Musings on The Future of the State
I love the little corners of the law that is ancient rights and privileges. They illustrate ways in which our institutions have evolved, and from where they came, we can learn much about where they may go. That’s why I was delighted to read “Russian-Israeli who Left Newfoundland and Labrador Church Sanctuary Is Deported.” Church sanctuary! In 2006! What a great living fossil of the days when the Church in Rome was an important power, equal to or even superior to local Lords. That power was shattered by a series of wars (‘the thirty years war‘) for what was called freedom of conscience. More properly, it was freedom of christian conscience: Jews were barely, if at all tolerated, and Muslims, pagans, and infidels were still anathema.
Today, where those wars were won, even if there is a a `state religion,’ contributions are optional–a right Thomas Jefferson had to argue for in Virginia. Heretics of all sorts, even atheists, are tolerated. Freedom of conscience has turned from a controversy that engulfed Europe into a settled tenet of modern liberalism. The role of the Church has been quite sharply curtailed.
Perhaps something similar is happening to the state. Since this isn’t my area of expertise, I hesitate to try to speak definitevely, but I see a possibility that expansion of communication networks, re-globalization of economies, strong disagreements about the appropriate limits of power, catastrophic failures of response to events like hurricane Katrina, modern migratory trends, etc will combine to transform the state to the point where its architects, from Cardinal Richelieu to Kaiser Willhelm, would not recognize it.
(Oviedo Cathedral, photograph by R. Duran, “Torre de San Salvador,” on Flickr.)