Dalhousie Law Journal


Neil MacCormick


Human societies, voluntary associations, national societies, states, choice to belong, law, constitition


Human societies are not voluntary associations. At least so far as concerns national societies and states, most human beings do not have a choice to which one they will belong, nor what shall be the law and the constitition of that to which they do belong; especially, their belonging to a given state is not conditional upon their assenting to the basic structure of its organization. Someone who is born into a given state has obviously no choice, no opportunity to stipulate conditions upon which he will accept citizenship. Choice can perhaps be exercised later, when one is an adult, when one may find oneself free to depart from one's native state and to take up residence elsewhere with a view to naturalization as a citizen of the state of one's choice. But in that latter situation one is in a weak position to set conditions for one's joining the chosen society. One accepts the constitution and the laws as they are, or one does not acquire citizenship. What is more, somebody who is thinking of changing his citizenship has an appreciably more restricted range of models open to him than someone thinking of changing his car; and by contrast with that situation, he does not have the option of going without if none appeals to him.