Monday, June 8, 2009

De Jouvenal on State Sovereignty

Decentralization is a managerial tool that has proven to be essential to conglomerates and other large organizations. With respect to political entities, it is essential. The managerial state, by which I mean the state that has committed to managing the delivery of services, is governed by the same principles that govern any other organization. The reason for decentralization is the difficulty in understanding problems. The large size of the federal government renders decision making difficult. Smaller size better reflects preferences and tastes. Finding a set of policies that matches people's preferences is exponentially more difficult when larger numbers of people are involved.

De Jouvenal notes that leaders of democratic-authoritarian states, like the United States, dread decentralization. Note that he argues that democracies are by their own nature authoritarian because the unfettered "national will" dispenses with law and views any intermediary unit--the family, firms, unions, hospitals, churches--as subject to its control. The transition from monarchy to democracy changes the historic role of law from that of guide to action and protector of rights to that of expression of the will of power as reflected in the sovereign will of the monarch-turned-legislature. In the United States that transition occurred from 1860 to 1935 and may be called Progressivism.

De Jouvenal writes (p. 286, On Power):

"Every Power is sure to attack centrifugal tendencies. But the behaviour of democratic Power offers in this respect some peculiar features of a striking kind. It claims its mission to be that of liberating men from the constraints put on him by the old Power, which was the more or less direct descendant of conquest. But that did not stop the Convention from guillotining the Federalists, the English Parliament from wiping out, in some of the bloodiest repressions of history, the separatist nationalism in Ireland, or the government in Washington from launching a war such as Europe had never seen to crush the attempt of the Southern States to form themselves into a separate unity. Another instance would be the action of the Spanish Republic in 1934 in opposing by force the movement to Catalan independence.

"This hostility to the formation of smaller communities is inconsistent with the claim to have inaugurated government of the people by itself, for clearly a government answers more closely to that description in smaller communities than in large. Only in smaller communities can the citizens chose their rulers directly from men whom they know personally. Only in them can justification be found for the encomium pronounced by Montesquieu:

"'The people is well fitted to choose...The people knows well whether a man has often seen active service and what successes he has won: therefore it is well equipped to choose a general. It knows whether a judge attends to his duties; whether most people leave his court satisfied; whether or not he is corrupt; therein is knowledge sufficient for it to elect a praetor. It has been impressed by the magnificence or wealth of a certain citizen; this qualifies it to choose an aedile. These are all facts which make a public square a better informed place than the palace of a king.'

"A further requirement is that there should be a public square or its equivalent, and that the choice of administrators should take place at the municipal level.

"The desire to secure the fullest measure of popular sovereignty possible should logically lead to the same principles being followed in the formation of the higher authorities. At the provincial level the population is already too large and too scattered to be effectively assembled, so that each candidate for a place may be known personally to everyone. For that reason the choice and control of regional administrators should be the work of the representatives of the municipalities. And, for the same reason, the choice and control of national administrators should be the work of representatives of the region.

"A system of this kind would assuredly be best fitted to embody popular sovereignty, especially if the representatives were held in check by imperative mandates, and were liable at any moment to be recalled by their constituents, even as the representatives attending at the Dutch States-General could be recalled by their provinces and the representatives at the States-Regional by their townships.

"But the new men whom the popular voice has made masters of the imperium have never shown any inclination to a regime of that kind. It was distasteful to them, as the heirs of the monarchical authority, to fritter away their estate on subordinating themselves. On the contrary, strong in strength of a new legitimacy, their one aim was to increase it. Against the federalist conception Sieyes was their mouthpiece:

"'A general administration which, starting from a common centre, will reach uniformly to the remotest parts of the Empire--a body of laws which, though its elements are provided by the body of citizens, takes bodily form at as distant a level as that of the National Assembly, to whom alone it belongs to interpret the general wish, that wish which thereafter falls with all the weight of an irresistible force on those very wills which have joined in the formation of it.'"

1 comment:

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