Mono vs. Poly

2003-01-22

I continue to explore analogies between religion and politics, between god and government. Early religions were polytheistic, most famously exemplified in the Olympian gods of the ancient Greeks. It was seen as progress when monotheistic religions gained dominance in the religious marketplace (at least according to the monotheists, who wrote the history of that change in beliefs). Similarly, "monostatism" was seen as an improvement over the kind of polycentric legal order that thrived in Europe in late medieval and early Renaissance times (when law was made and enforced by ecclesiastical, mercantile, royal, and local authorities). Has the evolution to nation-states been good or bad (on balance) for human liberty and human flourishing? Is it a stable order? Nation-states seem now to be stable and everlasting, but they are quite recent innovations in human history and nothing says that they will last any longer than social orders that preceded the time of nation states. What would a post-national order look like? Will states be supplanted by a world government that centralizes all power and authority? Will power devolve to much more local authorities as nation-states fracture and dissolve? Will a kind of polycentric order re-emerge along free-market lines as an extension of modern capitalism (with multiple courts, arbitrators, defense services, and enforcement agencies from whom individuals and organizations can buy legal services)? It's intriguing to ponder...


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