Public Choice

, Volume 152, Issue 3–4, pp 415–421 | Cite as

Coercion, the state, and the obligations of citizenship

  • Michael C. MungerEmail author

Coercion, the state, and the obligations of citizenship

There is but one law which, from its nature, needs unanimous consent. This is the social compact; for civil association is the most voluntary of all acts… Apart from this primitive contract, the vote of the majority always binds all the rest. This follows from the contract itself. But it is asked how a man can be both free and forced to conform to wills that are not his own. How are the opponents at once free and subject to laws they have not agreed to?

I retort that the question is wrongly put. The citizen gives his consent to all the laws, including those which are passed in spite of his opposition, and even those which punish him when he dares to break any of them (Rousseau, Book IV, Chap. 2, “Voting”).

Think what you will of Rousseau’s answer; his question is brilliant. How can a citizen be both (1) free and autonomous and yet (2) forced to conform to wills not his own?

When I first read The Calculus of Consent, in Professor...


Moral Intuition Transaction Cost Economic State Coercion Real Review Constitutional Political Economy 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Duke UniversityDurhamUSA

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