McGinnis on Berman

Over at the Liberty Law Blog, John McGinnis (Northwestern) is doing a very interesting series on Harold Berman’s seminal two-volume history of Western law, Law and Revolution. In Law and Revolution, Berman argued that the existence of competing jurisdictions, each with a valid claim on people’s loyalties, has played an essential role in Western law, going all the way back to the 11th-century investiture crisis, which dealt in part with the competing jurisdictions of canon and royal courts. In this post, McGinnis argues that legal polycentrism of the sort Berman describes can promote liberty by preventing governmental monopolies. Classical American federalism, for example, promotes liberty by dividing power between state and federal sovereigns. McGinnis wonders, though, whether federalism can do the job today, now that states claim relatively little loyalty from their citizens. Check out the whole series.

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