must be held accountable for their behavior. This implies the existence of a coercive legal system with the power to impose penalties on the unwilling. The alternative to this is the Draconian penalty of deportation for any offense, and this would, of course, violate the same inherent, absolute right which gives you trouble with non-signers.

By this reasoning no other government not operating by Levithania's philosophy is legitimate. Yet "They are a free person, and temporarily, considered a foreigner." You have confused the general, diffuse concept of "foreigner" with the specific "citizen of a foreign country".


Put them in a region that is not under any government's control.

In the modern world put them in international waters in a small boat. They can then go to any country they want, or start a new one.

There are other questions in the system.

What if parents can't adequately control the child. Who is punished for the child's crime?

If the laws or constitution is changed does everyone have to sign again?

Is it coercion to say accept our laws or be exiled from every one and everything you ever knew?

Who is in charge of interpreting the grey areas that are not explicit in the constitution.

Does everyone have to sign the same constitution?

  • $\begingroup$ 1) Parents are responsible for a child's crime, but the punishment may be transferable to the child. 2) The constitution doesn't list every law. The constitution gives certain bodies the ability to make laws. Signing the contract means that you agree to follow the laws set forth by that body, as long as the laws are the kind it is allowed to make. 3) Somewhat, but you don't have a natural right to any of those things. If you don't agree to the laws, you don't get them. 4) The Constitution specifies a method for selecting a constitutional arbitrator, which is essentially a supreme court. 5) Yes $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 22:18
  • $\begingroup$ Leviathania practically operates like an ordinary country. The government occasionally breaks the Contract. If enough people care, problems happen, but otherwise not. The Contract is partly symbolic, and not signing is usually a form of a protest by the youth (although occasionally it can be anarchists). $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ @PyRulez that helps. What are the teeth to the contract? If a citizen breaks it what happens? Is it just like our current judicial system? If so what's the difference aside from one ceremony from our current world? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 22:24
  • $\begingroup$ The contract specifies what happens if you break it, which is usually jail or fines or stuff (technically, it delegates this ability to lawmaking and arbitrating institutions), similarly to how most contracts have terms for what happens if they are broken. It goes both ways, the government can be punished for breaking the Contract (usually with the help of other branches of the government, checks and balances.) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ The difference is the way people think about it. In politics and in courts, people argue based off the "Contract for the Agreement of Cooperation between Levithanians". When you do something illegal, people remind you that the law was not forced upon you, but that you agreed to follow it, and if you don't like, you need to work within the rules of the Contract to repeal it. It the political concept of Legitimacy: the government has the powers over you that is does, because you, indivigually, agree that they do. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 28, 2016 at 22:30

Simply explained the laws of the surrounding regions and let them choose one and then deport them to the land of their choice. Since they get to choose where they want to go no law has been broken.


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