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Seeking The Perfect Relationship Between The Citizen And The State

1862 words - 8 pages

Throughout the centuries, the quest for the perfect and balanced relationship between the citizen and the state has been the focus of philosophers and thinkers. Driven by the human need to secure the natural rights of the individual and the necessity to safeguard the social and political institution known as the state, those men of thought differed among themselves in approach as well as in theories. Their thoughts diverged substantially as to rest on totally opposite if not contradictory sides. From the overwhelming belief in the absolute authority of the state even when wrong, as in Socrates, to the idolization of the citizen’s God given rights emphasized by Rousseau.
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Where liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law. Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.
As the citizen enjoys the protection, the nurturing and the care of the state, he in turns has to comply with what to be considered his obligations towards the state. Obedience of its laws and judgment tops the list. By giving the state the legitimate necessary authority to regulate his life as a part of the society, the citizen agrees to obey freely what the state and its symbols dictate to him. He agrees to militarily serve and defend the state against its enemies if need be, and to pay taxes and show loyalty and obedience to its lawful laws. Although a citizen has no obligation to obey any political authority, he does have the obligation to obey the legitimate political authority because only the later rests on the covenant or the social contract made with the citizen. For As long as the state acts and functions within the limits of an authority proposed and empowered by the majority of the citizens, it then remains to be a legitimate one. For democracy dictates that the relationship has to remain bound by, shall we say, a revocable political “power of attorney” given by the citizen to the state through the voting process.
This raises a centuries old question: Are loyalty and obedience to the state paramount at all times? Regardless if the state is right or wrong? It seems that Socrates answered this question when he opted to obey the state of Athens even when he knew it was acting wrongly against him. Socrates showed excessive loyalty that could not be justified by other men of thought. According to Socrates, the fate of a citizen is sealed, that is total and unwavering loyalty and obedience to the state since he chose to live in and be a part of it. He knew, according to him, that he was condemned to death wrongly and yet he refused to escape because he felt it is his obligation as a citizen to obey the authority of the state. To him, a citizen can either persuade the state of what he believes in or obey what the state imposes of beliefs, as this is the agreement the citizen makes with the state.
In view of our modern understanding of the nature of the relation between the citizen and the state, many of us today regard Socrates submission to the false accusation and eventual condemnation of the state as excessive and...

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